In 1891 he was sent
to England for training at Royal Military Academy at Woolwich and the
Royal School of Gunnery at Shoeburyness. On his return in 1893, he
became Chief Instructor at the School of Gunnery at Middle Head.
Bridges volunteered for
service in South Africa in 1899, and from December 1899 to May 1900 he
served on secondment as a major of artillery with Major General John
French's cavalry division. He participated in the cavalry sweep to
relieve Kimberley that began on 13 February 1900 and the last major
battle of the war, the Battle of Paardeberg on 18 February 1900. In May
he was evacuated to England with typhoid, and then returned to Australia
in September 1900, where he resumed his duties as Chief Instructor at
South Mounted Infantry, New South Citizens' Bushmen's Contingent,
Imperial Bushmen's Contingent, New South Irish Rifles, New South
Corps of Engineers No 1 Field Company, New South Artillery;
Colonel the Honourable James Alexander Kenneth Mackay, Colonel
William Daniel Campbell, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Parke Airey,
Lieutenant Colonel M W Bayly (or Bayley), Colonel Sydenham
Campbell Urquhart Smith, Major John Hubert Plunkett Murray,
Lieutenant Colonel Guy Cunninghame Knight, Lieutenant Colonel
Thomas Samuel Parrott, Major William Throsby
Bridges, Lieutenant Colonel Percy Thomas Owen, Major (later
Major General) George Leonard Lee, Major (later Lieutenant
Colonel) A H P Savage, Captain (later Brigadier General) John
Macquarie Antill, Captain (later Lieutenant Colonel) James Gordon
Legge. Various n (Boer) war campaigns, relief of Mafeking, various
battles in Free State/River Colony,, etc, also previously members
of the New South Contingent, various Burmese campaigns, and later
First World War, Western Front
In 1903, Bridges moved to
headquarters in Melbourne as Assistant Quartermaster-General. He became
Chief of Military Intelligence in 1904 and then the first Chief of the
General Staff on 1 January 1909. His work in Melbourne was mostly
concerned with the new Universal Service Scheme, and with Imperial
Cooperation. He travelled to Europe for discussions with the Imperial
Committee on Defence. On 25 April 1909 he relinquished the post of CGS
and travelled to England to become the Australian representative on the
Imperial General Staff.
Bridges returned to
Australia in May 1910 to become the first Commandant of the Royal
Military College at Duntroon, with the rank of Brigadier General, the
first Australian to reach that rank. He personally chose the site, the
old Campbell homestead of "Duntroon", at the foot of Mount
Pleasant, surrounded by countryside that would one day become the new
capital city of Canberra. In line with the recommendations of Lord
Kitchener, Bridges modelled Duntroon on the US Military Academy at West
Point, rather than its counterparts in Europe, as Bridges felt that the
West Point model was far better adapted to the democratic native of
Australian society. The first class of 41 cadets, 31 from Australia and
10 from New Zealand, moved in and the college was officially opened on
27 June 1911.
In May 1914, Bridges was
appointed Inspector General, the Army's top post. He was in Queensland
when the war crisis began, but arrived in Melbourne on 5 August 1914.
Bridges met with cabinet and was charged with the creation of an
expeditionary force for overseas service of 20,000 men. Bridges
determined that the force -- which Bridges named the Australian Imperial
Force because of its dual Australian and Imperial mission -- should be
organised as an Infantry Division and a Light Horse Brigade, and should
be composed of men from all states.
Bridges was chosen to command the
1st Division, becoming the first Australian (and the first attendee of
Kingston) to be promoted to Major General, and the first to command a
Division. Bridges' service at the War Office came in handy here; the
British Army Council accepted his appointment without demur.
Bridges had a fairly free
hand to choose his own subordinates and his choices had far reaching
effects. He drew heavily on the few available staff college graduates
for his staff, choosing Majors C. B. B. White, D. J. Glasfurd and C. H.
Foott and Captains T. A. Blamey and J. Gellibrand. Colonel V. C. M.
Sellheim was his choice for his AA & QMG. For his brigade
commanders, he chose Lieutenant Colonel E. G. Sinclair MacLagan, a
British officer on exchange at Duntroon, whom he knew from his
experience there, Colonel J. W. McCay, with whom he had dealt while
McCay was Minister of Defence in 1904-5, and Lieutenant Colonel H. N.
MacLaurin. For his artillery commander, he chose Colonel J. J. T. Hobbs,
whom he had met in England in 1907, and for the light horse brigade,
Colonel H. G. Chauvel.
