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Lieutenant (later Brigadier General DSO, VD) Leslie Maygar VC

MAYGAR, LESLIE CECIL (1872-1917), soldier and grazier, was born on 26 May 1871 or 1872 at Dean Station, Kilmore, Victoria, son of a grazier; both parents were from Bristol, England. His father's family were originally political refugees from Hungary. Leslie was educated at Alexandra and Kilmore State schools and privately. He was nearly 181 cm tall, and had brown hair and later a Kitchener moustache. He, his father and three brothers owned Strathearn station, Euroa. A very fine horseman, Maygar enlisted in the Victorian Mounted Rifles in March 1891.

At the start of the South African War he was not accepted among the first volunteers, owing to a decayed tooth, but went with the 5th (Mounted Rifles) Contingent, arriving in Cape Town in March 1901. For twelve months the contingent was constantly in action, north of Middleburg, East Transvaal, then at Rhenoster Kop, Klippan, Kornfontein and Drivelfontem. It was transferred to Natal in August. At Geelhoutboom, on 23 November, Lieutenant Maygar was awarded the Victoria Cross for rescuing a fellow Victorian whose horse had been shot. With the enemy only 200 metres away Maygar dismounted, put the man on his own horse, told him to gallop for the British lines, and ran back under heavy fire. His VC was presented by Lord Kitchener. Maygar stayed on in South Africa when his unit returned home in April 1902. By this point he had also been Mentioned in Dispatches. He joined another Australian unit Doyle’s Australian Scouts which was also staying on and served with them from 28 March 1902 until the end of the war on 31 May 1902.

Resuming work as a grazier at Euroa, Maygar also served as a lieutenant in the 8th (later 16th) Light Horse, VMR, and was promoted captain in 1905. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force soon after World War I broke out, on 20 August 1914 was appointed a captain in the 4th Light Horse Regiment and sailed for Egypt in October. On Gallipoli, with the dismounted light horse, he was promoted Major. On 17 October 1915 he was given temporary command of the 8th LH, both rank of Lieutenant Colonel and command being confirmed in December. During the evacuation of Gallipoli Maygar, left in command of 40 men, was instructed to hold the trenches, at all costs, till 0230 hrs He wrote: 'I had my usual good luck to be given command of the last party to pull out of the trenches, the post of honour for the 3rd LH Brigade'.  This was last party to hold the trenches and  Maygar was probably the last man to leave ANZAC Cove.

Maygar led his regiment throughout its service in Sinai and Palestine until his death and was a much-admired leader. During the 2nd battle of Gaza, on 19 April 1917, the 8nd was in a most exposed sector and suffering heavy casualties. Maygar rode about the battlefield all day on his grey charger and in every crisis stirred the spirit of his regiment by his example in the firing line. Sir Henry Gullett records that Maygar was 'always very bold in his personal leadership' and writes of 19 April: 'It was a day when true leaders recognised that their men needed inspiration, and Maygar gave it in the finest manner'. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in June 1917, and was thrice mentioned in dispatches in 1916-18. When Brigadier-General TR Royston [q.v.] was invalided home, Colonel Maygar acted as Brigadier-General in command of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade.

Late on the day of the battle of Beersheba, 31 October 1917, a German aeroplane, using bombs and machine-guns, hit Maygar whose arm was shattered. The grey bolted into the darkness and was found later by 8th Regiment troopers but Maygar was not with him. 'He was picked up during the night by other troops and, having lost too much blood, died the next day at Karm. LC Maygar, 'Elsie' as he was affectionately known, was a true fighting commander.  Lieutenant Colonel Leslie Cecil Maygar, VC, DSO, VD is buried in the Commonwealth War Cemetery, Beersheba.

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Source: Elyne Mitchell


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