William Slim

William Slim


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William Slim - History

A disturbing episode in the life of the former governor-general Sir William Slim is uncovered.

SIR WILLIAM SLIM, one of Australia's most revered governors-general, has been accused of attempting to sexually interfere with a young, impoverished English boy sent to an institution in western NSW.

David Hill, a former managing director of the ABC and staunch republican, claimed that the war hero and 13th governor-general of Australia had groped students at Fairbridge Farm School at Molong when he visited in 1955.

Mr Hill said that while he was researching a book on Fairbridge the student concerned had told him of being attacked in the vice-regal vehicle.

"Sir William came in his Rolls-Royce and let the kids ride up and down in the car all day. One of the kids told me 'we were in the back of the Rolls-Royce and Sir William Slim was touching us up'," Mr Hill said. "Ten years later he was Viscount Slim and head of the Fairbridge Society in London and had the temerity to sack a principal at Molong because he was bonking one of the women staff at the school on the grounds that it was besmirching the place's reputation."

Mr Hill has not included the Slim anecdote in his book because it emerged after he completed research for the book.

Viscount Slim died in 1970.

Mr Hill's book, The Forgotten Children, records his experiences and those of scores of other destitute English children sent to Fairbridge in the hope of a better future.

Mr Hill was 12 when his impoverished mother in England, Kathleen Hill, agreed to send him, his twin Richard and their elder half brother Desmond to Australia in 1959.

His book, which will be launched on Monday, damns the school, alleging sexual and physical abuse and neglect. Suicides were not unknown, the food was inedible, the children were regarded as "educationally retarded" and three principals were sacked for sexual improprieties with children or staff. Mr Hill said the school's greatest crime was the lack of affection for the children, many of whom arrived at four and spent the rest of their childhood at Molong without one cuddle.

Mr Hill said that in 1956 the British government sent a fact-finding mission to Australia to investigate child migration and it had recommended the blacklisting of the Molong school. But he said documents in the London-based Fairbridge Society archives showed members used their influence in the upper echelons of the British establishment to get the blacklisting quietly dropped. Mr Hill said the Australian government was not informed.

In 1963 Sir William became chairman of the London Fairbridge Society, which founded and administered the Molong school.

Widely respected for welding a dispirited army into a potent fighting force that defeated the Japanese in Burma, in 1953 Sir William was promoted to field-marshal and appointed governor-general of Australia.

As a real war hero, his was a popular appointment. He retired as governor-general and returned home to Britain in 1959, and the following year was created 1st Viscount Slim of Yarralumla and Bishopston.

Mr Hill discovered documents in the society's archives showing that the Fairbridge principal Frederick Woods, a recent widower, was having an affair with one of the cottage mothers.

At a meeting on July 2, 1965, chaired by Viscount Slim, the board agreed with its chairman that Mr Woods had "created a scandal and had besmirched the good name of Fairbridge" and sacked the principal.

"Documents show the board at that meeting also had complaints from a Fairbridge girl complaining about her ill-treatment and a copy of an investigation by the NSW Child Welfare Department confirming allegations of child brutality by cottage mothers. Slim was only concerned about Fairbridge's reputation being besmirched. The kids were of little import."

A Dickensian policy dressed up in an Edwardian conceit, Fairbridge was established in 1938 as part of a plan to sprinkle England's impoverished children throughout the British Empire. It closed 36 years later after hosting more than 1000 children.

'I had a look at my little bloke under the shower one day with all his soccer bruises and I remember a kid called Terry Connell in our cottage at Fairbridge standing in the shower and all the bruises on him. Because of course there was nobody there to protect him. Everybody hurt him … the other kids, the adult carers, the people in charge.


William Slim

William Slim was born and raised in Bristol, and in Birmingham as a teenager. He joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as a second lieutenant in August 1914. Slim served in Gallipoli, where he was wounded and later in Mesopotamia. By 1918, he was promoted formally to Captain in the British Indian Army.

