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Casey, Lieutenant-Commander Alan Dermot - Royal Commission upon circumstances associated with retirement from Royal Australian Navy - Report

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PrUtJII&l«l by Command ; ordered to be printed, 23rd October, 1934.

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1 .


Judges' Chambers, Supreme Court, Adelaide. 25th August, 1934.

Pursuant to the Commission issued in that behalf, I have the honour to submit, for Your Excellency's consideration, the report of my inquiry into the matters specified therein, and arising out of the retirement of Lieutenant-Commander Alan Dermot Casey from the Royal Australian Navy.

I have the honour to be, Your Excellency's most obedient servant, (Sgd.) J. M. NAPIER.

His Excellency, The Right Honorable Sir Isaac A. Isaacs, P.C., G.C.M.G., · Governor-General, Government House,

Canberra, Federal Territory.



To His Excellency the Right Honorable SIR IsAAC ALFRED IsAAcs, a Member of His Majesty's Most Honorable Privy Council, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief in and over the Commonwealth of Australia.


I, the Commissioner appointed by Royal Letters Patent, dated the eleventh day of July, 1934-to inquire into and report . upon the circumstances of the retirement of Lieutenant-Commander Alan Dermot Casey from the Royal Australian Navy, and, in particular, to report whether, havin regard to

such circumstances, the retirement of the said Lieutenant-Commander Alan Dermot Casey was or was not nece.ssary in the interests. the Service, and whether the record of the said Lieutenant-Commander Casey's servwe and the cause of h1s Ill-health were such that he should or should not have been retired in the manner adopted for his retirement and without compensation ; and, if he should not have been so retired, to report as to what action should have been taken in respect of his case"-have the honour to report as follows:-


1. The Commission opened its proceedings on the 23rd July, 1934, in Melbourne. Suitable courtroom facilities and accommodation were made available by the courtesy of the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court. Mr. Norman O'Bryan of Counsel (instructed by the Deputy Commonwealth Crown Solicitor, Melbourne) appeared before the Commission to represent the interests of the Naval Board.

Mr. P. C. Spender of Counsel, with him Thfr. B. J. McGrath (instructed by Messrs. Heydon and McNevin, Sydney), appeared for the relatives of the late Lieutenant-Commander Casey. Public sittings of the Commission in Melbourne were held on 23rd, 24th, 25th, and 26th July, and ten witnesses were examined.

At the conclusion of the evidence called in Melbourne, the Commission adjourned to Sydney, where sittings were held on 31st July, 1st, 2nd and 3rd August, and ten witnesses were examined. A list of the witnesses examined by the Commission will be found in Appendix " A " to this Report. The exhibits tendered to the Commission are listed in Appendix "B ".

I desire to aclmowledge the assistance received from Counsel, and to express my appreciation of the services rendered by Mr. T. J. Collins, of the Prime Minister's Department, as Secretary to the Commission.


2. With respect to Lieutenant-Commander Casey's service and his retirement from the Royal Australian Navy, the circumstances, as they were disclosed at the inquiry, are as follows:-Lieutenant-Commander entered the Navy, as a Naval Cadet, in January, 1916, being then thirteen years of age, and, after the ordinary four years course of training in the Naval College, he received his appointment as a Midshipman.

In June, 1920, he was sent overseas for service, and served with the Royal Navy, until the end of 1922. From January, 1923, until June, 1924, he was engaged in the usual course of training for the rank of Lieutenant, and after a further period of service with the Royal Navy he returned, in H.M.A.S. Adelaide, to Australia, where he served until about November, 1927

Up to this point there had been no departure from the common course of training for, and service in, the Navy; but, at about this time, Lieutenant Casey had applied for, and had been selected to undergo, a special course of training to qualify him for appointment as a ''specialist" or ''signalling officer'', and, in November, 1927, he was sent to England for the

purpose of taking the special course of instruction lmown as " the long signalling course ".



Prior to embarkation for this purpose Lieutenant Casey was required to enter into a bond in the sum of £500 payable to the Department in the event of his resigning from the Active List within five years frorn the completion of his training. This is the condition prescribed by No. Ill of the Consolidated Orders and Regulations for the Government of the Naval Forces of the Commonwealth.

Lieutenant Casey was engaged in the long signalling course throughout the year 1928. His final place was fourth out of a school of twelve, and, as the result of proficiency, he was then recommended for, and selected to undergo, what is known as the "advanced signalling course"; but for that purpose, and before undertaking it, he was given a period of service as an Assistant Squadron Wireless Telegraph Officer in the Royal Navy.

The advanced course was commenced in September, 1929, and completed in 1\iarch, 1930; and, on 8th April, 1930, Lieutenant Casey was appointed to H.M.S. Broke, stationed in the Mediterranean, as Squadron Signalling and Wireless Telegraph Officer.

On the following day (9th April, 1930) a cable was sent by the Naval Board to its representative in London. The Naval Representative was thereby advised of the retrenchment scheme, that was then pending, and was asked to report whether there were any Australian officers, then serving in the Royal Navy, who were considered to be below the average in conduct, or ability, or physically.

On 15th 1\iay, a further cable was sent inviting applications for voluntary retirement upon conditions, which were (in some respects) not finally determined. The conditions that were left to be determined were, "compensation in the event of this being granted by the Government" and the dependent question of payrnent in lieu of extended leave.

On 5th June, 1930, the Naval Board were informed that replies had been received from all the officers concerned, and that Lieutenant Casey was the only one who had indicated a desire to retire voluntarily. This was answered on 7th June, 1930, by a cable that the Naval Board did ·not desire to include Lieutenant Casey under the retrenchment scheme, that a letter fully explaining the position was being forwarded for his information, and that the decision regarding his application would be deferred in the meantime.

The attitude of the Naval Board with respect to the proposed resignation appears in its letter, of 16th June, 1930. The necessary reduction of Officers of the Executive Branch had been made, and, so far as numbers were concerned, there was no need for any further resignations. This was made clear, and the Secretary (speaking for the Naval Board) went on to say :-

Lieutenant Casey is, I am to state, looked upon as an Officer above the average rather than otherwise, and, on personal grounds, he would be a loss to the Service if retired. 2. His offer of resignation may, it is thought, have been prompted by the impression that it would be a convenience to the Service and possibly assist the Board in effecting the necessary reduction. It is desired that he should be informed that such is not the case.

