Yesterday, 14th October 2008, was the 94th anniversary of the death of the first Australian to be killed in action, on the Western Front, in the Great War. William Thomas Leggett, an Australian serving with the 1st British Life Guards was killed in a brief skirmish with German troops occupying Gheluwe in West Flanders, Belgium, on 14th October 1914.
To read the story around the events leading to the death of William Leggett, click here.
William Leggett was born in Lithgow, New South Wales, in 1891 and later moved to Goulburn. In 1912 Leggett sailed from Sydney to Britain where he joined the British Cavalry, serving with the 1st Life Guards.
In October 2001 the William Leggett Memorial was unveiled near the church at Gheluwe, thanks to the work of a dedicated band of supporters including FFFAIF members Johan Durnez, Anny De Decker and Ivan ‘Shrapnel Charlie’ Sinnaeve. For more details click here.
The memorial represents Corporal William Leggett falling from his horse after being shot by German soldiers.
On Remembrance Day 2005 a second memorial to William Leggett was unveiled at Rocky Hill, Goulburn, NSW. This memorial was constructed from the sheet of steel remaining after the silhouette had been cut for the Gheluwe memorial – thus linking William Leggett’s home town in Australia to place of death in Belgium. Descendents of William Leggett were present at the unveiling of both memorials.
On the same day across the other side of the world, in Belgium, a special Remembrance Day Service was held at the grave of William Leggett, Harelbeke Belgium.
A detailed photographic report on the ceremony at Harelbeke appeared in DIGGER Issues 14 & 15. DIGGER is the quarterly magazine of the FFFAIF. The magazine contains a unique collection of articles and photos, the majority of which are published for the first time and are provided by members. Take some time to have a look at past DIGGER magazines by clicking here.
Membership of the Families and Friends of the First AIF Inc is $A40 p.a. and includes anual subscription to DIGGER magazine. To discover more about the FFFAIF click here. Membership application forms are available by clicking here .
The Families and Friends of the First AIF thanks the Australian, UK and French governments for affording Australian and British soldiers – presently buried in mass graves at Pheasant Wood – dignified individual reburials in a new CWGC cemetery at Fromelles, and urge those responsible to ensure all necessary scientific and other means are employed to properly identify each soldier.