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Air Vice Marshal Stanley James (Jimmy) Goble CBE, DSO, DSC (21 August 1891 – 24 July 1948) was a senior commander in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). He served three terms as Chief of the Air Staff, alternating with Wing Commander (later Air Marshal Sir) Richard Williams. Goble came to national attention in 1924 when he and fellow RAAF pilot Ivor McIntyre became the first men to circumnavigate Australia by air, journeying in a single-engined floatplane.

During World War I, Goble flew fighters on the Western Front with the British Royal Naval Air Service. He became an ace with ten victories, commanded No. 5 Squadron (later No. 205 Squadron RAF), and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and the Distinguished Service Cross. Returning to Australia, Goble assisted in the formation of the RAAF as an independent branch of the Australian armed forces. On an exchange posting to Britain in the 1930s, he led No. 2 Group RAF.

As Chief of the Air Staff at the onset of World War II, Goble clashed with the Federal Government over implementation of the Empire Air Training Scheme, which he believed would be detrimental to the defence of Australia. He stepped down as leader of the RAAF in early 1940, and spent the rest of the war in Ottawamarker as Air Liaison Officer to Canada. Goble died in 1948 at the age of fifty-six, two years after his retirement from the military.

Early career

Born in Croydon, Victoriamarker, Stanley James Goble was one of four sons to an Australian father, George, and an English mother, Ann. He began his working life as a clerk with the Victorian Railways at the age of sixteen and by twenty-three was, like his father, a stationmaster.

Goble was prevented from joining the Australian Imperial Force at the beginning of World War I after failing the stringent medical criteria; he wrote later that "only applicants of the finest physiques were considered suitable for the first contingent of Australian troops". With his three brothers already on active service, however, he decided to travel to Englandmarker at his own expense and enlist in the British armed forces.

World War I

Goble was accepted for flying training with the Royal Naval Air Service in July 1915. After graduating as a Flight Sub-Lieutenant on 20 October 1915, he became a test pilot and undertook anti-submarine patrols out of Dovermarker. Goble commenced operations with only three hours solo flying experience. Towards the end of the year he was posted across the Channelmarker to Dunkirkmarker, flying Caudron reconnaissance-bombers and Sopwith Pup fighters.

Goble was a founding member of No. 8 Squadron RNAS in 1916, during the latter part of the Battle of the Somme, where he flew both Pups and Nieuport fighters. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on 24 September 1916 when he engaged two enemy fighters near Ghistellesmarker in West Flandersmarker, "and brought one of them down on fire in a spiral nose-dive". This victory was the first confirmed 'kill' achieved by an Allied pilot flying the Pup. Goble was promoted to Flight Lieutenant on 1 October, and won the French Croix de guerre later that month.

On 17 February 1917, Goble was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his "conspicuous bravery and skill" in three separate actions while operating with No. 8 Squadron: on 7 November 1916 when he forced a hostile fighter down in a field, where it crashed attempting to land; on 27 November when he engaged four enemy aircraft, destroying one; and on 4 December when, in repeated combats while escorting Allied bombers, he helped drive off attacking fighters and shot down one of them. The same month he was awarded the DSO, Goble was posted to No. 5 Squadron RNAS at Petite-Synthemarker near the Franco-Belgian border, flying Airco DH.4 two-seat light bombers.

Goble was promoted twice in 1917, to Flight Commander in June, then Squadron Commander in December. He led No. 5 Squadron for the latter part of the year and into 1918. His unit supported the British Fifth Army as it bore the brunt of the German Spring Offensive, and he had to evacuate his airfield when it was shelled by advancing enemy artillery. When the RNAS merged with the British Army's Royal Flying Corps on 1 April 1918, Goble became a Major in the newly formed Royal Air Force. Twice Mentioned in Despatches, he finished the war an ace, with ten victories. Although himself forced to crash land on two occasions, he had avoided any injury during his active service.

Inter-war years

Establishment of the Royal Australian Air Force

Goble returned to Australia on HT Gaika in November 1918. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 1919 New Year Honours, and made an acting Lieutenant Colonel in May that year. He received a permanent commission as a Squadron Leader and honorary Wing Commander in the RAF on 1 August 1919, and was seconded to the Royal Australian Navy.