3. Lieutenant-Commander Waller has been appointed temporarily as Squadron S. & WjT. Officer; but Lieutenant Casey is in view for this position on return to Australia, i.e., about May, 1931. 4. I am to add that the Board desire that the position as stated above may be communicated to Lieutenant Casey, and that he be informed that the Board have decided to defer consideration of his application to resign, pending a. further signal from you intimating that he still desires his application to stand.

The original letter was addressed to the Naval Representative, London; but a copy was enclosed in a personal letter, written by the Assistant to the Second Navall\iember of the Naval Board, and sent to Lieutenant Casey. The conclusion of the personal letter is in these terms-If you have something good to go to outside or special strong private reasons for wishing to leave the Service, it is of course another matter; you no doubt know your own business best. Please understand, however, that from a. Service point of view the Board would be very sorry to lose you. You are of course entitled in any case to resign,

and I do not think the Board would be justified in withholding from you the special terms of retirement which apply to voluntary resignation under the Reduction Scheme. As soon as you get the official communication please reply to Naval Representative-preferably by W jT­ so that we may know as soon as possible your final decision as to whether your application is to stand.

Yours sincerely, C. A. PARKER.

When these letters were written the Naval Board had no knowledge of, and no means of knoWing, what now appears with respect to .the health of the officer at that tiJ?e. The only evidence on this head is afforded by the Medwal Journal from H.M.S. Broke> wh1rh must have been made up to the 31st DT ecember, 1930, . it to the

Director-General of the Royal Navy (see the Kmg s Regulat1ons and Admrralty Instructwns Chap. XXXVIII., Sec. III., par. 1410).

The following is the extract from the Medical Journal :-This officer reported early in June that since his arrival in the Flotilla two months earlier, he had suffered from Just before his he finished his Course and thought be might have

stramed his eyes durmg It. I therefore arranged for him to see the OphtnalmiC Specialist and Dental Officers at Bighi. I could find no abnormal physical signs myself on examination. The findings of both the Ophthalmic Specialist and Dental Officer were negative. On the 27th he saw the Senior Medical Officer H.M.S. Egmont who discharged him to the Royal Naval Hospital as" Observation-Medical", with the following history :- .

"This officer has been suffering from pain in the right occipital and frontal area for over two months. He that had his and teeth examined and reports are attached. There is apparently no history of syphilis. He IS very anxwus to have a W.R. done on his blood." ·

A prolonged investigation failed to reveal any organic cause for the headaches. He was invalided home during August.

On 9th July, 1930 (pursuant to King's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions, Section I., par. _1331), Lieutenant Casey was surveyed at the Royal Naval Hospital, Malta, by a Board of Medical Officers. The report shows that he was then suffering from Neurasthenia, and was in consequence unfit for further active service on the Station. The disability was attributed to

"constitutional cause" and his return to England was recommended. .

In due course this recommendation was approved and Lieutenant Casey was returned to England where he entered the Royal Naval Hospital, Chatham, on 25th July, 1930. From that Hospital he was granted six weeks' sick leave to undergo treatment at King Edward VII.'s Convalescent Home for Officers, Osborne, Isle of Wight. This commenced on 20th August, and an additional fourteen days' sick leave was granted, as a re.sult of a re-survey at the Royal Naval Hospital, Chatham, on 30th September, 1930.

The first communication upon the subject tbat was received by the Navy Office (in Australia ) was a cable of 17th July, 1930, from the Representative in Casey

invalided at Malta Hospital believe neurasthenia" ,-and the next, in reply to a request-" Advise position regarding Casey" -was a cable of 28th August, 1930-" Casey on six weeks' sick leave . .

. will be resurveyed on 20th September ".

On lst September, 1930, the report of the medical survey at Malta (9th July, 1930) was received in Australia. This was followed on 23rd Septen1ber, 1930, by a cmnmunicat ion (dated 19th August, 1930) from the Surgeon Rear Admiral in charge of the Royal Naval Hospital at Chatham, reporting that Lieutenant Casey, " suffering fro m neurasthenia ", had been granted six weeks' sick leave, and directed to report on 30th Septmnber, 1930, for resurvey, and on the day named (3 0th September) the Navy Office received a further cable-" Casey granted addit ional fourteen days' sick leave will be resurveyed 14th October."

On 7th October, 1930, the reply of Lieutenant Casey to the Board's letter of 16th June, 1930, was received by the Naval Board, through its Representative in London. This reply was written on 28th August, 1930, from the Convalescent Home, Osborne. In it Lieutenant Casey says:-

. . . . I wish to state that my offer of resignation was chiefly brought about by the illness from which I a.m now recovering. I feel that complete recovery can be guaranteed only by my return to Australia as early as convenient after the completion of my period of convalescence at this establishment with a ret urn to general service fo r a prolonged

period in Australian waters. With reference to paragraph 4 of the letter of the Secretary to the Naval Board I submit I be allowed to cancel my application to resign should the Board consider it in the interests of t he Service to approve my return to Australia and subsequent employment for about one year as indicated above.

With a view to the resurvey fixed for 14th October, the consideration of this request was deferred until the result of the resurvey should be known. On 21st October, 1930 , a cable was received-" Casey surveyed and returned to duty " to which the reply was-" Officer should return . .

. and will be employed temporarily on general service."

In due course Lieutenant Casey returned to Australia, and was allowed six weeks' service leave, on the completion of which he returned to duty, and was given a general serviCe appointment. On 15th March, 1931, he was returned to specialist duties, as the officer-in-charge of the Signal School, at the Flinders Naval Depot, but prior to this appointment he had been

asked whether he was prepared to undertake these duties, and had replied that he was.

After more than twelve months' service in that appointment, that is to say on 12t h April, 1932, Lieutenant Casey was appointed to H.M.A.S. Canberra as Squadron Signal Officer, and on 15th April, 1932, having qualified in accordance with the Regulations, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Commander.


The duties of Squadron Signal Officer are necessarily responsible, and, at times, exacting. He is the medium whereby the orders of the Admiral are transmitted to the squadron; and it is manifest that there must be occasions when an error, upon his part, might lead to a disaster­ the loss of ships and lives-that no one would care to contemplate. On the other hand, it is apparent that, in the normal course of things, an officer, who has been trained for the post, can be relied upon to perform the duties, and can so rely upon his own ability, as to obviate the necessity for dwelling upon the possible consequences of a mistake.

