Biography

Birth date: 18 September 1889
Birth place: Australia: Victoria, Ballarat
Death date: 26 September 1959
Death place: Australia: New South Wales, Sydney
Final rank: Lieutenant General
Service number: First World War, 1914-1918
NX8 - Second World War, 1939-1945
Units:
  • 2 Battalion
  • 1 Corps
  • AIF HQ ME
  • AIF ME HQ
  • GOC AMF ME
  • 2nd Australian Infantry Battalion
  • 33rd Australian Infantry Battalion

Leslie Morshead won fame as the defender of Tobruk during the Second World War and is among the most renowned Australian divisional commanders of that war. He was born at Ballarat in Victoria on 18 September 1889 and became a teacher. Joining the AIF in September 1914 as a lieutenant, Morshead was posted to the 2nd Battalion.

By the time he landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 he was a captain; by August, when he fought at Lone Pine, he had been promoted to major. After Gallipoli he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and given command of the 33rd Battalion, which arrived in France in November 1916. Morshead led the battalion successfully through Messines and the Passchendaele campaign of late-1917, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, and continued to command through the battles Villers-Bretonneux and Amiens in 1918.

Morshead joined General Monash's staff for the demobilisation of the AIF and returned to Sydney in December 1919. He married Myrtle Woodside in November 1921. Having failed to make a success of a soldier-settlers' block in Queensland, Morshead returned to Sydney to work in shipping, gaining promotions and posts in several Australian cities and in England.

He remained active in the militia, commanding two battalions and reaching the rank of temporary brigadier. In October 1939 he was given command of the 18th Brigade, sailing for Britain in May 1940. The following February Morshead was promoted to major general in command of the 9th Division, then in the Middle East. Reputed to be a tough commander who could be blunt with senior officers, Morshead led his division through the siege of Tobruk where his aggressive defence denied the Germans a breakthrough but earned him the ire of some subordinates concerned at the level of losses.

His success at Tobruk was followed by promotion to lieutenant general and command of the AIF in the Middle East. Morshead, at the risk of alienating his British superiors, argued to keep the 9th Division together in the face of British demands to detach individual brigades. He led the division through the battle of El Alamein, where the 9th Division's contribution was considered vital to the victory. During the battle, he regularly visited both the front and the wounded behind the lines.

Returning to Australia in 1943, Morshead took command of II Corps in October and then in November was elevated to command both New Guinea Force and the Second Australian Army. In May 1944 he was given command of I Corps, leading them through the final battles of the war in Borneo. After the war, he chaired a military court of enquiry into Major General Bennett's departure from Singapore in February 1942.

Morshead refused offers of military and diplomatic posts, as well as the governorship of Queensland, returning instead to the shipping industry as manager of the New South Wales branch of the Orient Line; later he became its Australian general manager. He held a number of other directorships and civil appointments and was involved in right-wing politics before becoming ill with cancer in the mid-1950s. Morshead died in Sydney on 26 September 1959.

Rolls and Awards

First World War Embarkation Roll

  • Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
  • Date of embarkation: 04 May 1916
  • Place of embarkation: Sydney

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : French Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, Fifth Class

  • Unit: 33rd Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Mention in despatches

  • Unit: 33rd Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Mention in despatches

  • Unit: 33rd Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards (Recommendation)

  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards (Recommendation)

  • Unit: 2nd Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Distinguished Service Order

  • Unit: 33rd Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Mention in despatches

  • Unit: 33rd Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Mention in despatches

  • Unit: 2nd Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Mention in despatches

  • Unit: 2nd Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : Mention in despatches

  • Unit: 1 Corps
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

Honours and Awards : Mention in despatches

  • Unit: 33rd Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : Mention in despatches

  • Unit: AIF ME HQ
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

Honours and Awards : Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George

  • Unit: 33rd Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : Distinguished Service Order

  • Unit: 33rd Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : United States Medal of Freedom

  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

Honours and Awards : Mention in despatches

  • Unit: 33rd Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : French Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, Fifth Class

  • Unit: 33rd Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : Mention in despatches

  • Unit: 2nd Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : Mention in despatches

  • Unit: 33rd Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : Mention in despatches

  • Unit: AIF HQ ME
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

Honours and Awards : Mention in despatches

  • Unit: 33rd Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath

  • Unit: GOC AMF ME
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

Photograph

009517

COMMANDING TOBRUK GARRISON - MAJOR GENERAL MORSHEAD. (NEGATIVE BY G. SILK).

