Biography

Birth date: 19 January 1909
Birth place: Australia: New South Wales, Broken Hill
Death date: 07 August 1994
Death place: Australia: Western Australia, Perth
Final rank: Lieutenant Commander
Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
Unit: Royal Australian Navy

Leon Goldsworthy, born at Broken Hill on 19 January 1909, became Australia's most decorated naval officer of the Second World War. As a youth he was a successful amateur wrestler and gymnast. Educated at Kapunda High School, South Australia, and later at the Adelaide School of Mines, Goldsworthy went on to Adelaide University where he worked as a technician in the Physics Department.

In the years before the war, Goldsworthy was engaged in business in Western Australia. Initially rejected by the navy because of his small stature, he made a second attempt to enlist in March 1941 and was accepted as a probationary sub-lieutenant in the Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve. Shortly afterwards he was sent to England to complete his training.

In England, Goldsworthy volunteered for the Rendering Mines Safe Section of HMS Vernon. He quickly proved himself a skilled officer who was able to use his pre-war training in electricity and physics to good effect. His work often required him to defuse mines underwater wearing a bulky diving suit that made the slow, steady movements required in this work very difficult.

On 13 August 1943 Goldsworthy defused a German mine in the water off Sheerness using a special diving suit which he and a colleague had helped to develop. In September and October 1943 he defused two mines, one of which had rested at a Southampton wharf for two years and the other in the River Thames. For this he was awarded the George Medal. Then, in April 1944, he disarmed an acoustic mine that had lain in the water off Milford Haven for two and a half years. In September 1944 he received the George Cross for his work in recovering and defusing mines between June 1943 and September 1944. This award was given to civilians or military personnel for actions not normally covered by purely military decorations.

Before the Allied invasion of France, Goldsworthy was involved in the selection and training of men for port clearance and he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in January 1945 for his bravery and leadership in clearing Cherbourg Harbour, which was needed urgently to supply Allied troops advancing across France. On one occasion he disarmed a new German 'K' type mine in 15 metres of water under shellfire. After his work in France, Goldsworthy served with the United States Navy in the South Pacific Theatre, helping to defuse Japanese mines in the Philippines and in the Borneo area. He was among the first to enter and search the caves in Correigidor.

By the time the war ended, Goldsworthy had been promoted to acting lieutenant commander and was Australia's most highly decorated naval officer, having rendered more than 300 mines safe. After the war he returned to Perth and became manager of the Rainbow Neon Light Company. In 1991 he became vice-chairman (overseas) of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association. He died in Perth on 7 August 1994.

Rolls and Awards

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : George Cross

  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : George Medal

  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

Honours and Awards : George Medal

  • Unit: Royal Australian Navy
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

Honours and Awards : Distinguished Service Cross

  • Unit: Royal Australian Navy
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

Honours and Awards : George Cross

  • Unit: Royal Australian Navy
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

Honours and Awards : Mention in despatches

  • Unit: Royal Australian Navy
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

Collection Items

Photograph

081383

LIEUTENANT-COMMANDER L. V. GOLDSWORTHY, GC DSC GM, ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVAL VOLUNTEER RESERVE, AWARDED THE GEORGE CROSS FOR GALLANTRY AND UNDAUNTED DEVOTION TO DUTY DURING A SERIES OF GERMAN MINE RECOVERY EXTENDING FROM 1943-06-12 TO 1944-04-10.

081383

P03434.001

Wedmore, England. Informal portrait of Lieutenant Hugh Randall Syme GC GM and Bar, RANVR. Syme, attached to the Enemy Mining Section at HMS Vernon, is standing beside the first German Type C aerial magnetic mine to be recovered intact. A parachute and shrouds partly cover the half buried mine.

P03434.001

P03434.002

Wedmore, England. Informal portrait of Lieutenant Commander Leon Verdi Goldworthy, GC DSC GM and Bar, RANVR. The smiling Goldsworthy is holding a fuse he has just removed from the German Type C aerial magnetic mine in the trench behind him. Goldsworthy was one of several Australians of the RANVR...

P03434.002

P03434.003

Wedmore, England. Royal Army Service Corps mine disposal staff supervising the retrieval of the first German acoustic parachute mine made safe by mine disposal officers attached to the Enemy Mining Section of HMS Vernon. This and other mines that German bomber aircraft inadvertantly dropped on...

P03434.003

P03434.004

Portsmouth, England. The Georgian building at HMS Vernon that was headquarters to the Enemy Mining Section. It was from here that men from the Royal Navy (RN), Royal Australian Navy Volunteer Reserve (RANVR), and men attached from other allied services, were sent out to render safe unexploded...

