Biography

Birth date: 03 November 1885
Birth place: United Kingdom: England, Greater London, London
Death date: 12 October 1951
Death place: United Kingdom: England, Greater London, London
Final rank: Lieutenant
Service number: 958 - First World War, 1914-1918
Unit: 1st Australian Infantry Battalion

Leonard Keysor was one of several men who, although not born in Australia, won the Victoria Cross as members of the AIF. He was born in London in November 1885, spent ten years in Canada while growing up, then migrated to Sydney a few months before the outbreak of war. He enlisted in the 1st Battalion and sailed for Egypt in October 1914. He took part in the Gallipoli landing of 25 April 1915 and was promoted to lance corporal two months later.

Keysor won his Victoria Cross during the battle of Lone Pine in August 1915. By that time he had become a master bombthrower; during the days and nights of the battle, he proved his skill time and again. As Turkish bombs landed in his trench, Keysor would smother the explosions with sandbags or clothing. If he had time, he would throw the bombs back - on several occasions he even caught them in mid-flight before lobbing them back into the Turkish trenches. He was twice wounded but refused medical aid, maintaining his efforts for 50 hours. His actions saved the trench and removed the enemy from the position.

From Gallipoli Keysor went on to serve in France, where he was twice promoted, and twice wounded in 1918. He had always considered himself a Londoner and he returned to Britain to live after the war. He died there in October 1951

Citation (abridged):

On 7th August 1915, Keysor was in a trench which was being heavily bombed by the enemy. At great personal risk he picked up two live bombs and threw them back at the enemy. Though wounded he continued throwing bombs, thereby saving a most important portion of the trench. Next day Keysor bombed the enemy out of a position from which temporary mastery of his own trench had been obtained. Although again wounded he declined evacuation, volunteering to throw bombs for another company, which had lost all its bomb-throwers. He continued to bomb the enemy until the situation was relieved.

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Rolls and Awards

  • Unit: 1st Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Victoria Cross
  • Unit: 1st Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Timeline

Date of birth 1885-11-03 Maida Vale, London, England.
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1914-08-28 1 Battalion, AIF.
Date of embarkation 1914-10-18
Date promoted 1915-06-20 Appointed Lance Corporal.
Date of honour or award 1915-08-08 Awarded Victoria Cross for action at Lone Pine, Gallipoli, Turkey whilst serving with 1 Battalion, 1 Brigade, 1 Division as a Lance Corporal
Date promoted 1915-12 Appointed Sergeant.
Date promoted 1917-01-13 Appointed 2nd Lieutenant.
Date promoted 1917-07-28 Appointed Lieutenant.
Other units 1917-11 Platoon Commander of 42 Battalion.
Date wounded 1918-03-27
Date wounded 1918-05-26
Date of discharge 1918-12-12 Discharged on medical grounds.
Date of death 1951-10-12 London, England.