During World War II, as commander of the 10th Indian Brigade, Slim took part in the conquest of Abyssinia where he was also wounded. Promoted to major-general in June 1941, he led the 10th Indian Division in East Africa, and the Middle East.

In March 1942, he was given command of the Burma Corps, fighting Japanese soldiers in Rangoon. He then took over XV Corps of the Eastern Army in the Arakan in April 1943. The campaign was a disaster, partly because General Noel Irwin, the Eastern Army’s commander who side-lined Slim. The subsequent fall-out led to Slim’s appointment as commander of the 14th Army.

He was a very human and charismatic leader. Slim undertook a partially successful attack in the Arakan in February 1944, and then, in the battles of Imphal and Kohima, repelled a Japanese invasion of north-east India. Slim lead other successful missions in World War II.

After the war he was Commandant of the Imperial Defence College from 1946 to 1948 and Chief of the Imperial General Staff from 1948 to 1952. Between 1953 and 1960 Slim was governor-general of Australia. Slim is remembered fondly in Australian history as having a good relationship with Prime Minister Robert Menzies. On his return to the UK, he was given peerage as Viscount Slim of Yarralumla and Bishopston (Bishopston is a suburb in Bristol). He published many well received books and has held a number of prestigious posts including, deputy-constable and lieutenant-governor of Windsor Castle in 1963, then constable and governor in 1964. He was also chairman of the council of the Fairbridge Society, director of the National Bank of Australasia Ltd and Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd. After his death, he was commemorated by a plaque in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral and a statue at Whitehall unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II in 1990.


British backlash over 'utterly disgraceful' decision

Despite his years as governor-general, Sir William Slim is far from a household name within Australia.

But he holds a place of greater significance within Britain.

Historian and journalist Russell Miller published an authorised biography of Sir William in 2013, and said it was hard to overstate his importance in British military history.

"Bill Slim is remembered, certainly by my generation, the older generation, as one of the most effective soldiers of all time," he said.

"A terrific hero, a man who was able to turn around the course of the war against fantastic odds in Burma."

He interviewed one of the men who said he was abused by Sir William while researching the book, and said he could sympathise with his calls to change the road's name.

But he said the ACT Government's decision was displeasing.

"I think it is an utterly disgraceful decision in every way," he said.

"It besmirches the unsullied reputation of a man who is unable now to defend himself.

"And the worst aspect in my view is that I know these allegations exist, but they are only allegations, they're completely unproven.

"To make this kind of decision on the basis of unproven allegations goes against every kind of human right in my view."

But Miller said he did not expect a wave of changes to place names, monuments and other commemorations across Australia or the world.

"If we have to [have] a strong revision of history, then there are going to be hundreds of places renamed," he said.

"And I don't honestly think there is any desire for that to happen."


General William ‘Bill’ Slim

William ‘Bill’ Slim was a highly respected army commander. ‘Bill’ Slim found fame during the Burma campaign and especially the very important defeats of the Japanese Army at Kohima and Imphal in 1944.

Slim was born on August 6 th 1891 near Bristol. His parents were not rich but his upbringing was comfortable. Between 1910 and 1914, Slim held a variety of jobs but it was joining the Officers Training Corps in 1912 that was to give his life some direction. At the outbreak of World War One, Slim held a temporary rank of second lieutenant in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He was badly injured at Gallipoli but while convalescing he was granted a permanent commission in the West India Regiment. While fighting with his regiment in Mesopotamia in 1918, Slim was awarded the Military Cross. In 1918 Slim was promoted to captain and then major – but these appointments were just temporary. In 1919, he was formally promoted to captain and transferred to the British Indian Army.

In 1933, after attending Staff College in India, Slim was promoted to major. Between 1934 and 1937 he taught at the Staff College in Camberley. In 1938, promoted to lieutenant colonel, Slim was given command of the 2 nd Battalion, 7 th Ghurkha Rifles.