Lieutenant-Commander Casey had been properly trained, and his duties as Squadron Signal Officer were satisfactorily performed for a period of nearly twelve months, during which there was nothing to suggest that he was not fully qualified for the performance of his duties in every respect but one. He was unable to bear the stress of the responsibility that was involved.

The first hint of this, after his return to Australia, was in about January, 1933, when, in a private letter addressed to a brother officer (Lieutenant-Commander Waller), he expressed the intention of leaving the Service " as soon as his bond had expired." The first definite indication of inability to perform his duty was on 28th March, 1933, when the fleet was exercising in Tasmanian waters, and Lieutenant-Commander Casey reported himself to the Se:q.ior Medical Officer of H.M.A.S. Canberra as suffering from sleeplessness, headaches, and a general feeling of debility, and complained that his work was, to use his own words, "getting him down." He was relieved from duty and given a sedative, and at the end of three days he appeared to recover. He said that he was "feeling quite all right" and asked to go back to his duties. ·

He returned to and,remained on duty until 21st July, 1933; but in the meantime, on 5th July, 1933, he had spoken unofficially to Commander Creswell, and had declared that he felt unable to" undertake the responsibilities on the bridge" and that he wanted to leave the service, but did not want to lose his deferred pay.

From this conversation, and from what was said subsequently to Dr. Gault, it appears that the principal subject of his apprehension, at that time, was the intended cruise in New Zealand waters, when the fleet would be engaged in battle practice with the New Zealand squadron. On 21st July, 1933, the fleet left Sydney for Hervey Bay, on the "Spring cruise", and, on the same day Lieutenant-Commander Casey reported sick. His statement to the Medical Officer was " I cannot go on ", and he went on to explain that he felt quite unable to carry out his duties, or to concentrate for any length of time, and that going on the bridge caused him very great anxiety. Upon examination his general health appeared good, and his memory unimpaired; but definite indications of nervous excitability were discovered. The case was diagnosed as one of neurasthenia, and the patjent was ordered complete rest, and kept under medical observation.

·on 27th July, 1933, the Medical Officer found . it necessary to report that Lieutenant· Commander Casey was unfit for duty as a Signal Officer afloat, and to recommend that an opinion, as to his condition, should be obtained from a Specialist on the return of the ship to Sydney, and that he should then be brought forward for Medical Survey.

The ship returned to Sydney on the 18th August, 1933, and Lieutenant-Commander Casey was relieved, and another Officer was appointed in his stead as Squadron Signal Officer. Prior to that Lieutenant-Commander Casey ·had been permitted to perform some light clerical duties, in order "to occupy his mind " ; but, whilst his physical condition remained good, his condition mentally showed no improvement. On the contrary, there were definite indications of delusion, or obsessional ideas, pointing to mental instability.

On 22nd August, 1933, the Officer was examined by the Specialist-Dr. Collins-whose report reads as follows :-I could find no physical abnormality nor any evidence of serious mental disease. I think the symptoms of which he complains are due to an aggravated form of anxiety neurosis.

I recommend that he be granted at least one month's leave of absence. I think it probable that he will make a quick recovery. It might be considered desirable, on his return to duty, that he be transferred to some less exacting work. On 29th August, 1933, the case was brought forward for Medical Survey. The Officer's statement, concerning his own case, was that he was suffering from" insomnia caused by overwork as Squadron Signal Officer", and that he had never previously been treated in any hospital for any disease, wound or injury.

The report of the Medical Board was that the Officer was suffering from anxiety neurosis, that he appeared in normal health and showed no sign of nervous instability, or of any naval or civil disability, present at the time of survey, and that the disability was not attributable to or aggravated by service, but was constitutional. .


The recommendation of the Board was that the Officer should not be discharged as permanently unfit, but should be given sick leave for one month and then resurveyed. This recommendation was approved in due course by the Director of Naval Medical Services, and by the Second Naval Member; and on the expiration of the leave so granted, the

Officer was again examined by Dr. Collins, whose report, dated 30th September, 1933, reads as follows:-I could find no evidence of any organic disease. The anxiety state in which I first found him is no longer evident.

I would recommend that he be allowed to return to duty and that for the next two months or thereabouts he be given light duty such as that which he has recently been performing upon the Penguin.

On 5th October, 1933, he came for resurvey before another Medical Board of three Officers, of whom two had been members of the former Board. The report was in the following terms:-That the said Lieutenant-Commander Alan D. Casey is labouring under Anxiety Neurosis and we, in consequence, recommend him-

Three months shore service and re-survey. The disability is due to (here state in full the cause of the disability)-Anxiety Neurosis.

And in answer to the usual questions the Board adopted Dr. Collins' report as describing the "present condition of patient" ; and they found that the disability was constitutional and not attributable to or aggravated by Service. They did not recommend discharge as permanently unfit, but recommended that the Officer should be resurveyed in three months and should not be employed in Specialist duties.

The report was forwarded, in due course, to the Director of Naval Medical Services. It was considered by him in conjunction with the previous medical history of the patient, which had not been disclosed, or not fully disclosed, to either of the Medical Boards, and the opinion which the Director then. formed, is expressed in his minute, to the Second Naval Member, of

12th October, 1933-In view of the fact that this officer has had nervous breakdowns on the last two occasions on which he has served in a sea-going ship, I do not consider that he will ever be medically fit to serve again afloat as a Signal It is therefore recommended that he be invalided from the Service "Below Naval Physical Standard".

His condition is due to constitutional causes and therefore the question of compensation is not involved.

The departmental file shows that the papers, as submitted to the Naval Board, contained a minute, by Commander Parker, Naval Assistant to the Second Naval Member-Submitted: If this officer could be retained for shore service until the end of March it would be very convenient. and (in the same minute) reasons are given for the statement that" the invaliding of Lieutenant­

Commander Casey now would be very inconvenient". On 23rd October, 1933, at a meeting of the Naval Board, consideration was given to the report of the Medical Survey, and to the appended recommendation of the Director and to the minute of the Naval Assistant. The members present were the First and Second Naval Members and the Finance and Civil Member, and the decision was unanimous. The minute reads as follows:-

It was decided that this officer is to be invalided from the Service as being" below Naval Physical Standard". With reference to Article 186 Naval Financial Regulations and Instructions it was decided that this officer be continued on pay for fourteen days from date of the notification of his being invalided.

