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Braund, George Frederick (1866–1915)

by Darryl McIntyre

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

George Frederick Braund (1866-1915), by unknown photographer, 1916

George Frederick Braund (1866-1915), by unknown photographer, 1916

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 18330

George Frederick Braund (1866-1915), merchant, politician and soldier, was born on 13 July 1866 at Bideford, Devonshire, England, eldest son of Frederick Braund, draper, and his wife Ellen, née Doidge. He was educated at Bideford Grammar School and, when 15, migrated to New South Wales with his parents and their nine other children. He worked in Sydney at the York Street warehouse of (A.) McArthur & Co. until 1889 when his father bought out J. Moore & Co., general merchants of Armidale. From then until his father's death in 1899 he was accountant in the family business; he then became manager. As a young man Braund was a talented all-round sportsman, excelling at boxing, fencing and Rugby; he was also an active member of local literary and drama groups. On 30 January 1895 he married Lalla Robina Blythe at St Matthew's Anglican Church, Drayton, Queensland.

In May 1893 Braund had been commissioned second lieutenant in the Armidale company, 4th Australian Infantry Regiment. He was promoted lieutenant in 1898, captain in 1899 and major in 1912, and was company commander in 1899-1912. He took a continuing interest in local affairs and by World War I was 'Armidale's most prominent citizen'. A magistrate, he was also for many years president of the Armidale Chamber of Commerce, a member of the public school board, and a director of the New England Building Society and of various local business concerns. In 1910 the Liberal Party invited him to contest the Federal seat of New England; he declined because of family commitments but in 1913 became Liberal member for Armidale in the Legislative Assembly.

That year Braund was promoted lieutenant-colonel, and from July 1914 commanded the 13th Infantry Regiment. On the formation of the Australian Imperial Force he was appointed by Colonel H. N. MacLaurin to raise and train the 2nd Battalion and on 17 August became its commanding officer. The unit embarked for Egypt two months later. Braund trained his officers and men with extreme thoroughness and, largely by his own example, exacted a high standard of discipline. He was a convinced theosophist; self-discipline was part of his creed; he was a teetotaller, a non-smoker and a vegetarian and was almost obsessive about physical fitness. He was short in stature, alert, active and of a lively disposition. He probably commanded respect, rather than affection, from his troops. Once on Gallipoli, however, all appreciated his insistence on fitness, discipline and mental alertness.

On the morning of 25 April 1915 the 2nd Battalion landed at Gallipoli and two of its companies were at once assigned to the 3rd Brigade, already engaged in fierce fighting at The Nek. 'B' and 'C' Companies were held in reserve until 1.30 p.m. when, under a harassing fire, Braund led them up steep goat-tracks to the junction of Walker's Ridge and Russell's Top. There, in a vital but isolated position, they dug in and held on for two days against a sustained Turkish attack. Casualties were high and only Braund's tenacious leadership held his seriously weakened force together. On 27 April, when reinforcements from Lieutenant-Colonel W. G. Malone's Wellington Battalion reached him, he led the combined force in a steady bayonet charge through the scrub to the crest of Russell's Top. Forced to withdraw before a strong enemy counter-attack, his men resumed their original positions and retained them until the morning of the 28th; by then Braund's exhausted battalion had withstood the main Turkish advance for three days and nights without rest. They withdrew to the beach, leaving Malone's men in control of the sector.

Malone kept a diary in which he was critical of Braund's command. His comments seem unjustified; far from voicing any criticism of Braund, his own men paid tribute to his courage and gallantry. Charles Bean judged that he had shown 'every quality of a really great leader'. On 2 May 1915 Braund was ordered from the beach, where his battalion was held in reserve, to Victoria Gully. After midnight on 3-4 May he was asked to send part of his unit to reinforce the 3rd Battalion in the line. After dispatching 'C' Company he set out for brigade headquarters and instead of using the normal track took a short cut through the scrub. Slightly deaf, Braund failed to hear a challenge from a sentry, who shot him. He was buried in Beach cemetery, Gallipoli, and was survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter. He was mentioned in dispatches posthumously. Braund was the first Australian legislator to enlist for World War I and the second to die in battle.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac (Syd, 1921)
  • C. F. Aspinall-Oglander, Military Operations: Gallipoli (Lond, 1929)
  • F. W. Taylor and T. A. Cusack, Nulli Secundus, a History of the Second Battalion A.I.F., 1914-19 (Syd, 1942)
  • London Gazette, 3 Aug 1915
  • Reveille (Sydney), Oct 1931, Aug 1932, Oct 1933, Feb, Apr 1935
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 13 May 1915
  • Armidale Chronicle, 15 May 1915
  • war diaries, 2nd Battalion and 1st Division, A.I.F. (Australian War Memorial).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Darryl McIntyre, 'Braund, George Frederick (1866–1915)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/braund-george-frederick-5340/text9027, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 29 July 2016.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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