Arthur Brownlow Corbett MBE (1877 - 1970)

Arthur Brownlow Corbett MBE
Director-General of Civil Aviation
3 April 1939 - 16 February 1944
(Acting D-G until 5 August 1944)

(Photo: CAHS collection)

Arthur Brownlow Corbett was was born on 18 February 1877 at New Shoreham, Sussex, England, and the family migrated to Brisbane, Queensland, in 1890. After schooling he passed the junior public examination in 1892 and, after completing his indentures, in March 1899 he joined the Post and Telegraph Department as a Junior Clerk.

Volunteering for service in the Boer War, A.B. Corbett enlisted in the 5th (Queensland Imperial Bushmen) Contingent, reaching South Africa in April 1901 and seeing service in the Cape and Orange River colonies, and the Transvaal. He returned to Brisbane in April 1902 and resumed work in the Postmaster-General's Department.

A.B Corbett served in the accounts branch at the G.P.O. prior to becoming an Assistant-Engineer, Electrical Engineer's Branch, in December 1913. The next twenty years were spent in various engineering functions within the PMG's Department. Corrbett became known as an enthusiastic moderniser who introduced new methods and machinery to make the postal system more efficient. In 1933 he was appointed Deputy-Director of Posts and Telegraphs, Queensland, and in 1938 was appointed an MBE.

As a result of the Kyeema accident and other problems, by the late 1930s Civil Aviation Branch was seen to be in need of reorganisation. Because of Corbett's technical and administrative reputation, and perhaps also because of the close relationship between the PMG's Department and the CAB, in April 1939 Corbett was appointed Director-General of the new Department of Civil Aviation which was located in Melbourne.

A.B. Corbett promptly divided DCA into seven sections. During the Second World War he arranged for the conversion of all available civil aircraft to military use, personally supervised an airlift of servicemen from Papua and took an early interest in postwar planning. His term was extended repeatedly before he retired in August 1944. Corbett was known to his staff as 'ABC' or, to those less charitable, 'The Alphabetical Old Bastard'.

Following retirement, Corbett established a plantation at Montville, Queensland. In 1945 he chaired the provisional executive formed to create a State branch of the Liberal Party. A.B. Corbett died on 20 March 1970, aged 93.


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