Sir Leslie Orme Wilson, GCSI, GCMG, GCIE, DSO, PC (1/8/1876 – 29/9/1955) (in 1931, NPG)
Served his country as a Royal Marines officer through WW1 and as the Conservative MP for Reading (1913-1922).
1933, Privy Councillor, with his wife Winifred
1939, The opening of Parliament, Queensland
Wilson was the son of Henry Wilson, a stockbroker, and his wife Ada Alexandrina (née Orme). He was educated at St Michael’s School, Westgate, and St Paul’s School, London.
Wilson married Winifred May, daughter of Charles Smith, of Sydney, Australia, in 1909. They lived at the Manor House at Waltham St Lawrence in Berkshire. They had three children.
On his retirement as Governor of Queensland, Wilson and his wife Winifred returned to live in Surrey. However, visitng Queensland on a number of occasions, including for the marriage of their son Peter.
Wilson died after being hit by a truck while walking close to his home on 29th September 1955, aged 79.
Wilson was commissioned into the Royal Marine Light Infantry in 1895, lieutenant in 1896 and captain in 1901. He served in the Second Boer War, (1899-1901) where he was wounded, mentioned in despatches and awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with five clasps and the Distinguished Service Order. In 1901 he achieved the rank of captain. In 1900 he served aboard HMS Monarch off South Africa.
From 1903 to 1909, Wilson served as aide-de-camp to the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Harry Rawson.
During the First World War Lieutenant Colonel Leslie Wilson commanded the Hawke Battalion, Royal Marines in the Royal Naval Division. In May 1915 they landed at Gallipoli, where he was again mentioned in despatches. On 2 December 1915, Wilson was carrying dispatches on the Greek ship Spetzia when officers from a German submarine boarded the ship and captured him and another officer, Colonel Napier. They were later released. In January 1916 he led his Brigade in the evacuation of Gallipoli then on to 4 months re-building from terrible losses and re-arming in Greece, before being sent to France in May 1916, straight into the Battle of the Somme. In November 1916 he was severely wounded whilst storming an enemy trench at Ancre, the last great battle of the Somme and repatriated.
In late 1918 he became parliamentary assistant secretary in the war cabinet, in 1919 chairman of the National Maritime Board, and in 1921 parliamentary secretary to the treasury and chief Unionist whip. Having won South Portsmouth at a by-election, he was sworn to the Privy Council in 1922 and served as chief government whip. In 1923 he was appointed governor of Bombay, In 1928 he completed his office and in 1929 was appointed G.C.S.I.
On 13 June 1932 Wilson was sworn in as governor of Queensland. He was particularly interested in the welfare and progress of North Queensland. Closely associated with organizations like the Australian Institute of International Affairs and the Kennel Association of Queensland, he was the driving force behind the Bush Children’s Health Scheme. In 1935 the University of Queensland awarded him an honorary LL.D. and in 1937 he was appointed G.C.M.G.. In all, he served an exceptional fourteen years as governor. Wilson had natural presence. His affable nature, keen interest in sport and the unflagging support he and Lady Wilson gave to organizations and service functions during the war years were warmly regarded by Queenslanders. Wilson left office on 11 April 1946 and retired to England,
Wilson was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in 1916, a Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (G.C.I.E.) n 1923, a Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India (G.C.S.I.) in 1929 and a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (G.C.M.G.) in 1937.
Leslie Wilson was a close friend to the Simonds family. He was best man to Eric Simonds in 1909 and godfather to my father Duncan Simonds in 1917. They all maintained close contact throught WW1 and through his periods of service as Governor for first Bombay and later Queensland. During WW1, Lieutenant Colonel Leslie Wilson D.S.O., M.P. served almost the whole of the ghastly Gallipoli campaign as Officer Commanding the Hawke Batallion of the RN, from landing in May to retreat & evacuation in December 1915. His harrowing letters relate their awful conditions under constant Turkish shell fire, the mounting casualty rate that eventually reach 100%, sickness and shortages of everything including ammunition & shells. He too succumbed to sickness and spent 2 months invalided to Egypt.
Following evacuation, the remnants of his Brigade spent 4 months being rebuilt and trained in Greece before being shipped to France in May 1916, where his Battalion spent 6 months fighting in the trenches at the Battle of the Somme,. At Ancres, the last of the big British attacks of the Battle of the Somme on November 11th 1916, he was shot through the left lung at close range whilst leading an attack on enemy trenches. Lucky to survive, he was shipped back to the UK for treatment after which he did not return to the front line. His letters are arranged below in sequential order and in geographical sections. Very few of his letters from Bombay or Queensland have survived.