When World War Two started in September 1939, Slim was given command of the Indian 10 th Brigade. He fought in East Africa before joining the staff of General Wavell in the Middle East Command. Slim was given the command of the Indian 10 th Infantry Division and held the temporary rank of major general.

In March 1942, Slim was given command of the 1 st Burma Corps. He could do little to halt the Japanese advance through Burma. However, the speed of the Japanese advance had outstripped their ability to supply their men at the front. Therefore, the Japanese advance slowed down as they reached the Chindwin River near the Indian/Burma border. This gave Slim time to organise his forces. He was given command of the new 14 th Army, which was made up of IV, XV, XXXIII and XXXIV Corps. To cope with the unforgiving terrain in the region, Slim made better use of air transport/supply and on the ground used mules in preference to vehicles that simply could not cope with the lack of metalled roads.

In the spring of 1944, Slim faced two major challenges at Kohima and Imphal. The Japanese lost both battles. This ended the commonly held belief that the Japanese were invincible in a jungle environment and it also proved Slim’s belief in the importance of air transport in the region as Imphal, effectively surrounded, could only be supplied by air. After the victories at Kohima and Imphal, Slim planned to re-conquer Burma. The leadership of Slim in these momentous victories was recognised when he was promoted to lieutenant general in August 1944 and in the following month was made a Knight Commander of the Order of Bath. Slim was also very highly regarded by those he commanded. He took especial care over his men’s well being as Slim knew that health issues could either make or break an army in India and Burma.

In 1945, Slim launched his campaign to retake Burma. Central to his planning was ensuring that his troops were well supplied. Air and land co-ordination was of paramount importance. Slim realised that one of the main reasons for the Japanese failures at Kohima and Imphal was their failure to keep their men supplied. Slim was determined not to make the same mistake as his men advanced through Burma. The port of Rangoon became a major target for Slim.

At the end of the Burma campaign. Slim was informed that he was no longer to have command of the 14 th Army, which he assumed would be used in the attack on Malaya. Slim was informed that he was to command the new 12 th Army that would stay in Burma and mop up any Japanese activity that remained in the country. Slim refused to take this command and offered his resignation. When the news filtered down to men in the 14 th Army, there was anger and disillusionment. The issue went to the highest-ranking officer in the region – Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander of Southeast Asia. He resolved the problem by promoting Slim to general in July 1945 and appointing him commander of Allied Land Forces Southeast Asia.

After the war ended, Slim returned to the UK as head of the Imperial Defence College. In February 1947, he was appointed an aide-de-camp to George VI. He retired from the army in May 1948.

In January 1949, Slim was brought out of retirement and appointed Chief of the Imperial General Staff with the rank of Field Marshal. He held this post until November 1952. In the following year, Slim was appointed Governor-General of Australia. Slim was popular in Australia as he was seen as a genuine war hero. In 1959, he retired from the post and returned to the UK. In 1960, Slim was created a Viscount.


Slim, Sir William Joseph (1891–1970)

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

William Joseph Slim (1891-1970), by unknown photographer, 1953

Sir William Joseph Slim (1891-1970), army officer, governor-general and author, was born on 6 August 1891 at Bristol, England, younger son of John Benjamin Thomas Slim, commercial traveller, and his wife Charlotte Amelia, née Tucker. Educated at St Philip's Catholic school, Edgbaston, and King Edward's School, Birmingham, Bill showed literary ability, little aptitude for sport, and an interest in the army, but lacked the means to proceed to a military academy. He taught in an elementary school, worked as a clerk with a firm of engineers, and joined the University of Birmingham Officers' Training Corps. On 22 August 1914 he was gazetted second lieutenant, Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

Seriously wounded at Gallipoli in August 1915, Slim was invalided to England. He was granted a regular commission in the West India Regiment, but in October 1916 rejoined his old battalion in Mesopotamia. In the following year he was wounded again, awarded the Military Cross, and evacuated to India. After recovering, he served with increasing boredom at Army Headquarters, Delhi. He transferred to the Indian Army in 1919. Next year he was posted to the 1st Battalion, 6th Gurkha Rifles, of which he became adjutant in 1921. At St Andrew's Church, Bombay, on 1 January 1926 he married Aileen Robertson (1901-1993) with the forms of the Church of Scotland although the service was followed by a ceremony in the Catholic church at Quetta, he regarded himself as a lapsed Catholic.

