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William Edward Cremor (1897–1962)

by Neil Smith

This article was published:

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

William Edward Cremor (1897-1962), by unknown photographer, 1944

William Edward Cremor (1897-1962), by unknown photographer, 1944

Australian War Memorial, 064072 [detail]

William Edward Cremor (1897-1962), army officer and schoolteacher, was born on 12 December 1897 at Sandringham, Melbourne, son of William Edward Cremor, railway porter, and his wife Jane, née Phelan, both Victorian born. Educated at Footscray State School, Hyde Street, in April 1914 young William entered the Victorian Public Service as a clerk and transferred next year to the Commonwealth Department of Trade and Customs. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 11 December 1917, embarked for England in July 1918, served briefly in France with the 3rd Field Artillery Brigade and was discharged in Melbourne on 8 November 1919. Cremor obtained a commission in the Militia in November 1920 and in 1921-23 studied law, arts and education at the University of Melbourne (B.A., 1945).

On 1 January 1923 he had been appointed as an English teacher at Footscray Technical School. He assumed the additional duty of sportsmaster and devoted much of his private time to students' welfare. From about 1926 he was prominent in the rivalry between qualified teachers and vocational instructors in technical schools. As secretary (1927-29) and president (1930-31) of the Victorian Teachers' Union, Cremor advanced the cause of the teachers and attacked the narrow, vocational focus of the technical curriculum, arguing that students destined for working-class jobs needed a liberal education. His stand brought him into conflict with Donald Clark and probably resulted in Cremor's being passed over for promotion. He resigned in 1934 to become secretary of the Victorian Dried Fruits Board. The children of deceased servicemen benefited from his dedicated work with Melbourne Legacy (of which he was president in 1936) and the Baillieu Education Trust.

Continuing his Militia service, on 1 May 1936 Cremor was promoted lieutenant colonel and given command of the 10th Field Brigade, Royal Australian Artillery. He joined the A.I.F. in October 1939 and sailed for the Middle East in April 1940 as commanding officer of the 2nd/2nd Field Artillery Regiment. For his part in operations in the Western Desert from December 1940 to February 1941, he was appointed O.B.E. Cremor led his regiment during the campaign in Greece and Crete (March-May 1941) and returned to Australia in August 1942. Promoted temporary brigadier that month, he was made commander, Royal Australian Artillery, 3rd Division. In the 1943 Federal election he stood for the seat of Fawkner as an Independent: advocating the formation of one army for service anywhere, he polled 22 per cent of the vote. Cremor held the headquarters' posts of commander, Corps of Royal Australian Artillery, I Corps (October 1943-May 1944) and II Corps (October 1944-April 1945), and of brigadier, Royal Australian Artillery, New Guinea Force (May-October 1944). Transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 12 April 1945, he was appointed C.B.E. for his services in the South-West Pacific Area.

In 1945 'Old Bill' accepted the position of guidance officer for ex-service students at the University of Melbourne. Through his column in the Argus, he gave advice to returned servicemen; he championed their cause in public addresses and in newspaper articles. He was a member of the Soldiers' Children Education Board of Victoria, administered by the Repatriation Commission. In 1949 the Victorian government appointed him its representative on the Teachers' Tribunal, an office he was to hold until his death. A member (from 1927) and sometime committeeman of the Naval and Military Club, he was also secretary of the Fitzroy Cricket Club in 1953. Cremor was general editor of the 2nd/2nd Field Artillery Regiment's history, Action Front (1961).

'The Brig' was 5 ft 10½ ins (179 cm) tall, with fair hair, blue eyes and a ruddy complexion. Forthright, humane, generous and loyal, he would not tolerate humbug or incompetence. His leadership in battle and charitable works in peacetime earned him affection and respect. Cremor never married. He died of aortic stenosis on 11 April 1962 in the Repatriation General Hospital, Heidelberg; following a Masonic service, he was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • W. Perry, The Naval and Military Club, Melbourne (Melb, 1981)
  • C. Rasmussen, Poor Man's University (Melb, 1989)
  • Melbourne Legacy Weekly Bulletin, 17 Apr 1962
  • Thirtyniner (Melbourne), 5, nos 3 and 6, May and Aug 1962
  • University of Melbourne Gazette, July 1962
  • Action Front, Apr 1963
  • Australian War Memorial records.

Citation details

Neil Smith, 'Cremor, William Edward (1897–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 July 2024.

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