Leonard James Gillespie

Information about birth

Year of birth:
Place of birth:
Camberwell, Victoria, Australia

General information

Last known residence:
Richmond, Victoria, Australia

Army information

Australian Imperial Force
Service number:
Enlistment date:
Enlistment place:
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
 —  Australian Infantry, 5th Bn.  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
Place of death:
Retaliation Farm, Zonnebeke, Belgium
Cause of death:
Killed in action (K.I.A.)


Passchendaele New British Cemetery
Plot: XIII
Row: C
Grave: 4

Distinctions and medals 4

1914-15 Star
British War Medal
Military Medal
Medal — 28/09/1917
Victory Medal

Points of interest 4

#1 Place of birth
#2 Last known residence
#3 Enlistment place
#4 Place of death or original burial place

My story

Leonard James Gillespie, a former salesman, was born in 1897 in Camberwell, Victoria, Australia. He was the son of James Gillespie. He was a student in wireless telegraphy. Before enlisting, he served in the Citizen Military Forces. On January 11, 1915 he enlisted in Melbourne and embarked from Melbourne on board HMAT A54 Runic on February 19, 1915, with the 3rd reinforcement of the 5th Battalion, part of the 2nd Australian Brigade of the 1st Australian Division. In July 1917, he was wounded in action (gunshot wound right arm) in France. He was promoted to Corporal on May 3, 1917.

On the 4th of October, the Battle of Broodseinde was fought. The 2nd Australian Infantry Brigade carried out a mission, with the goal to capture the positions of the enemy as far as the Line Celtic (D.29.d.40.45. to D.29.b.10.60.). The objectives were the red and blue line. The 8th Bn. A.I.F. had to get to the red line, the 6th and 7th Bn. A.I.F. had to reach the blue line. The 5th Bn. A.I.F. was in reserve. At midnight on the night of October 3 and 4, the locations of the various units were as followed: the Brigade headquarters were located at Westhoek Ridge (J1.d.75.10), the 5th Bn. A.I.F. was positioned at the Front Line, with headquarters at J.7.b.6.5., the 6th Bn. A.I.F. was located at Westhoek Ridge, with headquarters at J.7.b.6.8., the 7th Bn. A.I.F. found itself at Westhoek Ridge, with headquarters at J.7.b.5.5. and the 8th Bn. A.I.F. was positioned at Anzac Ridge with headquarters at J.9.a.6.5. The 8th Bn. A.I.F. reached the red line at 6.30 a.m. and advanced 100 yards beyond, to a position of better command and out of the enemy’s barrage, just behind and parallel to the Becelaere-Broodseinde Road, with points of the line touching the road. A hostile Battery was in position on this road just in front of the Line, but they were captured. The red line was consolidated by 7.30 a.m. The blue line was also captured and consolidated. Throughout the day and during the following night, the enemy’s shelling continued to be very severe over the whole captured area, on the old front line and in the valley rear thereof.

He was awarded the military medal on September 28, 1917 for extremely valuable services and courage in repairing communications near Zonnebeke (September 20-21, 1917). "During the operations east of Ypres on September 20th, 1917 Lance Corporal Gillespie with Signaller Day was attached to the Company Headquarters as Signaller. During the heavy bombardments of 20th and 21st, telephonic communications were constantly cut. This man stayed out along the line for hours at a time looking for and repairing the breaks, so rendering extremely valuable services." (Source: 'Commonwealth Gazette' No. 31)

Leonard James, aged 20, was killed in action on October 4, 1917. Corporal Gillespie was initially buried where he fell, near Retaliation Farm, Zonnebeke (28.D.28.c.80.40). His remains were exhumed and interred at Passchendaele New British Cemetery, Plot 13, Row C, Grave 4.

Sources 4

2nd Brigade Australian Infantry (Australian War Memorial, Campbell (AWM), AWM4 23/2/30).
Sources used
5th Battalion Australian Infantry (Australian War Memorial, Campbell (AWM), AWM4 23/22/32).
Sources used
First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920 (National Archives of Australia, Canberra (NAA), B2455).
Sources used
Unit embarkation nominal rolls, 1914-18 War (Australian War Memorial, Campbell (AWM), AWM8).
Sources used

More information 4