When a temporary Air Board was set up to examine the feasibility of an Australian Air Force (AAF), Goble was assigned as a Navy representative, with Lieutenant Colonel Richard Williams, an Australian Flying Corps veteran of World War I, acting as an Army spokesman. The permanent Australian Air Board was established on 9 November 1920, and recommended creation of the AAF as an independent branch of the armed services. The AAF came into being on 31 March 1921—the 'Royal' prefix being granted five months later—and Goble resigned his commission in the RAF the same day to transfer to the new service as a Wing Commander.

The Navy had nominated Goble as First Air Member (later Chief of the Air Staff), however Williams took the post and Goble became Second Air Member and Director of Personnel and Training. Williams and Goble would serve as Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) three times each between 1922 and 1940. One motive suggested for the rotation was a ploy by Army and Navy interests to limit Williams' autonomy. Instead, according to RAAF historian Dr Alan Stephens, the arrangement "almost inevitably fostered an unproductive rivalry" between the two officers, which was "exacerbated by the personality differences between the pedantic, autocratic Williams and the cheerful, easy-going Goble". Although in a legal sense the Air Board led the RAAF rather than the CAS alone, Williams dominated the board to such an extent that Goble would later complain that his colleague appeared to consider the Air Force his personal command.

Chief of the Air Staff

The rivalry between Goble and Williams was such that it was later alleged that government practice was to ensure that they were never in the country at the same time. In October 1921, Goble was posted to Britain on a marine observer's course. He married Kathleen Wodehouse in London on Anzac Day, 1922, and returned to Australia later that year. Goble's first term as CAS began when Williams left the country in December 1922 for study in England. He developed a plan to establish a small seaplane base at Rushcutters Baymarker in Sydney, but Williams cancelled this shortly after he returned to Australia in February 1925 to resume the position of CAS. Goble's suggestion of a separate Fleet Air Arm fostered suspicions that he was too closely aligned with naval interests. He departed for England to undertake study at the British Army Staff College in Camberley and RAF Staff College, Andover, as Williams had done two years before. Goble also served as Air Liaison Officer with the Australian High Commission in London from May 1926 to September 1927. He was made a Group Captain on 1 April 1928.

Promoted temporary Air Commodore, Goble took over as CAS for the second time between December 1932 and June 1934, while Williams attended the Imperial Defence Collegemarker in London. On secondment to the RAF from 1935 to 1937, Goble was attached to the British Air Ministry as Deputy Director of Air Operations. In this capacity he attended a conference in 1936 to examine a Commonwealth-wide air training plan, a concept that would be revived in World War II as the Empire Air Training Scheme. While on exchange, Goble also served as Air Officer Commanding No. 2 Group. On 28 February 1937, he was raised to temporary (later permanent) Air Vice Marshal. Goble succeeded Williams as Chief of the Air Staff for the last time in February 1939, when the latter was dismissed from his position in the aftermath of the Ellington Report criticising the standards of air safety observed by the RAAF.

Circumnavigation of Australia

Fairey IIID seaplane flown by Wing Commander Goble and Flying Officer McIntyre on their 1924 circumnavigation of Australia
The young air force was a small, closely-knit organisation comparable to a flying club; however several pioneering flights were undertaken by its members. One of the most notable was made by Goble and Flying Officer (later Flight Lieutenant) Ivor McIntyre in 1924, when they became the first men to circumnavigate Australia by air, in a single-engined Fairey IIID floatplane. The English-born McIntyre, who was lead pilot while Goble acted as commander and navigator, was also a World War I veteran of the Royal Naval Air Service. The purpose of the flight was to survey the northern coastline of Australia for defence planning, and to test the capabilities of the Fairey IIID.

