Major William Throsby Bridges

Birth Date 18 February 1861
Birth Place United Kingdom: Scotland, Greenock
Death Date 18 May 1915
Death Place Ottoman Empire: Turkey, Dardanelles, Gallipoli
Also known as Bridges, Sir William Throsby, Bridges, W T, Sir William Throsby Bridges, W T Bridges, William Throsby Bridges
Final Rank
Units
Commonwealth of Australia Gazette 11 September 1915 on page 1746 at position 1
London Gazette 22 May 1915 on page 4989 at position 1

William Throsby Bridges was born at Greenock, Scotland, on 18 February 1861. As a youth he moved to Canada, where he later entered the Royal Military College but failed to graduate. In 1879 Bridges moved to Australia and joined the civil service, working in Braidwood, Murrurundi, and Narrabri. He returned to military life in 1885, taking a permanent commission in the artillery, and that same year married his wife, Edith. For the next few years he held various positions at the School of Gunnery and attended several gunnery courses in England, passing them with distinction. Bridges served with the British army in South Africa from 1899 until he was evacuated with enteric fever in 1900. In January 1909 he became Australia's first chief of the general staff and the next year was tasked with founding Australia's first military college, the Royal Military College at Duntroon.By the time the First World War had broken out Bridges had attained the rank of brigadier general and was given the task of raising an Australian contingent for service in Europe. He was promoted to major general in August 1914 and was appointed the commander of the new Australian Imperial Force. Bridges travelled to Egypt with the first contingent in October and started to record his experiences in a diary from early 1915. From this diary we can observe the evolution of planning for the Gallipoli campaign, including his meetings with commanders like Lieutenant General William Birdwood and General Sir Ian Hamilton and with various Australian commanders who would rise to prominence in the years to come.Bridges' division was the first ashore at ANZAC Cove on 25 April 1915 and very soon after he argued for immediate evacuation, owing to what he saw as a hopeless situation. The force stayed and he began paying routine visits to the firing line, showing disregard for his own safety. On 15 May a sniper's bullet severed his femoral artery and he died three days later on board a hospital ship. He became the only Australian killed in the First World War to have his remains returned to Australia; he was buried at Duntroon.
As well as being the first commander of the Australian Imperial Force, Bridges was an important power behind the founding of the Royal Australian Military College at Duntroon, and commanded the Australian force at Gallipoli. He is also the only identified Australian soldier killed in the First World War to be repatriated and buried in Australia. William Throsby Bridges was born in Scotland in 1861. His father William was a captain in the Royal Navy and his mother Mary the Australian-born daughter of an English migrant. After living in Canada for a time the family moved to Sydney, leaving William behind to finish his studies at the Royal Military College of Canada. Bridges did not finish his studies a" some accounts say that he found it difficult to settle down to study, and became the first cadet to be discharged from the college for academic failure. Others hint that his familyas financial crisis meant that he had to withdraw. He joined his family in Sydney in 1879.In 1885 he married Edith Francis, who would bear him seven children. That year he volunteered for service with the military contingent to the Sudan, but was too late to be accepted and instead joined the temporary forces raised at home to cover the troopsa absence. In 1886 he attended the first course of the School of Gunnery at Middle Head, New South Wales, and went on to become a distinguished artilleryman, an instructor of gunnery, and the stateas artillery firemaster. Bridges served in the Boer War, seeing action at Paardeberg and Driefontein before contracting enteric fever and being sent to England for recovery. He continued to rise in the colonial and then Australian forces. By 1909 he had become the first Chief of the Australian General Staff. The following year he was instrumental in the establishment of the Australian Military College, and was appointed its first commandant. When the First World War began in 1914 Bridges was given the task of raising an Australian contingent for service in Europe. He named it the Australian Imperial Force, and was appointed its commander. Within a short time Australian troops had sailed to Egypt, where they established their training camp and prepared for battle. On 25 April 1915 units of Major General Bridgesa 1st Australian Division were the first to land at Anzac Cove. In the desperate confusion of the first day the landing force suffered more than 2,000 casualties, and little progress was made towards achieving their military objectives. Foreseeing disaster, Bridges argued for an immediate evacuation but was overruled.The Gallipoli campaign was destined to continue for another eight months; it eventually ended in stalemate and the evacuation of all allied forces. Right from the start on Gallipoli Bridges insisted on inspecting the front lines on a daily basis, despite the danger to himself. On 15 May 1915 he was travelling with other officers through Monash Valley when he was shot through his right femoral artery by a Turkish sniper. The bleeding was stopped, but Bridges said, aDonata carry me down a" I donat want any of your stretcher-bearers hit.a All movement in Monash Valley was stopped so that the Turks would know the only thing moving was a party carrying a wounded man. On reaching safety Bridges was evacuated to the hospital ship Gascon. He died before it reached port. William Bridges was initially buried in Egypt, but in June his body was exhumed and returned to Melbourne, where he received a state funeral. On 3 September he was buried on the slopes of Mount Pleasant at Duntroon in Canberra, under the words: aA gallant and erudite soldier.a Major General William Throsby Bridgesa name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with more than 60,000 others from the First World War. His photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.This is one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Major General William Throsby Bridges, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.