009517

150103

Australian troops receive an informal visit to their mess by Lieutenant General Leslie Morshead and show their appreciation of his interest.

150103

150104

Lieutenant General Leslie Morshead inspects Australian troops.

150104

150105

Lieutenant General Leslie Morshead inspects Australian troops, parading with fixed bayonets.

150105

PS1515

A trench at Lone Pine after the battle, showing Australian and Turkish dead on the parapet. In the foreground standing is Major Leslie Morshead (later Lieutenant General Sir Leslie Morshead) of the 2nd Battalion and on his right (standing), is 527 Private James (Jim) B Bryant of Stawell, Vic....

PS1515

Private Record

Addison, Archibald Walter MM, (Corporal, b. 1897 - d.?)

Collection relating to the First World War service of 1343 Corporal Archibald Walter Addison MM, 33 Battalion. Collection consists of a Certificate of Discharge and copy of the citation for his Military Medal with a brief note written by General Morshead. Cpl Addison was awarded the Military... Maker: Morshead, Leslie James

PR86/309 (With records)

Morshead, Sir Leslie James KCB CMG DSO ED (Lieutenant General, b: 1889, d: 1959)

Letter written to D L Dowdell on 12 November 1942 during the 2nd Libyan campaign describing the Battle. Maker: Morshead, Leslie James

3DRL/2562

Morshead, Leslie James (Lieutenant General), KCB, CMG, DSO, ED, 1889-1959

Letter written by Lieutenant Leslie Morshead to his mother concerning action at Gallipoli between 19-20 May 1915. Morshead describes orders given to Australian troops, the times and locations of Turkish attacks and battalions involved. Maker: Morshead, Leslie James

PR03086

Morshead, Sir Leslie James (Lieutenant General) KCB, CMG, DSO, ED 1889-1959

Collection of personal papers, official correspondence, operational records, administrative papers, reports and addresses documenting Sir Leslie Morshead's career in the First and Second Word Wars. Included are files relating to First World War operations at Messines and Ypres with the 33rd... Maker: Morshead, Leslie James

PR00368

Cheney, Albert Leslie (b: 1892 - d: 1917)

Collection relating to the First World War service of 2703 Private Albert Leslie Cheney, 33rd Battalion, Australian Infantry Force. The collection consists of a letter written by Pte Cheney and 2647 Pte Frederick Simpson MM which was inserted into a bottle and dropped overboard from SS Port Napier... Maker: Cheney, Albert Leslie

PR85/028

Morshead, Sir Leslie James KCB CMG DSO ED (Lieutenant General) 1889-1959

Collection of personal papers, official correspondence, operations material, administrative papers, reports and addresses covering Lieutenant General Sir Morshead's experiences in France and later in North Africa, particularly in relation to Tobruk and El Alamein. Other papers cover his role in New... Maker: Morshead, Leslie James

3DRL/2632

Pain, John Henry Francis, DSO, MC (Major, b.1893 - d.1941)

Collection relating to the service of Major John Henry Francis Pain, DSO, MC, 2 Battalion, AIF. Collection consists of one typescript letter written by Major Pain to Lieutenant Colonel Leslie James Morshead, in April 1918, and one handwritten letter from an unknown correspondent to Major Pain, in... Maker: Pain, John Henry Francis

1DRL/0536

Film

Tobruk, 30th July to 22nd October

The day by day story of Tobruk. The leisure hours, the bombing and the wounded. Scenes of bomb damaged Tobruk. Sunken ships in Tobruk harbour. The wrecked Insect Class gunboat HMS Lady Bird and anti-aircraft gun and crew on the ship's deck. Men from the 8th Battalion (Bn) 3rd Light Anti-Aircraft...

