MCLEOD, George

Service Number: 2008
Enlisted: 21 January 1916, Brisbane, Queensland
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 47th Infantry Battalion
Born: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 26 August 1888
Home Town: Torbanlea, Fraser Coast, Queensland
Schooling: Torbanlea State School, Queensland, Australia
Occupation: Miner
Died: Killed in Action, Belgium, 8 June 1917, aged 28 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Howard War Memorial, Menin Gate Memorial (Commonwealth Memorial to the Missing of the Ypres Salient), Shire of Howard Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

21 Jan 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 2008, 47th Infantry Battalion, Brisbane, Queensland
1 May 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2008, 47th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
1 May 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 2008, 47th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Clan McGillivray, Brisbane
8 Jun 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2008, 47th Infantry Battalion, Battle of Messines

Help us honour George McLeod's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.


Son of George McLeod & Mary Ann Mackenzie.

Biography contributed by Ian Lang

#2008 McLEOD George  47th Infantry Battalion


George McLeod was the son of George snr and Mary McLeod of Torbanlea. George was born at Torbanlea and attended school there. Like many young men born on the Burrum coalfields, George was employed as a miner.


George travelled to Brisbane where he enlisted on 21st February 1916. He stated his age as 27 years and six months and named his father of Torbanlea as his next of kin. George spent some time in a depot battalion at Enoggera before being allocated as part of the 3rd reinforcements of the 47th Infantry Battalion. The reinforcements boarded the “Clan McGillivray” in Brisbane on 1st May 1916 and sailed for the Suez Canal and Egypt.


The 47th Battalion had been raised in Egypt in February 1916. It was made up of three companies of men from Queensland and one company of Tasmanians. The officers and senior NCO’s were mainly men from the 15th Battalion which had been split to form the nucleus of two new battalions. By the time that George and the rest of the reinforcements  reached Egypt, the 47th Battalion had already departed for the western front. After a short stay in Egypt on garrison duty, the reinforcements proceeded to England where they went into camp at Rollestone not far from Stonehenge. George had a photograph taken with one of his mates, who is simply named Joe while in camp there.


The 47th Battalion, in its first serious engagement on the Western Front had had a pretty rough time in August and September 1916 suffering enormous casualties at Pozieres and Mouquet Farm. Leadership was poor and the battalion commander, Snowdon, was sacked. Desertion and periods of AWL became more frequent among the ordinary ranks. To build the battalion back up to fighting force, a new Commander was appointed and reinforcements that had been in the camps in England were sent to France. George was taken on strength by the 47th on 3rd October 1916.


The coming of winter to the European battlefields virtually closed down the front until spring. The armies of both sides were exposed to the cold during the coldest winter in almost 40 years. The armies of both sides were more concerned with keeping their troops supplied with warm clothing and food than they were with continuing hostilities. The 47th spent most of the winter on the Somme, rotating in and out of the line with occasional respite in billets behind the lines.


Unbeknown to the British, the Germans had used the winter to construct a defensive position to the east of their 1916 front that would allow for a greater defensive capability. The Germans began a tactical withdrawal to the line which the Germans called the Seigfreid Line, and the British called the Hindenburg Line, in the spring of 1917. The British forces followed the withdrawal cautiously until they came up upon the several lines of trenches defended with barbed wire belts up to 25 metres thick and machine gun posts with overlapping fields of fire.


British command wanted to take on the Hindenburg Line and the 47th Battalion, as part of the 12th Infantry Brigade was tasked with mounting an attack at Bullecourt on 11th April 1917. The standard of planning was on a similar piecemeal standard to that which had prevailed on the Somme the year before. Banking more on hope than good sense, the general in charge opted to use untried tanks to spearhead the attack instead of the usual artillery barrage. The Australians lay out in the snow waiting for the tanks to roll up prior to zero hour. All the tanks got lost or broke down so the attack was called off for 24 hours. The next day, with the same plan, the same thing happened and the infantry was sent out across the open ground without any support; and enormous casualties again ensued. The official historian described the plan to attack at Bullecourt about as likely to succeed as a plan to capture the moon.


The 47th had been seriously roughed up at Pozieres, Mouquet Farm and then Bullecourt with a period of eight months. The Battalion commander was seriously wounded at Bullecourt and he was replaced with a tough disciplinarian, Lt Colonel Imlay. The entire 12th Brigade was shifted to the rear areas behind the Belgian city of Ypres where they were to prepare for the next stunt.


Compared to the blundering of command on the Somme, the British General Plumer had planned his coming series of battles, using a tactic he called bite and hold, with great care. For the opening of the campaign in Flanders, Plumer had planned to use three and a half million artillery shells. Tunnels had been dug under the German positions on Messines Ridge and 19 explosive charges placed under the enemy. At 3:20 am on 7th June 1917, the mines were fired, creating what was until then the largest man made explosion in history. The effects could be heard as far away as England. After the firing of the mines, the infantry rose up from the jumping off tapes and walked under the cover of an artillery barrage towards the summit of the ridge and beyond. The 12th brigade of the 4th Division which included the 47th were at the front of the advance.


The situation at Messines became hard to control due to problems with communication between headquarters and frontline companies and the 47th was caught under an artillery barrage from their own side. Things did not settle down for the battalion until a few days later when they were withdrawn from the fight. At the battalion roll call, almost 400 men failed to answer their name; killed, wounded or missing. Among the casualties was George McLeod listed as killed in action. He may have been buried by either his mates or other troops following the 47th’s advance but by the time the battlefield was able to be searched for isolated burials, all trace of George was lost.


George’s name was added to the 54,000 names of British and Dominion troops on the tablets of the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres who lost their lives in Flanders and have no known grave. To honour the sacrifice of these men, the town folk of Ypres conduct a commemoration under the arches of the Menin Gate each evening; with the laying of wreaths, the recitation of the ode and playing of the last post.