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William Leahy (Australian Army soldier)

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William Leahy
Born(1893-03-27)27 March 1893
Kilmore, Australia
Died11 August 1918(1918-08-11) (aged 25)
Near Framerville, France
Heath Cemetery, Harbonnieres, France
Service/branchAustralian Imperial Force
Years of service1915–1918
Unit19th Battalion
Battles/warsFirst World War
  • Western Front
AwardsDistinguished Conduct Medal

William Leahy DCM (27 March 1893 – 11 August 1918) was an Australian soldier and a recipient of the Distinguished Conduct Medal for an act of "great courage" during the First World War.[1]

Early life[edit]

Leahy was born in Kilmore, Victoria, to Thomas and Elizabeth Leahy[2] on 27 March 1893.[3] He had at least one sibling, a brother named John Francis who also served during the First World War.

First World War[edit]

Enlistment and training[edit]

Leahy volunteered with the Australian Imperial Force at Cootamundra on 24 July 1915 and embarked for training in Egypt aboard HMAT Thermistocles on 5 October.[1][4]

After serving with the 14th Training Battalion, Leahy embarked for Marseille, France, aboard the Franconia on 8 August 1916 and proceeded to England where he was assigned to the 5th Training Battalion and 2nd Australian Divisional Base Depot (ADBD) before being transferred to the 45th Battalion Reinforcements.[4]

Western Front[edit]

Leahy only served with the 45th Battalion for 36 days before being transferred to the 19th Battalion while in France on 4 December 1916.[4]

Distinguished Conduct Medal[edit]

The GOC 5th Australian Infantry Brigade recommended Leahy for the Distinguished Conduct Medal on 13 May 1917 for actions he conducted during what would become known as the Second Battle of Bullecourt:

For conspicuous gallantry near NOREUIL on 3rd May. Pte LEAHY went forward in the attack against the HINDENBURG LINE as a company bomber. A German machine gun forward of the 1st objective was holding up a considerable section of the advancing troops and inflicting heavy casualties. With an absolute indifference to personal risk or danger Pte LEAHY alone charged the machine gun and throwing Mills bombs at it killed and wounded the enemy crew thus putting the gun out of action, whereupon our troops were able to continue their advance. Pte LEAHY'S extraordinary coolness and courage thus saved a critical situation and saved further casualties to our own troops. His action was in keeping with the highest traditions of bravery.[5]

The citation for Leahy's DCM appeared in the London Gazette on 18 July 1917. It was much less detailed:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. With absolute indifference to risk or danger he personally bombed and put out of action an enemy machine gun, thereby enabling our troops to continue their advance. This act of great courage saved a critical situation and averted serious casualties.[6]


Before joining the AIF, Leahy had been convicted at Culcairn for "ritous" [sic] behaviour.[4] Based on his service record, it seems such behaviour was almost routine with numerous military convictions recorded both before and after receiving his DCM:

Date Offence Punishment
8 February 1916 Drunkenness; An Act and Conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline 3 months FP No 2
28–30 July 1916 Absent Without Leave; Resisting a military escort 7 days FP No 2
3 days pay
5–8 October 1916 Absent Without Leave 96 hours detention
28 days pay
24 January 1917 Drunkenness; Striking a soldier 14 days FP No 2
5 August 1917 Drunkenness 14 days FP No 2
4–5 September 1917 Absent Without Leave 7 days FP No 2
22 January 1918 Unproperly dressed while in Bailleul; Absent Without Leave 14 days FP No 2
16 February 1918 Wilfully damaging property of a French civilian 14 days FP No 2

In total Pte Leahy was sentenced to over five months of Field Punishment No 2 (essentially heavy labour),[7] four days of detention and fined an additional 31 days of pay.[4]


Leahy was one of twenty members of the 19th Battalion who were listed as killed or missing in action during an attack on German lines near Framerville on 11 August 1918[8]—he was 25 years old. Pte Leahy is now buried in grave I.F.14 at the Heath Cemetery in Harbonnieres, France.[2]


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  1. 1.0 1.1 AIF Project Profile. Retrieved 2009-09-23.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Commonwealth War Graves Commission Profile. Retrieved 2009-09-18.
  3. Victorian Birth Certificate 1893/5703.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 First Australian Imperial Force Service Dossier.
  5. Australian War Memorial: Recommendation for Distinguished Conduct Medal. Retrieved 2009-09-18.
  6. Supplement to the London Gazette, 18 July 1917, Page 7271. Retrieved 2009-09-18.
  7. Australian War Memorial Encyclopedia: Field Punishment. Retrieved 2009-09-18.
  8. 19th Battalion War Diary. Retrieved 2009-09-23.

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