Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Maygar, Leslie Cecil (1868–1917)

by Elyne Mitchell

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Leslie Cecil Maygar (1872-1917), by unknown photographer, c1903

Leslie Cecil Maygar (1872-1917), by unknown photographer, c1903

Australian War Memorial, P01285.001

Leslie Cecil Maygar (1868-1917), soldier and grazier, was born on 27 May 1868 at Dean station, Kilmore, Victoria, seventh child of Edwin Willis Maygar, grazier, and his wife Helen, née Grimshaw, both from Bristol, England. He was named Edgar Leslie Cecil Willis Walker Maygar. His father's family were originally political refugees from Hungary. Leslie was educated at Alexandra and Kilmore State schools and privately. He was nearly 6 ft (183 cm), 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 Middelburg, East Transvaal, then at Rhenoster Kop, Klippan, Kornfontein and Drivelfontein. 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 yards (183 m) 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 V.C. was presented by Lord Kitchener. Before returning home in March 1902 he was also mentioned in dispatches.

Resuming work as a grazier at Euroa, Maygar also served as a lieutenant in the 8th (later 16th) Light Horse, V.M.R., and was promoted captain in 1905. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force soon after World War I broke out, lowering his age by four years. On 20 August 1914 he 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 L.H.R., both rank of lieutenant-colonel and command being confirmed in December. During the evacuation of Gallipoli Maygar, left in command of forty men, was instructed to hold the trenches, at all costs, till 2.30 a.m. 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 L.H. Brigade'.

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 8th 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 J. R. Royston 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'. L. C. Maygar, 'Elsie' as he was affectionately known, was 'a true fighting commander'.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Defence Department, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, P. L. Murray ed (Melb, 1911)
  • H. S. Gullett, The A.I.F. in Sinai and Palestine (Syd, 1923)
  • L. Wigmore (ed), They Dared Mightily (Canb, 1963)
  • Reveille (Sydney), Feb 1968
  • war diaries, 4th and 8th Light Horse Regiment, AIF (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

Elyne Mitchell, 'Maygar, Leslie Cecil (1868–1917)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/maygar-leslie-cecil-7539/text13151, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 24 September 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2017

Leslie Cecil Maygar (1872-1917), by unknown photographer, c1903

Leslie Cecil Maygar (1872-1917), by unknown photographer, c1903

Australian War Memorial, P01285.001