It is hard to say what was harder to believe about Arthur Blackburn – his achievements or his larger-than-life persona.
Growing up in the suburbs of Adelaide, Blackburn’s life was fairly ordinary until that first landing in Gallipoli, and it so easily could all have ended there.
Randomly the bullets took out those around him, and in the confusion Blackburn was separated from his unit, only to bump into fellow scout Robin, with whom he ventured further into Turkish territory than any other Australian would for the rest of the war.
In a letter to his brother Charles in a letter in 1915, Blackburn drily recounted the experience as follows: “Travelling across this valley was a decidedly lively time, as the scrub was full of snipers and every little while a bullet would come closer than was pleasant.”
Blackburn would survive Gallipoli, and moved across to the Western Front. In one mission he led five separate waves of men against a series of enemy trenches.
Awarded a Victoria Cross for his efforts, Blackburn returned to Australia in 1917, was married and got a job as a coroner until the Second World War.
He enlisted once more, this time in a more senior capacity, and led forces in Syria in 1941, accepting the surrender of Damascus.
In 1942 he was deployed to Java to fight against the Japanese.
Heavily outnumbered, he and the 3000-strong “Black Force” he led fought for three weeks before they were captured.
Blackburn endured life as a Japanese prisoner of war captive for three years until he was liberated in late 1945 from a Manchurian prison camp.
After the war Blackburn would serve in a senior capacity in a number of organisations, before passing away on November 24 1960, a day before his 68th birthday.