Bridges determined to
take a number of Duntroon graduates with him. The first class and second
classes were graduated early and, curiously, posted to regimental rather
than staff positions, where many of them were killed. Bridges believed
that cadets could learn best about the Army from serving in such
positions. Ironically, Bridges himself had never served in a regimental
position; his own career was entirely staff oriented.
GENERAL BRIDGES' FAVOURITE CHARGER-ONE IN 169,000.
The only one of the 169,000 horses that left Australia for WW1 war service to return was " Sandy," General Bridges'
He was brought back with his master's mortal remains and, after the funeral procession, turned out
A few years later, becoming blind and debilitated,
he was mercifully destroyed.
His head is mounted in a show
case originally displayed at the 1st Australian War Memorial Museum
in Sydney and later in Canberra at the AWM.
Having his troops
scattered around Australia made training difficult, and Bridges
protested the Prime Minister's September decision to delay sailing for a
month due to the activity of German warships. Bridges saw his command
together for the first time when it sailed from Albany, Western
Australia, on 26 October 1914. En route, the destination was changed
from England to Egypt at the instigation of Chauvel, and Bridges arrived
there on 30 November 1914.
Once in Egypt, Bridges
took steps to divest himself of the administrative side of his
responsibilities, creating an Australian Intermediate Base Depot under
Sellheim, with whom he had quarrelled.
His concentration on commanding
the 1st Division rather than on administering the AIF had many
unfortunate consequences, especially in the area of medical
administration. Bridges not only neglected Sellheim's command, starving
it of the officers he needed to staff it, he gave him no support
whatsoever in turf battles against the British, he used it as a dumping
ground for men he disliked.
Bridges landed at Anzac
Cove at around 7:30am on 25 April 1915 and immediately conducted a
two-hour reconnaissance before setting up his headquarters at a spot not
far from the beach chosen by the 1st Signal Company, who provided him
with telephone links to McCay and MacLagan. A furious day of battle
followed against the counterattacking Turks. Bridges was forced to
commit his units piecemeal as they arrived on the beach, in response to
one crisis after another.
Given that nowhere had
the day's objectives been achieved, there was practically no chance of
capturing them with the troops available, no substantial reinforcements
could be expected and a major Turkish counterattack was probable,
Bridges recommended a withdrawal to Hamilton. Considering a number of
factors, Hamilton ordered Bridges to hold his Anzac beachhead, which
Bridges and his men managed to do.
Bridges found the
situation at Anzac, particularly the ineffectiveness of his own arm, the
artillery, extremely frustrating, and he clashed with Hobbs over the
proper employment of the guns. This was made all the more galling when
the Turks managed to shell his headquarters on 6 May 1915, ultimately
forcing it to be moved from the beach to Headquarters Gully.
Bridges was not a men to
get the best out of his subordinates. He was known for kicking
stragglers and men found asleep at their
posts. He was disliked by most
of his staff. His aide de camp requested a transfer back to his
regiment. Bridges expected his Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General (DAQMG),
Major J. Gellibrand, to organise a proper officers' mess at Gallipoli
and was annoyed at the poor quality of what Gellibrand had scrounged
from ships' canteen supplies. Yet he did share the hardships of his men,
and made a point of daily excursions about the position on which he
routinely ignored enemy fire and constantly exposed himself to danger.
main track up Shrapnel Gully on the Gallipoli Peninsula, showing
traverses, built to provide cover from Turkish snipers. It was
near this site that 283 Major General William Throsby Bridges KCB
AIFHQ CMG, General Officer Commanding (GOC), 1st Australian
Division, was mortally wounded. Pope's Hill can be seen in the
On the morning of 15 May
1915, he was on such an excursion in Monash Valley when he was shot by a
sniper, severing his femoral artery. A stretcher bearer dragged him to
safety and he received medical attention from the medical officer of the
1st Battalion, Captain Clive Thompson. On 18 May 1915 he was evacuated
to hospital ship Gascon. Unfortunately, infection set in. Amputation of
his leg was considered out of the question as Bridges had lost a great
deal of blood. In those days before blood transfusion, little could be
done and he died on 18 May 1915.
Bridges was made a Knight
Companion of the Bath (KCB) by the King the day before he died, becoming
the first Australian general to earn a knighthood. His body was returned
to Australia, one of only two dead Australian soldiers to return home.
He was given a state funeral at St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne and
buried on 3 September 1915 on the slopes of Mount Pleasant, in a grave
designed by the architect of Canberra, Walter Burley Griffen.
Bridges legacy was
enormous. The effects of his creation of the AIF and his founding of
Duntroon would be felt for decades to come. An aloof man that many found
difficult to like, he nonetheless won widespread respect. Text