Lieutenant General Leslie James Morshead

Service number NX8
Ranks Held Lieutenant Colonel, Major, Brigadier, Lieutenant General, Major General, Temporary Lieutenant General
Birth Date 18 September 1889
Birth Place Australia: Victoria, Ballarat
Death Date 26 September 1959
Death Place Australia: New South Wales, Sydney
Final Rank Lieutenant General
Service Australian Imperial Force
Units
Places
Conflict/Operation First World War, 1914-1918
Gazettes Biographical information The Oxford companion to Australian military history in 1995
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1947-03-06
Published in London Gazette in 1917-06-01
Published in London Gazette in 1919-01-29
Published in London Gazette in 1941-01-01
Published in London Gazette in 1920-01-12
Published in London Gazette in 1919-12-12
Published in London Gazette in 1916-01-28
Published in London Gazette in 1918-05-28
Published in London Gazette in 1942-06-30
Published in London Gazette in 1918-12-31
Published in London Gazette in 1917-06-04
Published in London Gazette in 1942-01-06
Published in London Gazette in 1943-06-24
Published in London Gazette in 1942-11-24
Published in London Gazette in 1947-03-06
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1920-04-01
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1944-03-16
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1918-10-24
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1920-03-25
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1916-04-06
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1948-01-02
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1919-05-23
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1919-05-23
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1944-11-23
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1917-10-04
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1917-10-04
Description

Leslie Morshead won fame as the defender of Tobruk during the Second World War and is among the most renowned Australian divisional commanders of that war. He was born at Ballarat in Victoria on 18 September 1889 and became a teacher. Joining the AIF in September 1914 as a lieutenant, Morshead was posted to the 2nd Battalion.

By the time he landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 he was a captain; by August, when he fought at Lone Pine, he had been promoted to major. After Gallipoli he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and given command of the 33rd Battalion, which arrived in France in November 1916. Morshead led the battalion successfully through Messines and the Passchendaele campaign of late-1917, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, and continued to command through the battles Villers-Bretonneux and Amiens in 1918.

Morshead joined General Monash's staff for the demobilisation of the AIF and returned to Sydney in December 1919. He married Myrtle Woodside in November 1921. Having failed to make a success of a soldier-settlers' block in Queensland, Morshead returned to Sydney to work in shipping, gaining promotions and posts in several Australian cities and in England.

He remained active in the militia, commanding two battalions and reaching the rank of temporary brigadier. In October 1939 he was given command of the 18th Brigade, sailing for Britain in May 1940. The following February Morshead was promoted to major general in command of the 9th Division, then in the Middle East. Reputed to be a tough commander who could be blunt with senior officers, Morshead led his division through the siege of Tobruk where his aggressive defence denied the Germans a breakthrough but earned him the ire of some subordinates concerned at the level of losses.

His success at Tobruk was followed by promotion to lieutenant general and command of the AIF in the Middle East. Morshead, at the risk of alienating his British superiors, argued to keep the 9th Division together in the face of British demands to detach individual brigades. He led the division through the battle of El Alamein, where the 9th Division's contribution was considered vital to the victory. During the battle, he regularly visited both the front and the wounded behind the lines.

Returning to Australia in 1943, Morshead took command of II Corps in October and then in November was elevated to command both New Guinea Force and the Second Australian Army. In May 1944 he was given command of I Corps, leading them through the final battles of the war in Borneo. After the war, he chaired a military court of enquiry into Major General Bennett's departure from Singapore in February 1942.

Morshead refused offers of military and diplomatic posts, as well as the governorship of Queensland, returning instead to the shipping industry as manager of the New South Wales branch of the Orient Line; later he became its Australian general manager. He held a number of other directorships and civil appointments and was involved in right-wing politics before becoming ill with cancer in the mid-1950s. Morshead died in Sydney on 26 September 1959.

Rolls

  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    33rd Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
    London Gazette
    04 June 1917 on page 5475 at position 39
    Commonwealth Gazette
    04 October 1917 on page 2626 at position 55
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    33rd Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
  • Honours and Awards:

    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945
    Rank
    Lieutenant General
    Commonwealth Gazette
    02 January 1948 on page 931 at position 6
  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    2nd Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
    London Gazette
    28 January 1916 on page 1208 at position 27
    Commonwealth Gazette
    06 April 1916 on page 861 at position 109
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    2nd Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    GOC AMF ME
    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945
    Rank
    Temporary Lieutenant General
    London Gazette
    24 November 1942 on page 5091 at position 1
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    33rd Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    33rd Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
    London Gazette
    01 June 1917 on page 5422 at position 64
    Commonwealth Gazette
    04 October 1917 on page 2624 at position 76

Timeline

Date of birth 18 September 1889 Ballarat, VIC.
Date and unit at appointment (Officers) 13 September 1914 Enlisted in the AIF.
Other 13 September 1914 Appointed to the 2nd Battalion with the rank of lieutenant.
Date promoted 18 October 1914 Appointed captain.
Other 01 January 1915 Second in command, C Company, 2nd Battalion.
Other 25 April 1915 Landed at Gallipoli.
Date promoted 08 June 1915 Appointed major.
Date of recommendation honour or award 13 August 1915
Date of recommendation honour or award 31 August 1915
Date of honour or award 28 January 1916 Mention in Despatches.
Date promoted 16 April 1916 Appointed lieutenant colonel and given command of the 33rd Battalion.
Date of embarkation 04 May 1916
Date of recommendation honour or award 05 March 1917
Date of honour or award 01 June 1917 Mention in Despatches.
Date of honour or award 04 June 1917 Companion of the Distinguished Service Order.
Date of recommendation honour or award 06 March 1918
Date of recommendation honour or award 01 September 1918
Date of recommendation honour or award 30 September 1918
Date of recommendation honour or award 30 September 1918
Date of honour or award 31 December 1918 Mention in Despatches.
Date of honour or award 23 January 1919 French Legion of Honour - 5th Class Chevalier.
Other units 14 July 1919 Assistant Adjutant General, Headquarters AIF Depots UK.
Date of honour or award 24 October 1919 Mention in Despatches.
Date returned to Australia 1919-12 Returned to Sydney.
Other 15 March 1920 AIF appointment terminated.
Date of honour or award 25 March 1920 Companion of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George.
Date of honour or award 01 April 1920 Mention in Despatches.
Date and unit at appointment (Officers) 10 October 1939 Enlisted in the 2nd AIF and was given command of the 18th Brigade.
Other 1940-05 Sailed for Britain.
Date of honour or award 01 January 1941 Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Date promoted 1941-02 Promoted to major general in command of the 9th Division.
Date of honour or award 06 January 1942 Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Date of honour or award 30 June 1942 Mention in Despatches.
Date of honour or award 24 November 1942 Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath.
Date returned to Australia 1943 On returning to Australia he took command of II Corps which he led in New Guinea.
Date of honour or award 1943-06 Mention in Despatches.
Date of honour or award 24 June 1943 Mention in Despatches.
Other units 1944 Given command of I Corps, leading them through the final battles of the war in Borneo.
Date of honour or award 23 November 1944 Polish Virtuti Militari - sixth class.
Date of discharge 21 December 1945
Date of honour or award 1947-03 Mention in Despatches.
Date of honour or award 06 March 1947 Mention in Despatches.
Date of honour or award 02 January 1948 Medal of Freedom.
Date of death 26 September 1959 Sydney, NSW.