F07001

General Morshead receives Polish Cross of Valour in Cairo, November 1941

General Wladyslaw Sikorski, Commander in Chief of the Free Polish Forces, arrives and band plays Polish National Anthem. General Sikorski inspects Australian Guard of Honour. General Sikorski makes speech which is repeated in English by British Officer. General Sikorski pins medal on General Leslie...

F07008

Arrival of Duke of Gloucester in Syria

Coverage of the Duke of Gloucester's visit to the Tripoli area. Duke of Gloucester accompanied by General Leslie Morshead inspect guard of honour in town square.

F07011

El Alamein area, Mr Casey's visit to El Alamein, El Alamein Railway Station, 450 Squadron in the Western Desert

Various scenes of battlefield with wrecked tanks and vehicles in desert country near the Hills of Jesus. Three soldiers examine captured Italian 20mm Breda gun. Valentine tank at Tank HQ. Men of the 2/8 Aust. Field Regiment preparing to fire. Minister Resident in the Middle East, Mr Richard Casey...

F07016

Drill and dress

Training film. Sentry Presents Arms as NX8 Lieutenant General Sir Leslie Morshead KCB KBE CMG DSO ED, drives past the Sentry Box. Parade ground with Headquarters, 18 Australian Infantry Brigade.

F07089

Dedication of Lae War Cemetery, Lae

The official opening and dedication of the Australian War Cemetery at Lae was performed on 23rd April, 1944 by the Commander, New Guinea Force, Lieutenant General Sir Leslie J Morshead, KCB, KBE, COM, DSO, ED, assisted by Chaplain C M Swan and NX147742 Chaplain John William Drakeford. The official...

F07095

15 Australian Infantry Brigade military gymkhana

The 15th Australian Infantry Brigade's military gymkhana was held on the Donadabu Sports ground on New Year's Day 1944. The Commander New Guinea Force, NX8 Lieutenant General Sir Leslie Morshead KCB, KBE, CMG, DSO, ED and Major General E J Milford DSO attended. VX132876 Private Sydney Redmond...

F07109

1 Australian Corps Troops Australian Army Service Corps

General Officer Commanding 1 Australian Corps Lieutenant General Sir Leslie J Morshead KCB KBE CMG DSO ED, inspecting following companies prior to their preparation for departure on service H Q Command Troops, AASC, 2/34 Australian General Transport Company, 3rd Australian Supply Depot Company, 1...

F07149

Visit of Lieutenant General Sir Leslie Morshead to Tarakan

Coverage of General Morshead's visit and general activities on Tarakan Island. General Officer Commanding 1st Australian Corps, NX8 Lieutenant General (Lt Gen) Sir Leslie James Morshead KCB KBE CMG DSO ED chatting with NX34700 Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) Alfred Lionel Rose ED, at HQ 26 Australian...

F07214

Visit of the Duke of Gloucester to 9th Australian Division Ravenshoe area

On the third day of his tour, the Governor General visited the 9th Australian Division accompanied by General Officer Commanding (GOC) 1st Australian Corps, Lieutenant General Sir Leslie J Morshead KCB KBE CMG DSO ED and GOC 9 Australian Division, Major General G F Wootten CBE DSO. Also...

F07152

Major E T Fulton's home movies of army service in Middle East with the 2/1 Field Regiment AIF and in New Guinea

City march 6 Division the first troops to leave Australia. This scene was taken by Dr Mack. Jerusalem the Garden of Gethsemane taken on the first leave in the Middle East. 2/ 1 field Regiment training with 18 pounders before the introduction of the 25 Pounder Field Gun. Bob Rickard, Mark Edwards....