Rolls

  • Pre First World War Conflicts Nominal Rolls

    Rank
    Major
    Unit
    SPECIAL SERVICE OFFICERS
    Conflict
    South Africa, 1899-1902 (Boer War)
  • Roll of Honour

    Rank
    Major General
    Fate
    Died of wounds
    Date of Fate
    18 May 1915
    Service
    Australian Army
    Unit
    1 Division Headquarters
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
  • First World War Embarkation Roll

    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
    Place of Embarkation
    Melbourne
    Embarkation Ship
    HMAT Orvieto A3
    Date of Embarkation
    21 October 1914
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918

Honours & Awards

  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Mention in despatches
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Unit
    Staff
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major General
    London Gazette
    5 August 1915 on page 7667 at position 1
    Commonwealth Gazette
    28 October 1915 on page 2736 at position 2
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
    Classification
    Order of the Bath
    Unit
    Staff
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major General
    London Gazette
    22 May 1915 on page 4989 at position 1
    Commonwealth Gazette
    11 September 1915 on page 1746 at position 1
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

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

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

    Unit
    Army Corps Headquarters
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major General

Timeline

Date of birth 18 February 1861 Greenock, Scotland.
Other 1877 Entered Royal Military College at Kingston, Canada.
Other 1879 Came to Australia.
Other 1886 Applied for and obtained a comission in the New South Wales Permanent Artillery and was stationed at Middle Head, Sydney.
Date promoted 1890 Appointed captain and sent to England for training at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich and the Royal School of Gunnery at Shoeburyness.
Date returned to Australia 1893 Appointed chief instructor at the School of Gunnery Middle Head, Sydney.
Other 1899 Volunteered for service in the Boer War, South Africa.
Date returned to Australia 1900-07 Resumed his position as chief instructor at the School of Gunnery Middle Head, Sydney.
Date promoted 1902-07 Promoted to lieutenant colonel.
Date promoted 1903 Appointed assistant quartermaster general, AIF Headquarters, Melbourne.
Date promoted 1904 Appointed chief of intelligence officer on Australia's first military board of administration.
Date promoted 1906-10 Promoted to colonel.
Date promoted 01 January 1909 Appointed chief of the Australian General Staff.
Other 25 April 1909 Relinquished the post of Chief of the General Staff and travelled to England to become the Australian representative on the Imperial General Staff.
Date of honour or award 25 June 1909 Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG).
Date returned to Australia 1910 Appointed the first Commandant of the Royal Military College at Duntroon with the rank of brigadier general.
Date promoted 1914-05 Appointed inspector general of the Australian Army.
Date promoted 1914-08 Took command of the 1st Australian Imperial Force and was promoted to the rank of major general.
Date of embarkation 21 October 1914
Other 30 November 1914 1st Division arrived in Eygpt.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1915
Date of recommendation honour or award 1915
Date of recommendation honour or award 1915
Other 25 April 1915 1st Division landed at Gallipoli.
Date wounded 15 May 1915 Shot by a sniper.
Date of honour or award 17 May 1915 Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB).
Date of death 18 May 1915 Died of wounds. His body was brought back to Australia for burial on Mt Pleasant, Canberra.
Date of recommendation honour or award 21 May 1915
Date of honour or award 05 August 1915 Recieved a posthumous Mention in Despatches.

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