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AIR VICE-MARSHAL STANLEY GOBLE, C.B.E., D.S.C., D.S.O., OTTAWA, CANADA

The registered airmail cover has a blue 3d KGVI head stamp as well as a vertical pair of the brown 2/- ‘Roo on map of Australia’ stamp with a 3 -REGISTERED-3/ date?/ MELBOURNE postmark. There is a blue registration label with ‘Bulk Registration, Melb. VICTORIA, as well as a purple ‘diamond’ 2/ NOT/ OPENED BY/ CENSOR handstamp. It is addressed to Air Vice-Marshal S.J. Goble, C.B.E., D.S.C., D.S.O., Australian Liaison Officer, Jackson Building, OTTAWA , Canada (Figure 1).

The reverse has 7 postmarks, an originating 3- REGISTERED-3/ 28 JE 41/ MELBOURNE, 3 copies of a transit G.P.O. SYDNEY/ AIR/29 JE 31A/ 7/ NSW-AUST as well as 2 copies of OTTAWA M.P.O. 304/ JUL/ 17/ 1941/ REGISTERED with a blue crest of Australia on the flap (Figure 2).

The long ON HIS MAJESTY’S SERVICE Registered Air Mail Cover was sent from the Department of Air and it had an illegible blue Melbourne registration label. It was addressed to the Air Liaison officer, R.A.A.F. OTTAWA Canada and Jackson Bldg was added in red. The postmark on the pair of red 5/- ‘Robes’ and a single brown ‘Roo on map of Australia’ stamps was totally illegible (Figure 3).

There were 8 postmarks on the reverse and only 2 were legible, both having OTTAWA M.P.O. 304/ SEP/ 8/ 1941/ REGISTERED (Figure 4).

Stanley James Goble, air vice marshal, was born on 21 August 1891 at Croydon, Victoria, son of George Albert William Goble, a Victorian-born stationmaster, and his wife Ann Elizabeth from England. At 16 he joined the transportation branch of the Victorian Railways and by 1914 was working as a relieving stationmaster. On the outbreak of war he tried to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force but was rejected on minor medical grounds. Determined, however, to follow his three brothers into active service, he paid his own passage to England. On 13 July 1915 he was accepted as a trainee airman in the Royal Naval Air Service. He was confirmed in rank on 20 October and posted to Dover Air Station where he was employed in test-flying new aircraft. He was then moved to the Royal Naval Air Service Base at Dunkirk and he shot down a German L.V.G. two-seater in September 1916.

The battle of the Somme in 1916 led to the formation of No.8 Squadron, R.N.A.S. Goble, a foundation member, combating not only German aircraft but the appalling westerly gales which blew throughout most of the battle. On 1 October he was promoted flight lieutenant and later that month was awarded the Croix de Guerre, and won the Distinguished Service Cross for attacking two enemy aircraft near Ghistelles, France, bringing one down in flames.

On 1 February 1917 Goble was posted to No.5 Squadron, R.N.A.S., he was appointed acting flight commander and on 17 February and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for 'conspicuous bravery and skill in attacking hostile aircraft on numerous occasions'. His appointment as flight commander was confirmed and from July he was acting squadron commander; this rank became substantive on 1 January 1918. With No.5 Squadron Goble planned and led, in the first instance, attacks mainly aimed at German naval targets and aerodromes. Goble's squadron was committed in front of General Gough's Fifth Army and its targets shifted to bridges, railway sidings and columns of advancing enemy infantry. Such objectives were attacked, and once brought Goble's aerodrome under shell-fire from medium-range artillery and he was forced to conduct a hurried evacuation. When the R.N.A.S. lost its separate identity on 1 April 1918 and merged with the Royal Flying Corps to form the Royal Air Force, Goble was appointed major in the new service. He returned with his squadron to England on 15 May and he was appointed M.B.E. in 1917, O.B.E. in 1918 and was twice mentioned in dispatches.

The experience of war had proved Goble to be a gallant and distinguished leader. He had also been fortunate in that, although twice shot down, he escaped the war unwounded. In 1919 his prospects as a regular officer in the Royal Air Force were most satisfactory. He returned to Australia with the rank of lieutenant-colonel and was asked by the chief of the Australian Naval Staff to act as adviser on the formation of the Australian air force. Thus, although he received a permanent commission in the Royal Air Force as a squadron leader on 1 August 1919, he was at once made an honorary wing commander and seconded for service with the Royal Australian Navy. The navy, anxious to gain control of a substantial portion of Australia's air resources and defence vote, nominated Goble for the position of chief of the air staff. This fact, together with the inter-service disputes which marked the creation of the air force, led Goble into serious conflict with the ultimately successful candidate, Wing Commander Richard Williams.

