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.