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.

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Rolls and Awards

  • Recommended for: George Cross
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Recommended for: Distinguished Service Cross
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Recommended for: George Medal
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Recommended for: Mention in despatches
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Awarded: George Medal
  • Unit: Royal Australian Navy
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Awarded: Mention in despatches
  • Unit: Royal Australian Navy
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Awarded: George Cross
  • Unit: Royal Australian Navy
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Awarded: Distinguished Service Cross
  • Unit: Royal Australian Navy
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

Collection Items

Photograph

Digitised Collection

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.