Goble and McIntyre took off from Point Cook, Victoria, on 6 April 1924 and flew in 44 days, in often arduous conditions. Though well-prepared with fuel stocks and spare parts pre-positioned along the intended route, they had to contend with illness and tropical storms, as well as mid-air engine trouble and fuel leaks. Their journey took them anticlockwise around the continent, along the Eastern Australian coast through Sydneymarker, Southportmarker, Townsvillemarker and Thursday Islandmarker, crossing the Gulf of Carpentariamarker to Darwinmarker, and then continuing along the coast through Broomemarker, Carnarvonmarker, Perthmarker, Albanymarker and Port Lincolnmarker, before arriving back in Victoria. As they flew above Point Cook, twelve RAAF aircraft took to the air to escort them to their landing place at St Kilda Beachmarker, where they were welcomed by a crowd of 10,000 people.

Prime Minister Stanley Bruce called the expedition "one of the most wonderful accomplishments in the history of aviation", his government presenting Goble with a gift of ₤500, and ₤250 to McIntyre. The British Royal Aero Club awarded them the annual Britannia Trophy, and they were appointed Commanders of the Order of the British Empire in the King's Birthday Honours. Though the flight is still acknowledged as one of the most important in Australian aviation, the necessity for the Air Force chief to personally command such a journey has been questioned, suggesting that it was motivated by the one-upmanship that characterised the Williams-Goble relationship. Two years later Williams would make a three-month, round trip from Point Cook to the Pacific Islands, the first international flight undertaken by an RAAF plane and crew, amid similar suspicions.

World War II

As Chief of the Air Staff at the outbreak of World War II, Goble planned the expansion and decentralisation of the RAAF in order to meet the needs of home defence and Australia's obligations in Europe, which included the transfer of No. 10 Squadron to Britain. However his concept of an autonomous Air Expeditionary Force was abandoned by the Federal Government in favour of full commitment to the Empire Air Training Scheme, which Goble considered detrimental to local defence. He also came into conflict with his deputy, Air Commodore John Russell, an RAF officer on exchange in Australia. These issues led to Goble tendering his resignation as CAS, which took effect in January 1940. The Argus in Melbourne reported that "Goble wishes to resign 'on a matter of high principle'. It is known that he has been dissatisfied for some time with his relations with the Federal Government."

Prime Minister Robert Menzies had in any case been looking for a British officer to head the RAAF and, after the interim appointment of Air Commodore William Anderson, the Royal Air Force's Air Chief Marshal Charles Burnett became Chief. Goble had offered to submit his resignation from the RAAF as well as from the position of CAS, and was considering a return to Britain for service with the RAF. Menzies persuaded him to remain and take on the role of Australian Air Liaison Officer to Canadamarker, based in Ottawamarker. Goble stayed at this post for the duration of the war and was the RAAF's representative at the Ottawa Conference in May–June 1942 that negotiated the Joint Commonwealth Air Training Plan.

Retirement and legacy

Jimmy Goble in 1943
In January 1946, Goble presided over the court-martial of Australia's top-scoring fighter ace, Group Captain Clive Caldwell. Charged with alcohol trafficking on the island of Morotaimarker in 1945, Caldwell was found guilty and reduced to the rank of Flight Lieutenant; he left the Air Force soon after. Goble was himself forced into retirement in February 1946, despite being five years below the mandatory age of sixty. The-then Chief of the Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal George Jones, in recommending Goble's dismissal, wrote that "this officer has a sound Service knowledge and an alert mind, but suffers from certain nervous characteristics which make continuous application to a task impossible". Other senior RAAF commanders who were veterans of World War I, including Richard Williams, were also retired at this time, ostensibly to make way for the advancement of younger officers.

Goble suffered from hypertensive cerebrovascular disease and died in Heidelberg, Victoriamarker, on 24 July 1948. He was cremated, leaving his wife Kathleen, and three sons. His son John (born 1923) joined the Royal Australian Navy and qualified as a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm, rising to the rank of Commodore and commanding 817 Squadron, the naval air station HMAS Albatrossmarker, and the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne.Goble Street in Hughes, Australian Capital Territorymarker, was named for Jimmy Goble. In 1994 he and Ivor McIntyre were honoured with the issue of a postage stamp by Australia Post, in a series depicting Australian aviators that also included Freda Thompson, Lawrence Hargrave, and Sir Keith and Sir Ross Macpherson Smith.

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