Slim's brilliant success in 1926-28 at the Staff College, Quetta, was followed by a term at Army Headquarters and by his attachment (1934-36) to the Staff College, Camberley, England, as Indian Army instructor. From the 1937 course at the Imperial Defence College, London, he returned to India. He was promoted lieutenant colonel (1938), given command of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Gurkha Rifles, and appointed (1939) commandant of the Senior Officers' School, Belgaum, as temporary brigadier. Meanwhile, he also developed as a writer. To supplement his income, he contributed stories and articles under the pen-name 'Anthony Mills' to English newspapers, particularly the Daily Mail, and to periodicals such as Blackwood's Magazine.

On 23 September 1939 Slim assumed command of the 10th Indian Brigade. In November 1940 he led a force which captured Gallabat (on the border between Ethiopia and the Sudan) from the Italians. In failing to capitalize on this success and take nearby Metemma as well, he blamed no one but himself: 'When two courses of action were open to me I had not chosen, as a good commander should, the bolder. I had taken counsel of my fears'. Wounded soon after in an air-attack, he sent a stoical telegram to his mother: 'Bullet Bottom Better Bill'. He was promoted acting major general and appointed to command the 10th Indian Division in May 1941. A successful campaign (June-July) against Vichy French forces in Syria preceded an easier one (August) in Persia, described by him as opéra bouffe.

Recalled to India in March 1942, Slim was promoted acting lieutenant general and given command of I Burma Corps (Burcorps), then in retreat from Rangoon before the advancing Japanese. Against great difficulties, he brought the exhausted but defiant survivors to Imphal, India. His pre-eminent contribution, as in subsequent campaigns, was in maintaining morale. He spoke to as many soldiers as possible, man to man, and enabled them to hope 'when hope seemed absurd'. Their 'will to live sustained a will to fight'. On Burcorps' disbandment in May, Slim was appointed to command XV Corps. During the Arakan campaign of 1942-43, he clashed with his army commander, Lieutenant General Noel Irwin, who attempted to have him relieved. The outcome was tersely expressed in Irwin's message to Slim: 'You're not sacked. I am'.

In October 1943 Slim was appointed to command the Fourteenth Army. He smashed the fraying legend of Japanese invincibility at Imphal and Kohima (May-July 1944), and at Mandalay and Meiktila (February-March 1945), Burma. The reoccupation of Rangoon in May 1945 completed a series of victories that brought him fame. Lord Louis (Earl) Mountbatten considered him 'the finest general World War II produced'. The transformation of a defeated force into a proud army was Slim's greatest achievement, and he had come to be known by his soldiers as 'Uncle Bill'. After Rangoon was taken, Sir Oliver Leese, commander-in-chief, Allied Land Forces, South East Asia, decided that he would replace Slim. The decision was greeted with dismay and incredulity by officers and men of the Fourteenth Army, and was quashed in London. Promoted general on 1 July 1945, Slim took over from Leese just as the war ended on 15 August. He had been appointed C.B.E. in 1942 and awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1943 he was appointed C.B. and K.C.B. in 1944, and G.B.E. in 1946.

Early in 1946 Slim was sent to London to resuscitate the Imperial Defence College as its commandant. He retired on 1 April 1948. An ensuing term as deputy-chairman of the Railway Executive ended seven months later with his recall to the army as chief of the Imperial General Staff. He was promoted field marshal on 4 January 1949. During the next four years he visited British commands abroad and a number of other countries. In Australia he impressed many people, including Prime Minister (Sir) Robert Menzies. He was appointed G.C.B. (1950) and G.C.M.G. (1952).

