Biography

Birth date: 15 August 1863
Birth place: United Kingdom: England, Greater London, London
Death date: 18 September 1947
Death place: Australia: Victoria, Melbourne
Final rank: Lieutenant General
Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
South Africa, 1899-1902 (Boer War)
Units:
  • 2 Division
  • Staff
  • 2nd Australian Division
  • 1st New South Wales Mounted Rifles

James Legge served as a divisional commander and senior officer during the First World War. Born in London on 15 August 1863, he moved with his family to Sydney in 1878. Legge studied law but became a high school teacher before moving into the legal profession in 1890. In 1891 he was admitted to the New South Wales bar.

Legge's first experience of military life came in 1885 when he was commissioned into the 3rd New South Wales Infantry Regiment. Having resigned a year later, in 1887 he joined the 1st New South Wales Infantry Regiment as a second lieutenant. In 1894 he left legal practice and joined the permanent staff of the New South Wales Military Forces as a captain. A period of training in India followed, as did his marriage to Annie Ferguson in 1896.

In 1899 Legge left Sydney to serve in the Boer War, commanding an infantry company that was incorporated into the New South Wales Mounted Rifles. He returned home in 1900 and continued his army career, gaining experience in a number of appointments and publishing books on military topics. A long-time advocate of universal service, Legge was involved in the development of the universal training scheme. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in December 1909.

Legge had, in addition, been Quartermaster General since 1908, holding this post for almost four years. In June 1912 he went to England as Australia's representative on the Imperial General Staff. He was promoted to colonel in May 1914, was appointed Chief of the General Staff and arrived back in Australia just after the First World War began. Legge raised the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, and the second AIF contingent and reinforcements before being given command of the 1st Division in May 1915. He was promoted to major general in June upon arrival at Gallipoli. Legge's tenure was short-lived and he returned to Egypt a month later to form the 2nd Division.

Legge went back to Gallipoli with the 2nd Division in late August, but became ill and was evacuated the following month, only rejoining his division after the evacuation. On the Western Front, Legge commanded his division at Pozières, meeting with mixed success. Some superiors considered him unsuitable to command in battle, others believed the opposite. He was evacuated to England because of ill-health in January 1917, despite his protesting that he was perfectly well. Having then been assured that he would not be given another operational command Legge returned to Australia where his AIF appointment ended in April.

He was appointed Inspector General Australian Military Forces, and was involved in advocating the pro side in the 1917 conscription plebiscite. In January 1920, Legge, became commandant of the Royal Military College Duntroon, but in 1922 was retrenched, along with other officers, for economic reasons. After pig farming in the Canberra district, Legge retired to Melbourne where he died on 18 September 1947.

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Rolls and Awards

  • Rank: Captain Commanding
  • Unit: 1st New South Wales Mounted Rifles
  • Conflict: South Africa, 1899-1902 (Boer War)
  • Recommended for: Order of the Bath
  • Unit: 2nd Australian Division
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Unit: 2nd Australian Division
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Montenegrin Order of Danilo, Second Class
  • Unit: Staff
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Mention in despatches
  • Unit: Staff
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Order of the Bath
  • Unit: Staff
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Digitised Collection

Heraldry

Timeline

Date of birth 1863-08-15 London, England.
Other 1878 Legge migrated with his family to Sydney, NSW.
Date and unit at appointment (Officers) 1885 Commissioned into the 3rd New South Wales Infantry Regiment.
Other 1886 Resigned from the 3rd New South Wales Infantry Regiment.
Date and unit at appointment (Officers) 1887 Commissioned as a second lieutenant into the 1st New South Wales Regiment.
Other 1890 Completed a Bachelor of Law.
Other 1891 Admitted to the New South Wales bar.
Date promoted 1892 Promoted to lieutenant.
Date commissioned 1894 Commissioned as a captain in the permanent forces of New South Wales.
Other units 1899 When the Boer War broke out Legge was appointed to command an infantry company.
Other 1899-11 Legge's company left for South Africa and on arrival was incorporated in the Australian Regiment.
Other 1900-02 Originally an infantry unit, Legge's company became a mounted unit.
Other units 1900-04-07 The Australian Regiment was disbanded. Legge's company was incorporated into the 1st New South Wales Mounted Rifles and he became adjutant.
Date returned to Australia 1900-12 On completing its 12 month enlistment Legge's company returned home.
Date promoted 1904-09-01 Promoted to major and given the post of Deputy Assistant Adjutant General at Second Military District Headquarters in Sydney.
Other 1905-12 Appointed Assistant Adjutant General.
Other 1908 Appointed Quartermaster General.
Date promoted 1909-12 Promoted to lieutenant colonel.
Other 1910-03 - 1911-06 Legge served as Director of Operations as well as Quartermaster General.
Other 1912-01 Legge was designated Australian Representative on the Imperial General Staff in London.
Date of honour or award 1912-06-14 Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George.
Other 1914-05-01 Appointed Chief of the General Staff, with the rank of full colonel.
Date returned to Australia 1914-07-03
Other 1914-08-04 Arrived in Fremantle, WA.
Other 1915-05-01 Given command of the 1st Division.
Date promoted 1915-06-22 Promoted to major general.
Other 1915-06-24 Legge arrived in Mudros.
Other 1915-07 Legge was relieved from command of the 1st Division so he could return to Eygpt to form the 2nd Division.
Other 1915-08 Legge returned to Gallipoli with the 2nd Division.
Other 1915-11-23 Evacuated to Egypt due to illness.
Other 1916-01 Legge resumed command of the 2nd Division in Egypt.
Other 1916-04-07 2nd Division entered the line on the Western Front.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1916-10
Other 1917-01 Evacuated to England due to illness Eand Legge was relieved of his command.
Date of honour or award 1917-01-01 Companion of the Order of the Bath.
Date returned to Australia 1917-02-10
Other 1917-04-30 Appointed Inspector General Australian Military Forces.
Other 1917-08-01 Appointed Chief of the General Staff and reverted to his permanent rank of colonel, but he retained his rank of major general as an honorary rank.
Date promoted 1920-01-02 Substantially promoted to major general.
Other 1920-06-01 Became Commandant of the Royal Military College at Duntroon.
Other 1922 Legge was retrenched, with most of his staff, in the defence cuts of 1922.
Other 1922-08-01 Placed on the unattached list.
Other 1924-01-14 Placed on the retired list with the honorary rank of lieutenant general.
Date of death 1947-09-18 Legge died in Melbourne, VIC. He was buried at Cheltenham Cemetery. In accordance with his wishes, no monument or headstone marks his grave.