F00448

Digitised Collection

Letter from Lieutenant Colonel Morshead to Archibald Walter Addison, 1918

Letter relating to the First World War service of 1343 Corporal Archibal Walter Addison MM, 33rd Battalion. The letter was written by Lieutenant General Morshead to Archibald Addison on 13 November 1918. In the letter, Lieutenant General Morshead provides the citation for Addison's Military Medal.

RCDIG0000302

Personal Files Book 3, 11 April - 26 April 1915

File of papers relating to the First World War service of Colonel John Monash, 4th Infantry Brigade. This file, originally part of Book 3, covers 11 April to 26 April 1915, and includes official and personal correspondence and reports relating to the landing at Gallipoli. It also contains several...

RCDIG0000581

Personal Files Book 13, 16 August - 30 September 1916

File of papers relating to the First World War service of Major General John Monash, 3rd Australian Division. This file, originally part of Book 13, covers 16 August 1916 to 30 September 1916 and includes documents relating to the visit of King George V to inspect the 3rd Australian Division,...

RCDIG0000615

Personal Files Book 16, 9 October - 31 October 1917

File of papers relating to the First World War service of Major General John Monash, 3rd Australian Division. This file, originally part of Book 16, covers 9 October 1917 to 31 October 1917 and includes documents relating to the First and Second battles at Passchendaele, fought on the 9 October and...

RCDIG0000624

Series 2: Correspondence to and from Henry Arthur Goddard

This series includes official and personal correspondence relating to the First World War service of Brigadier General Henry Arthur Henry Goddard. This series contains: Official Correspondence, 1915-1919; Personal Correspondence, 1917-1955.

RCDIG0000652

Sub Series 2: Personal Correspondence to and from Henry Arthur Goddard

This sub series consists of letters of a personal nature received and sent by Brigadier General Henry Arthur Goddard during the years 1917 and 1955. This includes letters sent by Goddard's son during 1917 and numerous letters from soldiers of the 9th Infantry Brigade congratulating their...

RCDIG0000654

Series 3: Unit Records collected by Henry Arthur Goddard

This series consists of records relating to the First World War service of Berigadier General Henry Arthur Goddard. It conatins service records for the 17th Battalion, 35th Battalion and the 9th Infantry Brigade, Australian Imperial Force. The records include army correspondence books kept by...

RCDIG0000655

Sub-series 3: 9th Infantry Brigade (1916-1918)

Correspondence material relating to the First World War service of Brigadier General Henry Arthur Goddard, 9th Brigade. The messages and other correspondence were kept by Brigadier General Goddard between 1917 and 1919, and relate to his time as commanding officer of the 9th Infantry Brigade in...

RCDIG0000658

Personal correspondence received by Henry Arthur Goddard

Personal correspondence relating to the First World War service of Brigadier General Henry Arthur Goddard. This file includes letters from Brigadier General Goddard's family, friends and fellow soldiers. This file contains: Letter from Leo [son] to Father [Goddard], 27 May 1917; Letter from Leo...

RCDIG0000788

Correspondence book 1918 of Henry Arthur Goddard

Army Book 152 relating to the First World War service of Brigadier General Goddard, 9th Brigade. This Correspondence book, titled '1918', was used by Brigadier General Goddard between 24 June 1918 and 26 June 1918. It contains letters to a number of senior officers in the 9th Infantry Brigade,...

RCDIG0000804

Papers of the 9th Infantry Brigade compiled by Henry Arthur Goddard

Papers of the 9th Infantry Brigade relating to the First World War service of Brigadier General Henry Arthur Goddard. File contains: Proceedings of a court and Inquiry, in the field, 21 December 1917; Letter from John Monash to Lieutenant Colonel Goddard, 8 April 1917; Transcript of General...

