Leonard GURNER

GURNER, Leonard

Service Numbers: 8781, Commissioned Officer
Enlisted: 1 October 1915, 14th Reinforcements
Last Rank: Lieutenant
Last Unit: 60th Infantry Battalion
Born: Norwood, Adelaide South Australia, 16 July 1894
Home Town: Hazelwood Park (Knightsbridge), South Australia
Schooling: Prince Alfred College
Occupation: Clerk
Died: Killed In Action, Morlancourt, Valle de Somme, France, 14 July 1918, aged 23 years
Cemetery: Beacon Cemetery, Sailly-Laurette
Plot IV, Row I, Grave 7 Headstone Inscription "UNTIL THE DAY BREAK AND THE SHADOWS FLEE AWAY"
Memorials: Burnside District Fallen Soldiers' Memorial - Rose Park, Adelaide National War Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Burnside & District - Fallen Soldiers Memorial Trees - Rose Park, Hazelwood Park (Knightsbridge) War Memorial, Kent Town Prince Alfred College 'Nobly Striving, Nobly Fell' Roll of Honour, Leabrook Knightsbridge Baptist Church Gurner Memorial Stained Glass Window, Tusmore Burnside District Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

1 Oct 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 8781, 3rd Field Ambulance, 14th Reinforcements
10 Feb 1916: Involvement Private, 8781, 3rd Field Ambulance
10 Feb 1916: Embarked Private, 8781, 3rd Field Ambulance, HMAT Warilda, Adelaide
19 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 8781, 15th Field Ambulance, Fromelles (Fleurbaix)
1 Jul 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private
31 Oct 1917: Promoted AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, 60th Infantry Battalion, Joined unit in France
1 Feb 1918: Promoted AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 60th Infantry Battalion
25 Mar 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Lieutenant, Commissioned Officer, 60th Infantry Battalion, German Spring Offensive 1918
14 Jul 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Lieutenant, Commissioned Officer, 60th Infantry Battalion, "Peaceful Penetration - Low-Cost, High-Gain Tactics on the Western Front"

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Biography contributed by Steve Larkins

Leonard Gurner (1892-1918)

Leornard Gurner was born in the Adelaide suburb of Norwood in 1892 to parents Walter and Hannah GURNER, of Tusmore Avenue, Marryatville, South Australia.  His father Walter was a lawyer based at Ware Chambers in King WIlliam Street Adelaide.

Like his parents, he became a parishioner of the nearby Knightsbridge (now Hazelwood Park) Methodist Church.  He worked as a clerk after completing school. He served in the 79th Battalion of the miitia for 12 months before transferring to the 3rd Australian Medical Corps (presumably a field ambulance or similar).

When war broke out he enlisted in the AIF and was allocated to the 3rd Field Ambulance.  He embarked in early 1916.  On arrival in Egypt he was transferred to the 15th Field Ambulance, shich supported the Victorian 15th Brigade, as part of the 'doubling of the AIF'.

He served through 1916 on the Western Front; the 15th Brigade was grievously affected by losses at Fromelles and with noting in his record to suggest to the contrary Leonard persumably was confronted by the aftermath with the Brigade effectively rendered non-effective by casualties.

The 5th Division of which the 15th Brigade was part, did not see service on the front line again until it had reinforced and re-trainned just in time for Bullecourt in May 1917.

At about this time Leonard was identifed for Officer Training and was duly detached to the 7th Officer Training Battalion at Oxford in the UK.  He was commissioned at the end of October 1917, returning to the 15th Brigade and ultimately to the 60th Infantry Battalion. 

The 5th Division was next engaged in holding back the German Spring Offensive.  Leonard was lightly wounded remaining on duty, on the 25th March 1918; the day the offensive broke across the Brtish and Commonwelath Front.   The 15th Brigade commanded by its ebullient Commander Brogadier Pomepy Elliot played a key role in the famous counter attack at Villers Bretonneux.  At that stage Leonard was returning from hospital as a result of his wounds received in late March.

After the offensive was halted, and the Front Line stabilised,  the AIF then engaged in a period  nown as 'Peaceful Penetration' conducting increasingly ambitious raids on the German Front Line which ultimately had the effect of advancing the Front Line some 3km over the next three months.  It was during this phase that Leonard was killed near Molancourt where the 5th Division was ocupying ground on the stretch of ground between the SOmme and the River Ancre.  He was buried in nearby Beacon cemetery.

Leonard was not to see the Allies launching their great offensive that would end the war 100 days later.

Leonard is commemorated in a number of local memorials in his hometown of Knightsbridge (how Hazelwood Park) and adjacent suburbs.   


Compiled by Steve Larkins  March 2020