Biography

Birth date: 31 May 1881
Birth place: Australia: New South Wales, Sydney, Balmain
Death date: 23 March 1970
Death place: Australia: New South Wales, Sydney
Final rank: Lieutenant Commander
Conflict: China, 1900-1901 (Boxer Uprising)
First World War, 1914-1918
Units:
  • RAN
  • 1st Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train

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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Rolls and Awards

  • Rank: Midshipman
  • Conflict: China, 1900-1901 (Boxer Uprising)
  • Rank: Lieutenant Commander
  • Date of embarkation: 04 June 1915
  • Place of embarkation: Melbourne
  • Awarded: Mention in despatches
  • Unit: 1st Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Unit: RAN
  • Awarded: Distinguished Service Order
  • Unit: 1st Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Mention in despatches
  • Unit: 1st Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Mention in despatches
  • Unit: 1st Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Photograph

Timeline

Date of birth 1881-05-31 Balmain, NSW.
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1898 Naval Cadet, NSW Naval Brigade.
Other 1900 - 1901 Became a Midshipman and served with the NSW Naval Brigade at Tientsin and Peaking, China,during the Boxer Rebellion.
Date of embarkation 1900-08-08
Other 1901 - 1902 Attached to British Forces, South African War.
Date of return 1901-04-25
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1911-07-01 Joined the Royal Australian Navy as a lieutenant, serving as district officer in Newcastle.
Other 1914-08 Joined the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, serving as a staff officer in attack on German New Guinea.
Other 1915 - 1917 Commanded the 1st Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train.
Other 1915-08 Landed Sulva Bay, Gallipoli.
Other 1915-12 Evacuated from Sulva Bay, Gallipoli.
Date of honour or award 1916-01-28 Mention in Despatches.
Date of honour or award 1916-06-03 Distinguished Service Order (DSO).
Date of honour or award 1916-07-13 Mention in Despatches.
Date of honour or award 1916-07-25 Mention in Despatches.
Date returned to Australia 1917-03-08 The 1st Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train had disbanded and Bracegirdle's command ended.
Other 1918 - 1921 Appointed district naval officer in Adelaide.
Other 1921 - 1923 Appointed district naval officer in Sydney.
Other 1923 - 1931 Director of Naval Reserves and Mobilisation, Navy Office, Melbourne.
Date promoted 1924 Promoted to captain.
Other 1931 - 1947 Military and Official Secretary to Governor General of Australia.
Date of honour or award 1935-01-01 Companion of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG).
Date of discharge 1945-05-31
Date of honour or award 1947-01-01 Knight Commander of the Royal Australian Order (KCVO).
Other 1948 Personal Assistant to the Governor of Victoria.
Date of death 1970-03-23 Sydney, NSW.