The suggestion that the Officer should be "retained for shore service until March" was rejected, upon the view that, if the Officer was to be invalided, he should be set free at once, and not held to suit the convenience of the Service. The decision of the Naval Board was communicated, and, in due course, Lieutenant­

Commander Casey was retired from the Sea-going List. The date of discharge was lOth November, 1933. On 30th October, and with a view to his retirement, Lieutenant-Commander Casey applied for the payment in lieu of furlough or extended leave, which the Naval Board has power to allow, under the Naval Financial Regulations. The sum authorized and paid to him, upon this account was £214, 1naking, together with the deferred pay to which he was entitled, a total of £985.

For the purpose of comparing his position, if his resignation had been accepted under "the 1930 retrenchment scheme", it was given 1n evidence that the maximum, that could have been paid to him at that time, was £897, up of deferred pay £484, payment in lieu of extende.d leave £194, and half pay for (the full period that could be granted) £21.8 ; 1t

appeared that, at that time, there was the prospect of employment 1n the Pubhc Service, which was not available when he was actually retired in November, 1933.



· 3. With respect to the events subsequent to Lieutenant-Commander Casey's retirement, culminating in tlie final act, by which he took his own life, on 16th March, 1934, it is necessary to. compare the documentary evidence with_ the oral testimony that was given at the inquiry.

It appears that the decision of the Naval Board was entirely unexpected by the officer. His own expression (in memorandum'' J '')is that it'' came as a great shock''; but the evidence of Lieutenant-Commander McKenzie is that, from November, 1933, he showed distinct signs of improvement, until about March, 1934, when he appeared bright and cheerful (see at p. 239).

In about November, 1933, Lieutenant-Commander Casey purchased an interest in a small business of "canoe building" for which he paid £150. The venture proved unsatisfactory, and a dispute arose, which led to litigation with the partner, from whom the interest had been purchased. It seems probable that this was a new factor adverse to recovery; but, however that may be, I think that the documentary evidence confirms the suggestion of a steady improvement from November onwards. The memorandum " J " was written by Lieutenant­ Commander Casey, in December, 1933, for the purpose of obtaining advice, with a view to a claim against the Department. I can find no indication in this document of any mental instability at that time. I should be more inclined to describe it as the product of a balanced and temperate mind. The passage to which I refer is as follows:-

About July, 1933, I informed Lieutenant-Commander Waller, R.A.N. (Assistant to Director of Signals and Communications at Navy Office) in a private letter, that it was my then intention to retire from the R.A.N. in two years from that date, when my period under bond mentioned above would expire, further that if the bond were waived I would retire then and there.

In view of the above, I feel that compensation can only be claimed fairly, in so far as my state of health, deemed to be unfit for further service, at the time of my discharge, was brought about by my service. At the same time to find myself invalided from the Navy at fourteen days' notice cs,me as a great shock, observing that I had no prospect of immediate employment, and am still without employment commensurate with my training and previous social standing.

It is for consideration therefore whether a claim for compensation for loss of health, or a request for a suitable job to be found me, be forwarded to the Naval Board.

I think that the same inference must be drawn from his letter of 16th January, 1934. It is in his own handwriting,. and appears to be his own composition. It reads as follows:-.I desire to inform the Naval Board that my health for the last two months has been very good. Such being the case I have to request that I may be re-surveyed by a board of medical officers at an early date with a view to ascertaining whether my state of health is now such as to indicate that I am " Below Naval Physical Standard", observing that I find difficulty in obtaining suitable employment owing to personal medical unfitness implied i:r;t such reason for my discharge from the Royal Australian Navy.

A minu,te, dated 26th January, 1934, by the Director of Naval Medical Services, shows that, so far as that officer was aware, there was no precedent for a resurvey in the circumstances, and that in his opinion there was no useful purpose to be served by granting one in this case. It was his suggestion that a statement might be made, to the effect that the officer was considered .physically fit for any civilian occupation, and the minute concludes :-

I am quite prepared to make this statement as I consider that Lieutenant-Commander Casey's mental breakdown was due to conditions peculiar to the Service which would not operate in civil life.

The minute was approved by the Second Naval Member, and, on 5th February, 1934, the reply, on behalf of the Naval Board, was sent in the following terms:-I am directed by the Naval Board to inform you that they note with pleasure that your health has improved, but they are unable to arrange for any further medical survey.

The fact that you had the misfortune to fall below the Naval physical standard does not indicate that you are unfit for civilian occupations. In fact the Director of Naval Medical Services is of opinion that you are physically fit for such occupations, as the conditions peculiar to the Naval Service which adversely affected you will not be present therein.

Apart from the answer, written by Lieutenant-Commander Casey, on the legal advice that he obtained, there is no evidence of the effect, if any, which the terms of this letter may have had upon his mental health at that time. In his letter of 8th February, 1934, he mentioned that he had found difficulty in obtaining employment, on account of the personal medical unfitness, implied in the reason for his· discharge, and asked to be of the definition the term

"Below Naval Physical Standard", as well as of the matters In the rel?ort of in which he had been found to be below that standard, and of the specific authority under which the Board had acted. He also asked for a testimonial dealing with the record of his service.


The reply by the Secretary of the Naval Board, dated 6th March, 1934, deals with all these 1natters. It is in the following terms:-(a) Definition of the phrase-" Below Naval Physical Standard ". The term " Invalided " is used in Regulations, &c., inside the Service, but, for the purpose of notations on the Service Certificates

of ratings, and of reference in the case of officers when outside the Service, the following terms are used:-(i) "Below Naval Physical Standard" in the case of persons "Invalided" for disabilities which would not appreciably handicap them in ordinary civil employment.