RCDIG0000806

Heraldry

Trench art ash tray with match box holder : Major C Jensen

Trench art ashtray, made from the base of a German 88mm shell case. A tin match box holder has been attached to the fuse stem. Engraved around the edge of the case is: 'TO MAJ. C. JENSEN IN MEMO OF EL ALAMEIN FROM LT. GEN. SIR L. MORSHEAD'. Stamped on the base is, '30 P150 1938 6347'. Above the...

REL34449

Art

Major General Leslie Morshead

Portrait of Major General Morshead who fought in the Second World War in Cairo, Egypt as part of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force, 9th Australian Division; NX8 Major General Leslie J Morshead, CMG, CBE, DSO, General Officer Commanding 9th Australian Division 2 AIF; North African campaign, Western...

ART22864

Technology

Caravan, Chevrolet C60L : General L Morshead, Mobile Headquarters, 2nd Australian Imperial Force

A standard, three ton Canadian Military Pattern (CMP) Chevrolet C60L 4x4, six cylinder overhead valve cab chassis truck. It has been fitted with a timber caravan body. The exterior of the vehicle has been painted in sand yellow to reflect service in the North African Campaign during the Second...

REL/11086

Timeline

Date of birth 1889-09-18 Ballarat, VIC.
Date and unit at appointment (Officers) 1914-09-13 Enlisted in the AIF.
Other 1914-09-13 Appointed to the 2nd Battalion with the rank of lieutenant.
Date promoted 1914-10-18 Appointed captain.
Other 1915-01-01 Second in command, C Company, 2nd Battalion.
Other 1915-04-25 Landed at Gallipoli.
Date promoted 1915-06-08 Appointed major.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1915-08-13
Date of recommendation honour or award 1915-08-31
Date of honour or award 1916-01-28 Mention in Despatches.
Date promoted 1916-04-16 Appointed lieutenant colonel and given command of the 33rd Battalion.
Date of embarkation 1916-05-04
Date of recommendation honour or award 1917-03-05
Date of honour or award 1917-06-01 Mention in Despatches.
Date of honour or award 1917-06-04 Companion of the Distinguished Service Order.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1918-03-06
Date of recommendation honour or award 1918-09-01
Date of recommendation honour or award 1918-09-30
Date of honour or award 1918-12-31 Mention in Despatches.
Date of honour or award 1919-01-23 French Legion of Honour - 5th Class Chevalier.
Other units 1919-07-14 Assistant Adjutant General, Headquarters AIF Depots UK.
Date of honour or award 1919-10-24 Mention in Despatches.
Date returned to Australia 1919-12 Returned to Sydney.
Other 1920-03-15 AIF appointment terminated.
Date of honour or award 1920-03-25 Companion of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George.
Date of honour or award 1920-04-01 Mention in Despatches.
Date and unit at appointment (Officers) 1939-10-10 Enlisted in the 2nd AIF and was given command of the 18th Brigade.
Other 1940-05 Sailed for Britain.
Date of honour or award 1941-01-01 Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Date promoted 1941-02 Promoted to major general in command of the 9th Division.
Date of honour or award 1942-01-06 Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Date of honour or award 1942-06-30 Mention in Despatches.
Date of honour or award 1942-11-24 Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath.
Date returned to Australia 1943 On returning to Australia he took command of II Corps which he led in New Guinea.
Date of honour or award 1943-06 Mention in Despatches.
Date of honour or award 1943-06-24 Mention in Despatches.
Other units 1944 Given command of I Corps, leading them through the final battles of the war in Borneo.
Date of honour or award 1944-11-23 Polish Virtuti Militari - sixth class.
Date of discharge 1945-12-21
Date of honour or award 1947-03 Mention in Despatches.
Date of honour or award 1947-03-06 Mention in Despatches.
Date of honour or award 1948-01-02 Medal of Freedom.
Date of death 1959-09-26 Sydney, NSW.