On 8 May 1953 Slim was sworn in as governor-general of Australia. Menzies had sought a man of stature, one who had no involvement in Australian politics, and one who would represent the monarch effectively. Slim was to see no change of prime minister over his term of nearly seven years. Despite occasional friction, a relationship of trust developed between him and Menzies, based on a healthy respect for each other's intellect and integrity.

Partly because of the royal visit of 1954—the first by a reigning monarch to Australia—but also owing to his own combination of authority and humanity, Slim's governor-generalship was judged to be notably successful, even by those who believed that the office should be held by an Australian. His humanity came to be as apparent to the Australian people as it had been to his soldiers in Burma. Early in his term, however, he occasioned some surprise by the unflattering remarks he made 'about anything or anybody in Australia he regarded as below par'. As a field marshal he was well qualified both to inspire and to rebuke the Returned Sailors', Soldiers' and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia.

The Slims travelled widely throughout Australia. Sir William's speeches impressed by their cogency, dry humour and directness, as did his off-the-cuff remarks to journalists (when implored by one photographer to smile, he replied, 'Dammit, I am!'). His craggy appearance, upright bearing, and jutting chin barely disguised his kindness and approachability. What they did disguise was the pain he continually felt as a result of his wounds. He and his wife both possessed fortitude. She suffered a succession of illnesses, beginning with a serious haemorrhage on their arrival in Canberra. Her determination and perfectionism matched his, and were seen in the improvements she made to Government House, Canberra, and Admiralty House, Sydney. A warmth of heart and manner characterized her presence, whether as hostess or guest, at the many functions attending the vice-regal office.

Slim's three books were all published during his time in Australia. The first, Defeat into Victory (London, 1956), about the Burma campaign, sold more than 100,000 copies and was hailed as one of the best, and best-written, on World War II he dedicated the book to Aileen, 'a soldier's wife who followed the drum and from mud-walled hut or Government House made a home'. He included a number of his speeches in Australia in Courage and Other Broadcasts (1957). Accounts of his earlier and smaller battles, some previously published in Blackwood's Magazine, appeared in his reminiscences, Unofficial History (1959). The Slims were also interested in the arts and education the former teacher enjoyed visiting schools and talking to pupils and principals alike.

Appointed G.C.V.O. (1954) and K.G. (1959), Slim left office on 2 February 1960 and returned to England. On Menzies' initiative, Sir William and Lady Slim received Australian pensions and passports. In 1960 Slim was raised to the peerage, taking the title Viscount Slim of Yarralumla and Bishopston. He was appointed deputy-constable and lieutenant-governor of Windsor Castle in 1963 and was promoted constable and governor in 1964. His other posts included chairmanship of the council of the Fairbridge Society, and directorships of the National Bank of Australasia Ltd and Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd. He held nine honorary doctorates, including four from Australian universities. He retained his affection for the Gurkhas and friendships with former colleagues.

Failing in health, Slim retired from his posts at Windsor shortly before he died on 14 December 1970 at St Marylebone, London. He was accorded a full military funeral at St George's Chapel, Windsor, and was cremated. His wife, and their son and daughter survived him. (Sir) Ivor Hele's portrait of Slim is held by the family, Leonard Boden's by the National Army Museum, London. Slim is further commemorated by a plaque in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral and by a statue at Whitehall unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II in 1990.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Lewin, Slim (Lond, 1976), and for bibliography
  • C. D. Coulthard-Clark (ed), Gables, Ghosts and Governors-General (Syd, 1988)
  • J. Keegan (ed), Churchill's Generals (Lond, 1991)
  • B. Foott, Ethel and the Governors' General (Syd, 1992)
  • J. Colvin, Not Ordinary Men (Lond, 1994)
  • A. W. Martin, Robert Menzies , vol 2 (Melb, 1999)
  • Canberra Times , 15 Dec 1970
  • Times (London), 15 Dec 1970
  • Sydney Morning Herald , 19 Mar 1977
  • personal knowledge.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Michael D. De B. Collins Persse, 'Slim, Sir William Joseph (1891–1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/slim-sir-william-joseph-11713/text20937, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 17 June 2021.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002


Gen. Homma, now resupplied and reinforced, will come again. But this time, with MacArthur gone, the Japanese will face Gen. Edward P. King. And he is determined to hold out. But Homma’s plan is straightforward, to bombard the main defensive line to smithereens even.