P03434.004

P03434.005

England. An unidentified member of the RN Enemy Mining Section of HMS Vernon standing astride a recently recovered German mine lying on the deck of a recovery vessel. He is being assisted out of his diving suit by an unidentified RN rating and still has his helmet face plate closed and breathing...

P03434.005

P03434.006

Goodwin Sands, England. Unidentified members of the Enemy Mining Section (EMS) of HMS Vernon standing beside a recently recovered German moored mine. The mine's contact horns have been removed,it has been made safe and its explosives steamed out and disposed of by burning . The three are standing...

P03434.006

P03434.007

England. A German aerial mine lies beside a water filled ditch as its explosive is slowly steamed out. After being rendered safe by officers and men from the Enemy Mining Section (EMS) of HMS Vernon, low pressure steam was applied via the pipe seen at right. The steam supplied a safe source...

P03434.007

P03434.008

England. Unidentified members of the Enemy Mining Section (EMS) of HMS Vernon nonchalently waiting-two are smoking- for the explosive to be steamed out of an unexploded German aerial mine. A long thin pipe (left) is the source of low pressure steam and the now molten explosive can be seen...

P03434.008

P03434.009

Brighton Beach, England. Lieutenant Chowdri (Choudhary) Royal Indian Navy (RIN) standing in breaking waves as a spherical German anti-shipping mine is pulled ashore. Chowdri was one of several members of the Enemy Mining Section of HMS Vernon seconded from various Dominion navies.

P03434.009

P03434.010

Brighton, England. Informal portrait of three members of the Enemy Mining Section (EMS) of HMS Vernon standing at the rear of their work van. The three had just taken part in the retrieval, rendering safe, and removal of a German anti-shipping moored mine. Left to right: Lieutenant Grey, Chief...

P03434.010

P03434.011

England. A vacuum pump used by the Enemy Mining Section of HMS Vernon to minimize the internal atmospheric pressure of unexploded German mines. Nicknamed "Hortense", the wheeled unit would be set up some distance from the mine being made safe to minimize noise and vibration.

P03434.011

P03434.012

Southhampton, England. Lieutenant H. E. Wadsley DSC GM and Bar, RNVR (left) and an unknown RN rating, attaching ropes to a German Type C magnetic mine. Wadsley, a bomb disposal expert attached to HMS Vernon, appears to have removed the fuse from the right hand recessed circle on the top and the...

P03434.012

P03434.013

An unidentified member of the Enemy Mines Section (EMS) of HMS Vernon lashing a net covered floatation bag to a German aerial mine. The rubberized balloons were attached to submerged bombs and mines, inflated until the mine was bouyant and then towed to a safe area for delousing or destruction.

P03434.013

P03434.014

Unidentified officers and ratings of the Enemy Mines Section of HMS Vernon preparing to retrieve an unexploded German mine. Working in the mud of a tidal estuary, they appear to have reached the buried mine by digging a hole (centre), attaching floatation bags and attempting to pump out the...

P03434.014

P03434.015

Woolwich Arsenal. Unidentified officers and ratings of the Enemy Mines Section of HMS Vernon preparing to retrieve an unexploded German type C magnetic mine from a river estuary. The crew have located the approximate site of the air dropped mine, laid a preliminary wooden framework for an access...

P03434.015

P03434.017

Lieutenant Leonard (Leon) Verdi Goldsworthy GC DSC GM, RANVR (right rear) assisting unidentified officers and ratings of the Enemy Mines Section of HMS Vernon. They are extracting an unexploded German type C magnetic mine from a deep hole it made on landing. Before retrieving it for delousing the...

P03434.017

P03434.018

Sheerness, England. Internal electrical and mechanical workings of a German type C magnetic mine. The protective nose cone had been removed by men from the Enemy Mines Section of HMS Vernon.

P03434.018

P03434.019

Haling Island, England. Informal portrait of Lieutenant Commander John Stuart Mould GC GM, RANVR (foreground) assisted by two unidentified members of the Enemy Mines Section of HMS Vernon, as he prepares to dive on a crashed United States Army Airforce (USAAF) bomber aircraft. Mould has put on...

P03434.019

P03434.020

Haling Island. Lieutenant Commander John Stuart Mould GC GM,RANVR (right) assisted by an unidentified RN rating, prepares to dive on a crashed United States Army Airforce (USAAF) bomber aircraft. Working from the Enemy Mines Section of HMS Vernon, Mould help develop the self contained breathing...

