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.

Rolls and Awards

Honours and Awards (Recommendation)

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

Honours and Awards : Victoria Cross

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

Photograph

072966

Port Melbourne, Vic. 1918. Australian Victoria Cross winners from World War 1 invited by the Prime Minister of Australia, The Honourable W. M. Hughes, to return home to assist in a recruiting campaign. The photograph was taken as the ship HMAT Medic was berthing. The identified men are, from the...

072966

113292

FIELD MARSHAL LORD WILLIAM RIDDELL BIRDWOOD (SECOND FROM LEFT) AND VICTORIA CROSS WINNERS, AIR VICE MARSHAL F.H. MCNAMARA, COLONEL W.J. SYMONS AND LIEUTENANT L. KEYSOR.

113292

D00021

Informal portrait of 958 Lieutenant Leonard Keysor VC, 42nd Battalion who was awarded his Victoria Cross as a Private in the 1st Battalion. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty at Lone Pine Trenches, in the Gallipoli Peninsula. On 7 August 1915, he was...

D00021

P02939.007

Portrait of Lieutenant (Lt) Leonard Keysor VC, 1st Battalion. Lt Keysor was awarded the Victoria Cross as a lance corporal (LCpl) for "most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty at Lone Pine Trenches, in the Gallipoli Peninsula" on 7 August 1915. LCpl Keysor, in a trench under enemy bomb attack,...

P02939.007

P00398.001

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA, 1918-10. ABOARD THE TROOP TRANSPORT 'MEDIC' TEN VICTORIA CROSS WINNERS OF THE FIRST AUSTRALIAN IMPERIAL FORCE WHO WERE INVITED BY THE PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA, W.M. HUGHES, TO RETURN TO AUSTRALIA TO ASSIST IN A RECRUITING CAMPAIGN. BACK ROW, LEFT TO RIGHT: SGT. W. PEELER,...

P00398.001

A04013

A view of the Lone Pine trenches showing three survivors after a bombing. Lance-Corporal L Keysor VC (centre rear looking at camera and wearing a slouch hat).

A04013

Private Record

Crooke, Cyril Ednott (Lieutenant, b.1892 - d.1965)

Collection relating to the First World War service of Lieutenant Cyril Ednott Crooke, Australian Flying Corps (AFC). Collection consists of a leather bound sketch book featuring detailed water colour paintings produced between 4 March 1918 and 24 September 1918. It depicts aeroplanes, troopships,... Maker: Crooke, Cyril Ednott

3DRL/2497 (With records)

Heraldry

George VI Coronation Medal : Lieutenant L M Keysor, 1 Battalion, AIF

George VI Coronation Medal. Unnamed as issued.

REL/03255.004

Victoria Cross : Lance Corporal L M Keysor, 1 Battalion, AIF

Victoria Cross. Engraved reverse suspender with recipient's details and reverse cross with date of action.

REL/03255.001

Victory Medal : Lieutenant L M Keysor, 1 Battalion, AIF

Victory Medal. Impressed around edge with recipient's details.

REL/03255.003

British War Medal 1914-20 : Lieutenant L M Keysor, 1 Battalion, AIF

British War Medal 1914-20. Impressed around edge with recipient's details.

REL/03255.002

Published Collection

Cigarette card of Private L Keysor VC

Cigarette card showing a portrait of Private Leonard Keysor VC. Part of a series of cards depicting Australian VCs printed by Sniders and Abrahams.

RC09119

Digitised Collection

Sketch book of Cyril Ednott Crooke, 1918

Sketch book relating to the First World War service of Lieutenant Cyril Ednott Crooke, Australian Flying Corps. The bound leather drawing book features detailed water colour paintings produced between 4 March 1918 and 24 September 1918. It depicts aeroplanes, troopships, Leeds Castle, Australian...

RCDIG0000352

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.