As Gen. Homma’ reinforcements come in, his confidence grows. Yet his plan to conquer southern Bataan and Corregidor is flawed. Meanwhile, Gen. Jonathan Wainwright is doing all he can to prepare his men to fight the enemy.


View the military maps used during the Campaign.

View examples of Japanese propaganda dropped into Burma between 1942 and 1945.

General Sir William Slim's Last Order

Issued on 2 December 1945

"The regrouping of forces in South East Asia for the reoccupation of so many areas has compelled me regretfully to order the break-up of the Fourteenth Army.

When you were formed I told you that you could become one of the best known armies that the British Empire ever had. And so you did.

Inheriting a legacy of defeat and disaster, constantly short of equipment and men, by your discipline, courage, dash, skill and above all, by your refusal ever to be beaten by Man or Nature, you achieved a success few thought possible.

Many races fighting and working in comradeship learned to appreciate one another's values. Carry that mutual respect into the future, wherever you may be called. Carry with you, too, qualities that made the Fourteenth Army what it was. Whether you serve on, or return to civil life, they will be required, and the world will be a better place because you retained them.

Remember you were of the Fourteenth Army, and never say die. So long as you live you may be proud of our Army and of the part you played in it, against odds at a critical time in history.

As your C-in-C, I send each one of you my thanks, my admiration and my confidence that, in peace as in war, the men and women of the Fourteenth Army will play a noble part. Good luck to you and God bless you."

General Sir William Slim's Biography

By Frank Owen

Field Marshall Viscount Slim was referred to by Admiral of the Fleet Earl Mountbatten, who was Supreme Allied Commander of Southeast Asia, as "the finest general World War II produced". After the war he was head of the Imperial General Staff, Britain's top military post, from 1948 to 1952, and was governor general of Australia from 1952 to 1960. This article is reprinted from a 1945 issue of Phoenix. the South East Asia Command magazine.

The General stood on an ammunition box. Facing him in a green amphitheatre of the low hills that ring Palel Plain, sat or squatted the British officers and sergeants of the 11th East African Division. They were then new to the Burma Front and were moving into the line the next day. The General removed his battered slouch hat, which the Gurkhas wear and which has become the headgear of the 14th Army. "Take a good look at my mug," he advised. "Not that I consider it to be an oil painting. But I am the Army Commander and you had better be able to recognize me - if only to say "Look out, the old b . . . . is coming round".

Lieutenant-General Sir William Slim, KCB, CB, DSO, MC ("Bill") is 53, burly, grey and going a bit bald. His mug is large and weatherbeaten, with a broad nose, jutting jaw, and twinkling hazel eyes. He looks like a well-to-do West Country farmer, and could be one. For he has energy and patience and, above all, the man has common sense. However, so far Slim has not farmed. He started life as a junior clerk, once he was a school teacher, and then he became the foreman of. Read more

Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten's Address to the Press

August 1944

"My object in this Press conference is to try to put before the Press of the world that every effort has been and is continuing to be put into the South East Asia campaign that the Burma battle front is a single unified front: that my plans are made in close consultation with my deputy, General Joseph Stilwell, and we carry them out with a common end in view.

Please therefore look upon Burma as one big Allied effort, British, American and Chinese, with the help of the Dutch and the other nations that are with us. It is going extraordinarily well as an Allied effort. We do not want a lot of limelight, in fact we do not want any, but I go round and talk to the men in the Command and what worries them is that their wives, their mothers, their daughters their sweethearts and their sisters don't seem to know that the war they are fighting is important and worthwhile, which it most assuredly is.

