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Sir Leighton Bracegirdle (1881-1970)

A Distinguished Military Career

Leighton, who was born in Balmain, New South Wales on the 31st May 1881, started his working life as a clerk, having completed his education at Sydney High School, but was soon to embark on a long and distinguished military career; ending his days when he died on the 23rd March 1970 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.  A précis of his long and distinguished life is as follows:-

1898 - He joined the New South Wales Naval Brigade as a cadet.

1900 - Just two years after becoming a cadet he became a midshipman and served in China during the Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901).

1902 - Served as Lieutenant in the South Africa Irregular Horse in the last year of the Second Boar War (1899-1902) where he narrowly escaped death when he was thrown from his horse and then shot by a sniper.

1902 - After the Boar War ended he returned home to Australia where he resumed his duties as a clerk, working for the naval militia.

1910 - On the 19th December 1910 he married Lilian Annie Saunders (1883-1966).  They had a child, Warwick Seymour Bracegirdle (1911-1993) and in 1918 had a second son, Brian Leighton Bracegirdle (1918-2005).

1911 - Almost 10 years as a clerk, and being married for less than a year, with their first child on its way, he joined the Royal Australian Navy as a lieutenant where he served as a District Officer in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia until the outbreak of World War I.

1914 - Being the military man he was, with the outbreak of World War I he naturally enlisted in the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force to see action again as his unit seized and occupied German New Guinea.  German New Guinea being the northeastern part of New Guinea, and nearby islands, that had been part of the German colonial empire since 1884.  Initially, when he enlisted in August 1914 he served as a staff officer but by November of that year he was made acting lieutenant commander.

1915 - The Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force that had held German New Guinea were disbanded in the February; Leighton was then appointed commander of the 1st Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train who in June joined the IX British Army Corps (under General Bland) in the Dardanelles as part of the campaign against the Ottoman Empire (Turkish Empire).  The Dardanelles being a narrow strait running through northwestern Turkey that connects the 'Aegean Sea' to the 'Sea of Marmara'; a strait being a natural water channel. There first task was, while under constant shrapnel fire from the enemy, was to build piers and pontoons for the allies landing in Suvla Bay on the Aegean coast in August as part of the ongoing battle campaign on the Gallipoli peninsula in an attempt by the British and their allies to force a passage through the Dardanelles straits.  His unit then served at Suvla until the evacuation in the December; and although Leighton was wounded towards the end of September he continued with his duties until mid-December when he was briefly hospitalized for malaria and Jaundice.

1916 - At the end of January he rejoined his unit in the Suez Canal, resuming command, and for the next three months they served with the Anzac Corps.  Late in April the train was reassigned to the IX Army Corps in the southern section of the Suez Canal where they controlled the shipping traffic and conveyed military stores.  In June, Leighton Bracegirdle was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and by mid-December, during their advance into Palestine, his unit landed stores on the open coast of the Sinai Desert off El Arish.

1917 - In March, following the disbandment of the 1st Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train, Leighton relinquished his command and in April was promoted to Commander.  Taking up his new post he returned home as an officer-in-charge of troops on the Willochra, Australia.

1918-1921 - District Naval Officer, Adelaide, Australia

1919-1920 - Also president of the Commonwealth Coal Board

1921-1923 - District Naval Officer, Sydney, Australia

1924 - Promoted to Captain.

1931-1945 - Military and Official Secretary to the Governor-General of Australia, spanning the tenure of three governor-generals.

1935 - Leighton received the Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in recognition for his service as Official Secretary to the Governor-General of Australia.

1945 - Retired from the Navy as rear admiral

1947 – 1st January, awarded the Royal Victorian Order, knight Commander, then becoming Sir Leighton Bracegirdle.

1947 – Shortly after receiving his knighthood Sir Leighton Bracegirdle retired from his post as Official Secretary to the Governor-General of Australia and after his retirement he maintained an active life, including directorship of several companies.