P03434.020

P03434.021

Haling island. Three members of the Enemy Mines Section of HMS Vernon observing mine disposal activities on the Norfolk Broads from an apparently safe distance. Left to right: "Smiffy" (Smith) Royal Army Service Corps (RASC), Lieutenant Leonard (Leon) Verdi Goldsworthy GC DSC GM, RANVR and...

P03434.021

P03434.022

Lowestoft England. The scattered internal mechanics of a German booby trapped aerial mine lying on a beach. The mine had just been de-loused by officers and ratings from the Enemy Mines Section of HMS Vernon including Lieutenant Commander John Stuart Mould GC GM RANVR and Lieutenant Commander...

P03434.022

P03434.023

Lowestoft. Officers and ratings from the Enemy Mines Section of HMS Vernon. Identified personnel include Lieutenant Commander John Stuart GC GM, RANVR (second from left) and Lieutenant Commander Leonard (Leon) Vernon Goldsworthy GC DSC GM, RANVR (far right). The group are posing behind a...

P03434.023

P03434.024

Lowestoft, England. A team from the Enemy Mines Section of HMS Vernon walking in close single file along an English beach. The Officers and men had just rendered safe a booby-trapped German magnetic/acoustic mine. Identified personnel are right to left: Lieutenant Franz USN, Lieutenant Commander...

P03434.024

P03434.025

Lowestoft, England. A German anti-shipping mine lying on sand above the high water mark of a southern beach. It had been dragged there by a team from the Enemy Mines Section of HMS Vernon for examination and making safe. A framework, presumably non-ferrous, holds a photographic plate (right)...

P03434.025

P03434.026

Lowestoft, England. A German anti-shipping mine lying on sand above the high water mark of a southern beach. It had been dragged there by a team from the Enemy Mines Section of HMS Vernon for examination and making safe. An officer (centre) has attached intricate trepanning equipment to the...

P03434.026

P03434.027

X-ray film processing van belonging to the Enemy Mines Section of HMS Vernon. The van accompanied mine disposal teams to remote sites and allowed disposal experts a limited but sometimes critical internal view of a mine before attempting to deactivate it.

P03434.027

P03434.028

A pump, vacuum hoses and trepanning equipment used by Royal Navy bomb disposal crews from HMS Vernon.

P03434.028

P03434.029

Royal Navy bomb disposal crew working from HMS Vernon at Milford Haven. An unidentified mine disposal officer wearing "The Vernon Dress" diving suit. Based on the earlier suits which required the diver to wear heavy rubberized clothing, lead boots and a bronze diving helmet and which required a...

P03434.029

P03434.030

RANVR bomb disposal UK. Fisherboy and Esmerelda. Cherbourg. Mag Torpedo.

P03434.030

P03434.031

RANVR bomb disposal UK. Lynton - Exmore Downs. Bomb mine. Leonard (Leon) Verdi Goldsworthy GC DSC GM RANVR at lower right.

P03434.031

P03434.032

RANVR bomb disposal UK. Lynton - Exmore Downs. Bomb mine. Lieutenant John Stuart Mould GC at far left rubbing his head soon after taking off his diving helmet.

P03434.032

P03434.033

RANVR bomb disposal UK. Lowestoft. Booby trap. The photographer, possibly Lieutenant Leonard (Leon) Verdi Goldsworthy GC DSC GM RANVR, didn't describe the exact location of the "booby trap" in this de-loused mine.

P03434.033

Private Record

Timeline

Date of birth 1909-01-19 Broken Hill, NSW.
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1941-03-24 Accepted as a probationary sub lieutenant in the Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve. Shortly afterwards he was sent to England to complete his training.
Date promoted 1941-06-24 Appointed lieutenant.
Other 1943-06-12 - 1944-04-10 Goldsworthy was involved in a series of German mine recovery operations.
Date of honour or award 1944-04-18 George Medal (GM). Awarded for the difussion of unexploded underwater mines at South Hampton Wharf and in the River Thames.
Date of honour or award 1944-08-15 Mention in Despatches.
Date of honour or award 1944-09-19 George Cross. Awarded for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty during German mine recovery.
Date promoted 1944-09-30 Appointed acting lieutenant commander.
Date of honour or award 1945-01-16 Distinguished Service Cross.
Date of discharge 1946-05-24 After the war he returned to Perth and became manager of the Rainbow Neon Light Company.
Other 1991 Became vice chairman (overseas) of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association.
Date of death 1994-08-07 Perth, WA.