The South East Asia Command is a long way off: it is apt to be overshadowed in Europe by the climax of the war against Germany and in the Pacific by the advances of Admiral Nimitz and General MacArthur. Therefore a major effort by Allied forces, doing their duty in inhospitable places, has been somewhat crowded out and the forces have not received their proportion of credit. My purpose this afternoon is to put their achievements before you.

Enemy held territory in the South East Asia theatre. Read more


Hero, villain and the school for scandal

SIR WILLIAM SLIM, one of Australia's most revered governors-general, has been accused of attempting to sexually interfere with a young, impoverished English boy sent to an institution in western NSW.

David Hill, a former managing director of the ABC and staunch republican, claimed that the war hero and 13th governor-general of Australia had groped students at Fairbridge Farm School at Molong when he visited in 1955.

Mr Hill said that while he was researching a book on Fairbridge the student concerned had told him of being attacked in the vice-regal vehicle.

"Sir William came in his Rolls-Royce and let the kids ride up and down in the car all day. One of the kids told me 'we were in the back of the Rolls-Royce and Sir William Slim was touching us up'," Mr Hill said. "Ten years later he was Viscount Slim and head of the Fairbridge Society in London and had the temerity to sack a principal at Molong because he was bonking one of the women staff at the school on the grounds that it was besmirching the place's reputation."

Mr Hill has not included the Slim anecdote in his book because it emerged after he completed research for the book.

Viscount Slim died in 1970.

Mr Hill's book, The Forgotten Children, records his experiences and those of scores of other destitute English children sent to Fairbridge in the hope of a better future.

Mr Hill was 12 when his impoverished mother in England, Kathleen Hill, agreed to send him, his twin Richard and their elder half brother Desmond to Australia in 1959.

His book, which will be launched on Monday, damns the school, alleging sexual and physical abuse and neglect. Suicides were not unknown, the food was inedible, the children were regarded as "educationally retarded" and three principals were sacked for sexual improprieties with children or staff. Mr Hill said the school's greatest crime was the lack of affection for the children, many of whom arrived at four and spent the rest of their childhood at Molong without one cuddle.

Mr Hill said that in 1956 the British government sent a fact-finding mission to Australia to investigate child migration and it had recommended the blacklisting of the Molong school. But he said documents in the London-based Fairbridge Society archives showed members used their influence in the upper echelons of the British establishment to get the blacklisting quietly dropped. Mr Hill said the Australian government was not informed.

In 1963 Sir William became chairman of the London Fairbridge Society, which founded and administered the Molong school.

Widely respected for welding a dispirited army into a potent fighting force that defeated the Japanese in Burma, in 1953 Sir William was promoted to field-marshal and appointed governor-general of Australia.

As a real war hero, his was a popular appointment. He retired as governor-general and returned home to Britain in 1959, and the following year was created 1st Viscount Slim of Yarralumla and Bishopston.

Mr Hill discovered documents in the society's archives showing that the Fairbridge principal Frederick Woods, a recent widower, was having an affair with one of the cottage mothers.

At a meeting on July 2, 1965, chaired by Viscount Slim, the board agreed with its chairman that Mr Woods had "created a scandal and had besmirched the good name of Fairbridge" and sacked the principal.

"Documents show the board at that meeting also had complaints from a Fairbridge girl complaining about her ill-treatment and a copy of an investigation by the NSW Child Welfare Department confirming allegations of child brutality by cottage mothers. Slim was only concerned about Fairbridge's reputation being besmirched. The kids were of little import."

A Dickensian policy dressed up in an Edwardian conceit, Fairbridge was established in 1938 as part of a plan to sprinkle England's impoverished children throughout the British Empire. It closed 36 years later after hosting more than 1000 children.

'I had a look at my little bloke under the shower one day with all his soccer bruises and I remember a kid called Terry Connell in our cottage at Fairbridge standing in the shower and all the bruises on him. Because of course there was nobody there to protect him. Everybody hurt him … the other kids, the adult carers, the people in charge.


Watch the video: Battle of Kohima and Imphal World war 2 Forgotten martyrs