Rear Admiral Leighton Seymour Bracegirdle, KCVO, CMG, DSO

Date of birth: 31 May 1881
Place of birth: Balmain, NSW
Date of death: 23 March 1970
Place of death: Sydney, NSW

Leighton Seymour Bracegirdle

Leighton Bracegirdle was a career naval officer whose service began before Federation and lasted until the end of the Second World War. He was born in Balmain, Sydney, on 31 May 1881. In 1898 he joined the New South Wales Naval Brigade as a cadet. Two years later he became a midshipman and served with the New South Wales contingent in China during the Boxer Rebellion.

Bracegirdle then served as a lieutenant in the South African Irregular Horse in the final year of the Boer War. He returned to Australia after being wounded and continued to serve in the naval militia while working as a clerk. He married Lillian Saunders in 1910 and in 1911 joined the Royal Australian Navy as a lieutenant, serving as District Officer in Newcastle until the beginning of the First World War.

In August 1914 Bracegirdle enlisted in the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, serving as a staff officer in German New Guinea until the force was disbanded in February 1915. That month he was appointed commander of the 1st Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train and was sent to Gallipoli to prepare for the British landings at Suvla Bay in August 1915. His unit performed well under relentless shrapnel fire and remained at Suvla, where Bracegirdle was wounded, until the end of the campaign. Having constructed the piers used during the British landing, the bridging train carried out maintenance duties; assisted with the landing of troops, stores, and ammunition; and finally assisted with the evacuation in December.

After a period in hospital suffering from jaundice and malaria, Bracegirdle returned to his unit, which was now working on the Suez Canal. Bracegirdle was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in June 1916 and received his third Mention in Despatches in July that year. The bridging train remained in the Middle East, assisting with the Allied advance across the Sinai by landing stores on the Mediterranean coast, but was disbanded at the beginning of 1917. Bracegirdle's command ended in March and he returned to Australia having been promoted to commander.

Between 1918 and 1921, Bracegirdle was District Naval Officer in Adelaide. This was followed by a similar posting in Sydney, which he held until 1923, when he was appointed Director of Naval Reserves. In 1924 he received another promotion, to captain.

Bracegirdle was appointed military and official secretary to the Governor-General in 1931; his posting spanned the tenure of three governors-general and ended in 1945 when he retired from the navy having attained the rank of rear admiral. After his retirement, Bracegirdle worked for BHP and held directorships in several other companies. He died on 23 March 1970 in Sydney.

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