Major General William Throsby Bridges, KCB, CMG

Date of birth: 18 February 1861
Place of birth: Greenock, Scotland
Date of death: 18 May 1915
Place of death: Gallipoli, Turkey

A02867 William Throsby Bridges. A02867

William Bridges, the first commandant of the Military College Duntroon and the first commander of the AIF, was killed by a sniper early in the Gallipoli campaign. He was born on 18 February 1861 at Greenock, Scotland. As a youth he moved to Canada and then Australia. In Canada he entered the Royal Military College, failed to graduate, and followed his parents to Australia, arriving in Sydney in August 1879 and joining the civil service.

In 1885 he returned to military life. Applying too late to join the Sudan contingent, he was commissioned instead in the temporary forces raised to cover the contingent's absence. He took a permanent commission in the artillery three months later. In October 1885 Bridges married Edith Francis and in 1886 began four years of service on the staff of the School of Gunnery in Sydney. In 1889 he became a founding member of the Royal United Service Institution of New South Wales. The following year he was promoted to captain and returned to England to attend gunnery courses.

Upon his return, Bridges held the posts of Chief Instructor at the School of Gunnery and the colony's Artillery Firemaster for nine years. He served with the British Army in South Africa and was evacuated to England in May 1900 with enteric fever. He resumed his post at the School of Gunnery upon returning to Australia.

Bridges was involved in the drawing up of a defence bill for the amalgamated colonial defence forces, by now under Commonwealth control. In July 1902 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and in 1905 became Chief Intelligence Officer on Australia's first military board of administration.

In October 1906 he was promoted to colonel and argued strongly for the establishment of a general staff to oversee and improve military efficiency. His success was marked by his appointment as the first chief of the Australian general staff in January 1909. Within a year, Bridges became the Australian representative on the Imperial General Staff in London but in 1910 was recalled to found Australia's first military college. He was promoted to brigadier general and the college, Duntroon, opened in June 1911. Bridges retained this post until his appointment as Inspector General of the Australian Army in May 1914.

When the First World War began 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. Bridges' division was the first ashore at ANZAC Cove on 25 April; foreseeing disaster, he argued for immediate evacuation. The force stayed and Bridges began a routine of visits to the firing line, showing a complete 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.

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