(ii) "Physically Unfit for Naval Service" in the case of persons whose earning capacity is appreciably impaired by the disability or disease

of his fitness or otherwise, being guided by the report and recommendations of the Medical Officers of the Board of Survey and the Director of Naval Medical Services, who reviews the Report of Survey. (c) Matters in which you were found to be below standard. It was considered by the Naval Board that an officer who has twice had a severe mental breakdown whilst carrying out his duties at sea does not

reach the standard required for a Naval officer who may have to face responsibilities involving the safety of ships and the lives of those in them. (d) The specific authority under which the Naval Board acted. It is laid down in Article 103 of Consolidated Orders and Regulations for the Royal Australian Navy that an officer who for any reason may be

unfitted for service in a sea-going ship in the rank he holds (unless the unfitness is only temporary) shall be retired from the Sea-going List. With reference to your further request for a testimonial from the Naval Board, I am to enclose the accompanying statement of your service in the Royal Australian Navy, containing mention of the fact that your invaliding was not due in any way to lack of technical knowledge nor on account of anything reflecting upon your character or conduct.

It is necessary to point out that this letter had no influence upon the final act of 16th March, 1934. It was received in Sydney, whilst Lieutenant-Commander Casey was in Melbourne, and was only collected from the Post Office by a relative after his death. The last document is a note in his hand :-

I am depressed at not being able to find a job. A man without a job is like a ship without a rudder. He bas no directing force. I hope you will forgive me for taking the coward's way out.

My conclusion, upon this part of the case, is based upon the letter of 16th January, 1934. "\\7flen Dr. Collins, who was called by Mr. Spender, was questioned upon the subject of that letter, his answer was that "one would be justified in concluding" that the shock of the discharge had been dissipated when that letter was written.

I think that the only reasonable conclusion upon the whole of the evidence is that, in or before January, 1934, Lieutenant-Commander Casey had recovered from the shock of his retirement, and that his final act of self-destruction must be explained, upon one or other of two possible hypotheses, firstly, some sudden hnpulse, acting upon a mind predisposed to melancholia, or secondly, some exciting cause, which has not been disclosed in the evidence.

4. In addition to the evidence to which I have so far referred there was one witness, who testified to facts, which were not before the Naval Board, but are nevertheless relevant to the subfect of this inquiry.

A question, that necessarily arises, is whether the condition, that led to the invaliding of the Officer, should be attributed to his Naval Service, or to some constitutional or inherent cause, and, for this purpose, it is necessary to refer to the evidence of Surgeon Commander Henderson.

The witness had known Lieutenant Casey (as he then was) prior to 1930. He had met him in England, whilst Lieutenant Casey-was on sick leave in or about August, 1930. They had travelled together, on the same ship, on their return to Australia towards the end of that year.

I see no reason to doubt the testimony of this witness, and, taken in conjunction with other oral testimony, with respect to the breakdown in 1933, I am forced to the conclusion that, upon both these occasions, Lieutenant-Commander Casey suffered from delusions, indicating a much more serious disorder of the mental faculties than was realized, at the time, by any of the doctors, with whom he came in contact.

This evidence was given after the psychiatrists had been called on either side; but .it confirms and emphasizes the opinion, which was expressed by Dr. Godfrey (at p. 176), and 1n which Dr. Noble concurred (at p. 313-4), namely, that, " judging his condition at the time of his retirement by what subsequently happened", Lieutenant-Commander Casey "must

been more psychopathic than was ever realized by the medical men, who had charge of him durmg his Navy career''.




5. In the course of the inquiry my attention has been directed to the letter dated 6th July, 1934, Heydon &. McNevin. to the Secretary to the Prime' Minister's

Department, In whiCh It IS requested that the following matters should be inquired into :-(1) The deceased's service record.

(2) The circumstances surrounding the withdrawal of the deceased's application for retirement under the 1930 reduction scheme. (3) The circumstances surrounding the deceased's subsequent discharge. (4) Whether the deceased was regularly invalided. (5) vVhether the complete discharge of the deceased was warranted in the circumstances or whether the

position have met by giving him non-specialist duty or shore (specialist or non-specialist) employment m the Act1ve Naval Forces (e.g., at Navy Office) or by giving him an appointment in the Auxiliary Forces. (6) Whether the treatment of the deceased was in accordance with that received by other officers who had

retired or been retired under the 1930 reduction scheme or subsequently. (7) \Vhether, when the complete discharge of the deceased was decided upon, the Naval Board acted harshly and without consideration for his welfare in its manner of giving effect to the decision. (8) Whether the deceased should have received compensation and, if so, in what amount, having regard

to the findings under the previous headings. (9) ·whether the action taken by the Naval Board in respect of the deceased was in. accordance with the letter and the spirit of the Naval Defence Act and of the Statutory Rules. (10) Whether an amendment of the Naval Defence Act or of the Statutory Rules or a revision of the

administration of the Defence Department is desirable.

I am of opinion that the last of these questions is not covered by the scope of mv Commission, and I have not considered it, but I have considered the other matters specified in the letter, and, so far as the result is not already apparent, I shall now proceed to deal with them in that order.

5. (1) The evidence shows that apart from the mental instability, which was disclosed under the stress of his duties as Squadron Signal Officer, Lieutenant-Commander Casey had an excellent record in the Service. The fact that he was selected and trained for, and appointed to, these Specialist duties is a testimony to his zeal and efficiency up to that time.

With respect to his service as Squadron Signal Officer on H.M.A.S. Canberra, I have in evidence a report furnished in August, 1933, after his breakdown, in which he is described as "a quiet hard working officer of average general ability, tactful and loyal", who "ran his department most efficiently except when pressure of work became other than normal, when he seemed to lose his head and common sense."

5. (2) The circumstances in which the deceased withdrew his application, for retirement under the 1930 reduction schem.e, have been examined in paragraph 2 of this report, but in justice to the Naval Board, I am required to point out that its letter of 16th June, 1930, was written without any knowledge, or means of knowledge, o£ the circumstances that had prompted Lieutenant Casey to make the application. .

On the officer's copy o£ this letter there is a pencilled note, in his handwriting-In view of this I decided to cancel my resignation although advised by the Surgeon Commander at H.M.H. Chatham not to do so in order to avoid "risking my mental health":

but, if this is so, the fact was withheld from knowledge of the Naval Board. There was nothing in his reply, of 28th August, 1930, from whiCh the Naval Board could reasonably gather that Lieutenant Casey had any desire to leave the service. I think that the Naval Board were given to understand that a complete recovery could be " guaranteed " upon the conditions for which he stipulated. In granting his in continuing him the Service, the Naval Board

acceded to his request. There IS no JUStification for any suggestwn that pressure was put upon the Officer, in order to persuade him to withdraw his applicatjon. 5. (3} The circumstances in which the deceased was subsequently retired have been fully stated in paragraph 2 of this report.