When the (Royal) Australian Air Force officially came into existence on 31 March 1921 Goble resigned his R.A.F. commission, was appointed to the Australian Air Force and next November was made second member of the Air Board and director of personnel and training under Williams. It quickly became an established practice to ensure that these two officers served as little together as possible. Goble was sent to the United Kingdom in October 1921 to undertake a marine observer's course. On 25 April 1922, at the Church of St Martin in the Fields, London, he married Kathleen Doris Latitia Wodehouse, and soon returned to Australia. Williams then attended the British Army Staff College, Camberley, while Goble was appointed acting chief of the air staff. While holding this position he advocated the creation of a fleet air arm, a project which Williams was quick to discredit.

On 7 April 1924 Goble left Melbourne with Flying Officer I. E. McIntyre in a Fairey IIID seaplane on what became the first successful attempt to fly around Australia. The flight, carried out in often hazardous conditions, covered 13,676 km in some ninety hours flying time before arriving back in Melbourne on 19 May. Acclaimed as a great achievement in the history of aviation, the flight won the coveted Britannia Trophy for 1924 and Goble was appointed C.B.E.

During Williams's absence from Australia in 1933-34, he was acting chief of the air staff. In 1935-37 he was seconded to the R.A.F. where he served as deputy director of air operations in the Air Ministry and then commanded a bomber group based at Abingdon, Berkshire. He was promoted temporary air vice marshal on 28 February 1937.

In June 1938 Goble was back in Australia when Sir Edward Ellington, a former chief of the air staff in the Royal Air Force, arrived to carry out an inspection and report on the Australian service. He commented adversely on the causes of several flying accidents and drew the conclusion that flying training was deficient. Goble, as air member for personnel, was responsible for manning and training, but he pointed out to the minister for defence that Williams had made himself responsible for operational training. The government removed Williams from his post as chief of the air staff and on 28 February 1939 Goble was appointed to act in that capacity with the rank of air vice marshal. An R.A.F. officer, Air Commodore J. C. Russell, was seconded to fill the position of air member for personnel.

This period proved an unhappy one for Goble. His relations with Russell rapidly became strained, and once war had broken out it became necessary to plan not only for Australia's local defence but for the contribution to be made towards Imperial defence. Goble initially was unenthusiastic about the Empire Air Training Scheme and preferred to concentrate upon increasing local air power and sending overseas a self-contained Australian air expeditionary force. However, the government, without his knowledge, was negotiating with Britain's Air Ministry to secure the services of a British officer as chief of the air staff. In December 1939 Goble told the prime minister that he wished to resign not only as chief executive officer but also his commission in the Royal Australian Air Force, on the grounds that Russell had been undermining his authority. When he attempted to withdraw both resignations he was unsuccessful. Although allowed to retain his commission, he was told that he would be replaced.

This difficult situation was only resolved when he accepted the offer to act in Canada as Australian liaison officer to the Empire Air Training Scheme; he served in this capacity until 1945. He played a part in negotiating the Joint Air Training Plan in 1942. In April 1946 he retired from the Royal Australian Air Force with the rank of air vice marshal.

The promise shown by Goble's operational leadership in World War I was not realized in the inter-war years. Partly it was blighted by his relationship with his immediate superior, and by the suspicion held by some in earlier years that he was too eager to foster the interests of the navy to the detriment of those concerns peculiar to an independent air force. Goble died of hypertensive cerebro-vascular disease on 24 July 1948 in the Repatriation General Hospital, Heidelberg, Melbourne, survived by his wife and three sons. A photo of Vice-Marshal S.J. Goble is shown as Figure 5.

Addendum (Seot 2010):  Several additional official covers have come on E-Bay, but the cover that peaked my interest was one that came from a member of Goble's family, almost certain to be one of his 3 sons.  The cover had a squared boxed 'NAVAL SERVICE', and it was addressed to Air Vice Marshal  S. J. Goble C.B.E. D.S.C. D.S.O. R.A.A.F., Australian Air Liaison Officer, Jackson Building, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  The green 1d Q.E. stamp was postmarked FLINDERS NAVAL DEPOT/ -1 NO 41/ VIC. AUST (Figure 6).

The flap on the reverse was 'From Cadet Captain J.D. Goble, R.A.N.C. College, Flinders Naval Depot, Crib Point, Australia' (Figure 7).

This paper was extracted from a longer paper in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

 
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