Leane, Raymond Lionel (Brigadier General, b.1878 - d.1962)

Accession Number AWM2016.721.1
Collection type Private Record
Record type Collection
Measurement Extent: 1 cm; Wallet/s: 1
Object type Letter
Maker Birdwood, William Riddell
Place made At sea, United Kingdom: England
Date made 1935; 1943; 1945
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
First World War, 1914-1918

Collection relating to the First World War service of Brigadier General Sir Raymond Lionel Leane, 1915-1919, Gallipoli and France.

The collection consists of four letters. Three letters are written by Field Marshall Lord Birdwood (1865-1951) to Brigadier General Raymond Leane.
- The first of Birdwood's letters is dated 1 September 1935 and is written on board SS Viceroy during a Mediterranean cruise. Birdwood deeply regrets that he is unable to 'land at Anzac', but has the Captain's promise that he will steam slowly past. Other topics covered in this letter are the loss of mutual army acquaintances; Birdwood's love of riding and swimming; Birdwood being approached by Prime Minister Joseph Lyons to be Governor-General of Australia.
- The second of Field Marshall Lord Birdwood's letters is dated 1 October 1943 and is written from the Hampton Court Palace. It is a warm and wistful letter, lamenting the loss of old friends, and regretting being 'too old to be alongside our men again as [19]14-18'. Birdwood mentions his son and grandson serving in his old regiment in India [the Bengal Lancers], and expects that they will be 'taking on the Japs ere long'. He discusses the rise of Hitler and the likelihood of an annihilation of Germany. Birdwood mentions his autobiography 'Khaki and Gown'.
- The final letter from Field Marshall Lord Birdwood is dated 16 December 1945. His writing is shaky but his sentiment is clear; he mentions what a great honour it was to command the AIF in the Great War. He deeply regrets being old to fight in the Second World War, and comments on Lieutenant General Bennett's actions in Singapore where Bennett escaped while his men became prisoners of the Japanese. This letter is signed off 'Birdwood of Anzac'.
- The final letter in the collection is dated 19 February 1940, and written by Mr CC Macmillan to Brigadier General Raymond Leane. It is a letter of admiration for Leane and the first AIF from a British man who may have served in the First World War.

On 25 August 1914 Raymond Leane enlisted in the 11th Battalion, AIF, as a captain and company commander. His battalion went ashore with the covering force during the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 and Leane's 'C' Company moved into the Plugge's Plateau sector. On 4 May he led an attempt to capture Gaba Tepe fort, a Turkish position close to the beach which enfiladed the Australian trenches. After landing at dawn, Leane's small force was pinned close to the beach by heavy fire so that no advance could be attempted. Having been given full discretion to depart from his orders as he thought fit, he organized a withdrawal and successfully brought off his men and their wounded with the aid of the Royal Navy. For this he was awarded the Military Cross. He was slightly wounded on 28 June in an assault on Pine Ridge and again on 31 July when he led a successful attack against Turkish defences and held the position thereafter against heavy counter-attacks. This position became known as 'Leane's trench'. Promoted temporary major on 5 August, he commanded the 11th Battalion from 11 September and was promoted temporary lieutenant-colonel on 8 October. He remained on Gallipoli until evacuation on 16 November. He was twice mentioned in dispatches for service at Anzac.

In Egypt, on 26 February 1916, Leane was confirmed as major and appointed commander of the 48th Battalion; promoted lieutenant-colonel on 12 March, he took his unit to France in June. After a week at Fleurbaix the battalion moved into the Pozières sector and on 7 August repulsed a heavy German counter-attack. The 48th served at Mouquet Farm and Gueudecourt in 1916 and at Bullecourt, Messines, Wytschaete and Passchendaele in 1917. At Bullecourt Leane's younger brother and second-in-command Major Benjamin Bennett Leane (1889-1917) was killed on 10 April and his nephew Captain Allan Edwin Leane died of wounds on 2 May.

Severely wounded at Passchendaele on 12 October, Raymond Leane did not resume duty until late January 1918. He commanded the 48th at Albert in March-April, was appointed temporary colonel commanding the 12th Brigade on 19 April and was promoted temporary brigadier general on 1 June. Under his leadership the 48th Battalion was prominent in halting the German advance on Amiens on 5 April and he commanded the 12th Brigade at Villers-Bretonneux in April-May, in the attack on Proyart on 8 August and in the battles of the Hindenburg outpost line in September. His AIF appointment ended on 3 January 1920. He had been mentioned in dispatches eight times and his decorations included, as well as the Military Cross, the Distinguished Service Order and Bar and the French Croix de Guerre; he was appointed C.M.G. in 1918 and C.B. in 1919. His brother Ben, three nephews and several other relatives had served under him in the 48th Battalion which led to its being known throughout the AIF as 'the Joan of Arc Battalion' (Made of all-Leanes). As a commander Raymond Leane won the affection of his men by his constant concern for their well-being; he gained their respect by his strength of character, firm discipline and high sense of duty. In action he was cool and alert, directing and encouraging, heedless of danger.

After demobilization he was appointed police commissioner by the South Australian government in May 1920, gave distinguished service until 1944 and was knighted on retirement. Raymond Leane had commanded the 3rd Infantry Brigade, Australian Military Forces, in 1921-26 as a lieutenant-colonel, was transferred to the unattached list in 1926 and placed on the retired list in 1938. In World War II he commanded a group in the Volunteer Defence Corps. After his retirement he lived quietly at Plympton, Adelaide, until his death on 25 June 1962. Survived by his wife, five sons and a daughter, he was buried in Centennial Park cemetery.