5. (4) I am of opinion that the deceased was regularly invalided.

By the Naval Forces Regula;ti?ns Rules 1926 .No. 196) the Naval Board is "charged with the control and admunstratwn of all matters relating to the Naval Forces, upon the policy directed by the Minister", and it has" executive command of the Naval Forces". In the ordinary course of administrati_on of Board of

Survey was considered by the Naval Board, In conJunction With the adviCe received from the Director of Naval Medical Services.


The unanimous conclusion of the Naval Board was, that the Officer was permanently unfitted for service in sea-going ships, in the rank he held, and, in these circumstances, it was the duty of the Naval to retire him from the Sea-going List, as required by Article 99 (2) of the Naval Forces Regulations. ·

5. (5) I am of opinion that the action of the Naval Board was justified, in the circumstances. It was suggested, in the cross-exaruination of the First Naval I\1ember, that the Naval Board had disregarded the opinion ·of the lVIedical Officers; but the fact is that the Naval Board accepte.d the op.inion of the doctors, with respect to the condition of the patient, and proceeded to use Its ovvn Judgment, with respect to his fitness for service. I think that it did so in the perfonnance of its duty.

. The Naval Board is responsible for the efficiency of the Service, and for the safety of the sh1ps personnel entrusted to its control. liaving regard to the infonnation available to it at the time, I think that the Board was justified in concluding, that the Officer was unfitted for servi.ce in sea-going ships, as a whether as a Specialist or as a General

Servwe Officer.

. The Statutory Regulations prevent ah Officer being retained on the Sea-going List, when he IS unfitted for service in sea-going ships. It is sufficient to say that it is the duty of the Naval Board c01nply with the Regulations, but it may be pointed out, thaJt the general interest of the Servwe requires that every Officer should be available to relieve the other Sea-going Officers of the same rank.

It follows that the Statutory Regulations did not permit of the Officer being retained on the Active List, and given permanent on shore. There was no vacancy, to which

he could have been appointed, in the Auxiliary Forces.

Having regard to the further evidence, that was produced at the inquiry, it now appears that the conclusion of the Naval Board was manifestly right, and that the retirement was clearly necessary in the interests of the Service.

5. (6) The Officers who retired, or were retired, under the 1930 reduction schmne were granted special privileges, in the form of leave on half pay, or employment in the Civil Service. These privileges were not, and could not be m.ade, available to the deceased, or to other officers retired in the ordinary course of the administration of the Service.

5. (7) I think that the deceased might have been treated with more consideration than he actually received; but I do not find that the Naval Board acted harshly, or without due consideration for his welfare, in the n1anner of giving effect to its decision. It appears that the Naval Board acted upon its understanding of the medical reports, and its interpretation of the Statutory Regulations, by which it is bound. The Officer had been on sick leave, or light duty equivalent to leave, for a period of about three months, and the report of the physician-Dr. Collins-which was confirmed by the report of the Medical Board, showed that, for a period of several weeks prior to the consideration of his case, the "anxiety state"

had been " no longer evident ". This was accefted as a finding that the Officer had recovered his normal health, and the Naval Board proceeded to act in the manner prescribed by the Statutory Regulations, with the result that Lieutenant-Commander Casey was retired and allowed the fourteen days' notice, the deferred pay and the payment in lieu of long service leave, as prescribed

by the Statutory Regulations. If regard is had to nothing but the infonnation that was bef;re the Naval Board, I have no doubt that the action of the Board was in accord with the requirement of the Statut ory Regulations; but, upon the information that is now available, I am disposed to think that the Officer rnight have been allowed some further period of convalescence, either upon shore duties or upon leave, as a prelude to his discharge.

In the same way, having regard to the evidence that was given, I am disposed to regret that no means were taken to prevent the decision of the Naval Board coming so unexpectedly, and as such a shock, to the Officer. It is easy to be wise after the event, and the Director of Naval Services had no means of knowing all that is now known, with respect to the malady from which the Officer was suffering, but in the peculiar circumstances o£ this case, I think that it is to be that a re-survey, by the same or another Medical was not directed ore the flr:al deCiswn was reached. If this course had been adopted I think that the Officer might have been spared, to some extent, from the shock that he received, and, also, that .the attention of the :Medical Board

would have been more particularly directed to matters, which the Naval Board was concerned to know, firstly whether the Officer had really recovered his normal health, and secondly whether


any disability that might remain was to his service. It may be said that the report, that was before the Nayal Board, deals with both these matters; but it seems to me that the value of an ?Pinion, upon any question of this kind, may be affected by the nature of the recommendatiOn that follows. If the answer appears immaterial, it may be given without the full sense of responsibility for consequences, that are not anticipated .

. 5. The Statutory with resp.ect to " Compensation for Injuries " are

contained In Part V. of the Naval F1nanmal Regulations. The relevant provisions are in Article No. 88 (Statutory Rules 1926 No. 128 as amended by 1927 No. 102), which, so far as material, reads as follows:-(1) The Naval Board may authorize payment of compensation to a member of the Permanent Naval

Forces, who is retired or discharged on account of-(a) . . •

(b) injuries received on duty or disease contracted on and attributable to service, provided the injury or disease was not due to the member's default. (3) The maximum amount of compensation . . shall be a sum equivalent to three years' pay . . . and shall be awarded only in case of total disability to earn a livelihood. (4) In case of partial disability the compensation : . . . shall be less than the maximum amount and

shall be assessed as a percentage . . . corresponding to the degree of disability as may be determined by the Naval Board.

By the terms of t his Article the Naval Board is given a discretion to authorize, or not to authorize, the payment of compensation, and to fix the amount when payment is authorized. The discretion is administrative, and the men1ber has no legal right to have the discretion exercised in his favour; but, applying the ordinary principles of interpretation, it is apparent that it is the duty of the Naval Board to authorize the payment of compensation if, and only if, it is satisfied that the case has been brought within the intention of the Article.

If the question, of the right to compensation, is to be considered upon the information that was available to the Naval Board, when it retired the Officer, I am clearly of opinion that there was nothing before the Board to justify an award. .

In the opinion of all the Medical Officers, who had considered the case, in 1930 as well as in 1933, t he breakdown was attributable to some "constitutional cause", and was "not attributable to service". There was nothing before the Board that could have justified any other conclusion.

But I think that the scope of the inquiry directed by my Commission goes further, and I have re-considered the matter as a question of fact upon the evidence given at the inquiry. 'It appears that the neurosis or disorder which led to the retirement should be described as the re-action of the individual to his environment. It is attributable to two factors, external iltress and internal weakness. The external factor in this case was the stress of responsibility arising from the service. The internal factor was some inherent vulnerability, or mental instability, of the individual. The neurosis was the means of escape, when the subconscious mind shrank from the external stress, that- rightly or wrongly-it felt to be unendurable.

It is obvious that, in any given case, these factors must be complementary,. or, in other words, that as the degree of mental instability increases, the slighter the stress, that is sufficient to bring about the condition of neurosis, an4, for the purpose of assigning a cause for the condition of neurosis, it becomes necessary to consider the relative extent to which the factors contributed to the result. ·

But it seems that the inquiry cannot stop at the events of 1933. The mental processes, which lead to this neurosis may be likened to a short circuit. "\Vhen the subconscious mind finds its means of escape the resistance is broken down, and, whenever this happens, there is a distinct tendency to form a track or habit, ':Vhich leaves the individual vulnerable, or abnormally liable to a repetition.

For this reason it becomes necessary to seek for the explanation of the vulnerability, that preceded the first neurosis, and, in this connexion there are several possibilities. It might be purely congenital, or it might possibly be accidental, in the sense of a defect, which results from physical injury, sickness, or other external stress, to the

resistance of a normal healthy Individual. But the common case IS a complex Ill whiCh the vulnerability, as well as the resulting neurosis, is developed from some slight bias, which may be hereditary or acquired. It is the gradually accumulated product of the mental processes, or "emotional experiences", of the individual. It is again the re-action of the mind to its environment.

It is convenient, at this point, to refer to the argument, that was addressed to me. It was argued, firstly, that the vulnerability was "an injury received on duty", and, secondly, that the neurosis was a "disease contracted on and attributable to service".


I have no hesitation in rejecting the first contention. In a different context "injury" n1ight be used to cover the harn1 or damage now in question ; but in this Article " injury received on duty " stands in contrast to " disease contracted on service ". I am unable to see how an injury can be received on duty, unless it is a physical injury, which can be referred to smne occasion, definitely fixed in time and space. The vulnerability was not an injury in this sense.

It is impossible to say to what extent it was" received on duty", or accrued by slow accumulation in the hours of leisure, or whilst sleep was sought in vain.

Passing to the phrase " disease contracted on, and attributable to, service ", I think that the intention of the Article is that compensation should be given for the consequences of service. If the individual contracts a particular disease, to which he is abnormally susceptible, I think that the question must be whether the disease is really due to the conditions of his service or to

the peculiarity of his constitution. In a case of this kind, I think that the Naval Board would have to be satisfied, that the infection was really due to some special or peculiar risk, to which the member was subjected, by the conditions of his service. If that were established, I think that compensation could be given for the consequences of the disease; but I do not think that the Naval Board would be justified in giving compensation for the natural consequences of a constitutional weakness. ·

Applying these principles, to the facts of this case, I have no doubt that the neurosis was a disease contracted on service; but there is really no evidence to show that it should be attributed to service. For the purpose of distinguishing, in this way, between the two factors, of external stress, and inherent weakness, I am unable to see how any solution can be reached, unless one asks the question, whether the individual has been subjected to any stress, which exceeds the stress that a normal individual, so situated, might reasonably be expected to endure, or, in other words, whether the conditions, to which the individual was subjected, were such as any normal man would subconsciously feel to be unendurable.

When that question is put I am unable to see any evidence, that would justify a finding, that the neurosis was really due to service. I think that all the expert testimony goes to show, that the original state of vulnerability is attributable to som.e "constitutional instability ", or to some " emotional experience " , which is not disclosed in the evidence, but must ante date the neurosis of June, 1930.

It was suggested that the defect might be attributed to overwork at the long signalling course in 1928; but, apart from the conflict of the evidence upon that point, there are grave difficulties in the way of that as an explanation for the subsequent events. It !1ppears that Lieutenant Casey passed fourth out of a class of twelve, that he served for a perwd afloat, as

" Wireless Assistant ", befcre undertaking the advanced course, for which he was selected, and, further, that the cause that occurred to him, in June, 1930, when he was concerned to find an explanation for his condition at that time, was not overwork in the long signalling course, but a possible eye-strain, as the result of the advanced course. There is nothing to show that he, himself, ever regarded this as a possible explanation for his condition. I think that the effect

of the evidence is summed up in Dr. Noble's re-exam_ination as follows:-Q.-1 take it, then, that your evidence boils down to this: that there was some defect present before his first breakdown 1 A.-Yes.

Q.-You cann.ot say whether that was a constitutional or an inherent one A.-No. I would say that we have no evidence at all as to the nature of this man at that time.

The only doubt that I have entertained in. dealing is: whether the

case can be brought within the analogy of a special or peculiar of Infectwn,. upon the view, that the responsibility, that devolves upon the Squadron .qfficer, IS as

to constitute a special risk, to one who is slightly below the normal1n The evidence gives some support to this view, and it was natural that stress should be laid upon the statement by the Director of Naval Medical to the effect . was due to

"conditions peculiar to the service, whiCh would not operate In CIVIl hfe . That may be literally true, but I think that it requires some qualification. The Director was speaking of acute stage ?f the " ", from the officer had

He was not speaking of the chroniC mentalinstabihty, on account of whiCh the officer was mvahded. If the analogy of an infectious disease holds good I think that the prop:r subject of compensation would be the te!llporary disa_bility during convalescence from anxiety compl:x. In the ordinary course of admmistratwn this would n? met by compensatiOn, but by defernng

the discharge, until the patient was fit to take up civil life.


The evidence is that, whenever it becomes necessary to retire an officer on account of a disease that is not attributable to, but is contracted on, service, the humane and reasonable practice of the Naval Board is to allow 13ome reasonable period for convalescence, jn order that the Officer may be fit to set about earning his living ashore, when he is actually retired.

5 . . (9) For the reasons stated I am of opinion that the action of the Naval Board was in accordance with the Naval Defence Act 1910-1918, and of the Statutory Regulations under that Act. I am of opinion that the decision of the Naval Board was reached in good faith, that it was reasonable and proper, upon the information that was then before t,he Naval Board, and that the action taken was, in this sense, jn accordance with the letter and the spirit of the Statute and the Regulations.

But assmcing that I am desired to find what action the Naval Board should have taken, if it had been put in possession of all the information, that has been obtained in the course of this inquiry, then I am of opinion that the Naval should have considered the question of retaining Lieutenant-Commander Casey, upon the Active List, until 5th January, 1934.

Upon the evidence, that has been given, I am not satisfied that the acute state of neurosis had been completely dispersed, when t he Officer was retired. I am not satisfi ed that the conditions of service were the real, or efficient. cause of the attack; but, in view of the doubt that the Naval Board might reasonably feel upon this head, I think that the Naval Board would have been justified in allowing period suggested, e.s ::.m opportunity for convalescence.

I cannot say that the Naval Board should have allowed that period. The Officer had been allowed approximately four months sick leave, on account of the previous attack in 1930, and on this occasion, he was allowed approximately four months for convalescence. It is a question of policy, whether, jn these circumstances, it is in the interest of the Service, that the Naval Board should lean towards generosity, and I am not qualified to express any opinion upon that head. I can only say that I think that the Naval Board would have been justified in granting so much as a concession; but my clear opinion is, that the Naval Board would not have been justified in allowing any longer period.


6. In answer to the questions specified in the Commission, I am of opinion that the retirement of Lieutenant-Commander Casey was necessary in the interests of the Service, and that there was no impropriety in the manner adopted for his retirement, or in the fact that he was retired without compensation.

I have the honour to be, Your Excellency's most obedient servant, (Sgd.) J. M. NAPIER.

Dated at the Supreme Court, Adelaide, the 25th day of August, 1934. Prime Minister, Forwarded.

(Sgd.) ISAAC A. ISAACS, Governor-General.

Government House, Canberra, 29th August, 1934.

Carr, William James

Collins, Archibald John





Lieutenant Surgeon-Commander, Royal Australian Navy, and Director of Naval Medical Services Physician, of Sydney; President, New South Wales Branch, British Medical Association, and Consulting

Physician to the Royal Australian Navy

Page No. of Evidence in Official Transcript.

53, 161, 195


Cresswell, Frank Gillespie Commander, Royal Australian Auxiliary Services,

and Director of Signals and Communications 126

Feakes, Henry James

Flattery, James Martin Gault, Henry Woodall

Rear Admiral on Retired Flag List of the Royal Australian Navy

Godfrey, Clarence George Sheffield Henderson, J ames Mann Humphrey, Esca Morris

Surgeon Lieutenant-Commander, Royal Australian Navy Surgeon Lieutenant-Commander, Royal Australian Navy Medical practitioner, of Melbourne, specializing in psychiatry Surgeon-Commander, Royal Australian Navy

Surgeon, of Sydney ..


376 332 169 349 257

Ryde, Sir George Francis Vice-Admiral, Royal Australian Navy, and First Naval 92

Member, Naval Board .,:

Macandie, George Lionel .. Secretary to the Naval Board.. ..; ..

Surgeon-Commander, Royal Australian Navy :i. Lieutenant-Commander, Royal Australian Navy (retired) Surgeon Lieutenant-Commander, Royal Australian Navy Specialist in mental diseases, of Sydney

Paymaster-Commander, Royal Australian Navy, and

193 358 Mackenzie, Alexander Scott :-. McKenzie, Donald .. Matthews, Francis Joseph

Noble, Ralph Athelstane Parker, Charles Avison

200, 329 376 310 17

Prentice, David Shields Smith, Charles Farquhar

Thomas, Thomas John

Assistant to the Second Naval Member Surgeon-Commander, Royal Australian Navy Captain, Royal Australian Navy, and Second Naval Member, Naval Board

Finance and Civil Member, Naval Board


112, 163

Waller, Hector Macdonald Laws Signalling Officer, Commander, Royal Australian Navy 121, 134 157


A. B.




F. G. H. I.








Q. R.


APPE:ijDIX "B ".


Defence Department File 559/ 203/562 and earlier papers re Lieutenant Casey (1924-1932). Defence Department F:ile 559/ 203/ 633 and earlier papers re Lieutenant-Commander Casey (1933-1934). Defence Department File S.C. 463/201/813 and earlier papers. Reduction of Personnel

Officers. (1930-1932). "Official Procedure and Rules" (Navy Office), pages 67 and 68.-" Instructions for the Director of Naval Medical Services." Copy of minute (600/ 212/161) signed by C. A. Parker (Navy Office) dated 13th June, 1933,

in regard to certain signal officers. Navy Orders 1923 (Deferred Pay). Recommendations by Admiral Sir Reginald Henderson, 1911 (Page 33-" Deferred Pay"). Copy of note from Lieutenant-Commander Casey to his mother.

(No exhibit). Unsigned note (five sheets) by Lieutenant-Commander Casey containing record of service and raising question of compensation. Copy of Navy Office memo. of 16th June, 1930, with pencil note on side (unsigned) by

Lieutenant-Commander Casey regarding withdrawal of his offer of resignation. Letter from C. A. Parker, Navy Office, to Lieutenant-Commander Casey, dated 11th June, 1930. Depositions of Lieutenant-Commander McKenzie at inquest into death of Lieutenant­

Commander Casey. Letter from Miss Kathleen Casey dated Hobart, 17th April, 1934, to Naval Board, and reply by Secretary, Naval Board, dated 27th April, 1934. "Flimsies" re Lieutenant-Commander Casey-Reports by Commanding Officers (1920-1933)

(together with synopsis). Report on medical examination of Lieutenant-Commander Casey by Dr. A. J . Collin s, dated 24th August, 1933. Report by Dr. Collins, dated 30th September, 1933. Copy of cable from Navy Office to Naval Representative, London, 27th July, 1934, and reply

of same date, with respect to number of officers taking signal courses since J anuary, 191 9. Correspondence between Heydon & McNevin, Solicitors, Sydney, and Prime Minister and Prime Minister's Department, in regard to the Royal Commissio n. (Terms of reference, preliminary arrangements, &c.)

Printed and Published for the GoVERNMENT of the CoMMONWEALTH of AusTB.ALIA by L. F. JoHNSTON, Commonwealth Government Printer, Canberra.