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John Leslie Hardie (1882–1956)

by R. Sutton

This article was published:

John Leslie Hardie (1882-1956), soldier, was born on 20 March 1882 at Ballarat, Victoria, eldest of the six children of native-born John Hardie, draper, and his English wife Anne, née Reddall. He attended Hawthorn College and then studied medicine at the University of Melbourne, but did not complete his course. In July 1903 he was commissioned lieutenant in the 6th Australian Infantry Regiment and in March 1908 was promoted captain.

Hardie developed a keen interest in the army and on 1 May 1909 was appointed a lieutenant on the Administrative and Instructional Staff of the Australian (permanent) Military Forces. He married Lena Elizabeth Wentworth at Holy Trinity Church, Kew, Melbourne, on 16 June 1910 and next year was promoted captain. In 1911-13 he was a general staff officer in Western Australia and South Australia and became deputy assistant adjutant general in South Australia from October 1914. He was promoted major in June 1916.

On 9 December Hardie was appointed to the Australian Imperial Force and embarked for France ten days later. As brigade major, 1st Australian Infantry Brigade, 1st Division, he served with distinction during the attack at Hermies and Demicourt on 9 April 1917 and during the defence of Lagnicourt a week later. He showed the same qualities of leadership during the 2nd battle of Bullecourt in May when his brigade dug a 1200-yard (1097 m) communication trench for the 2nd Division's attacking troops. The brigade then fought in this battle and in the subsequent German counter-attack. It also took part in the battle of Menin Road in September. For his ability and constant devotion to duty during these operations Hardie was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and after the Australian attack on Broodseinde Ridge in September-October was mentioned in dispatches.

On 1 April 1918 he was appointed D.A.A.G. on 1st Division Headquarters. A fortnight later the division halted a strong German attack between Armentières and Béthune. From May to July its battalions conducted demoralizing raids and small, set-piece attacks on the enemy and played a major part in the preliminary operations and the assault on the Hindenburg line in September. On 16 November Hardie was appointed assistant adjutant and quartermaster general with the temporary rank of lieutenant-colonel and in April 1919 embarked for Australia. For arranging the provision of ammunition during wartime operations and supplies to units after the Armistice he was appointed O.B.E. in June; next month, when his A.I.F. appointment ended, he was again mentioned in dispatches.

After demobilization Hardie resumed duty with the A.M.F. in South Australia, and in October 1920 was transferred to the Staff Corps. In 1921-31 he held senior staff appointments in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth and was promoted lieutenant-colonel in March 1923 and colonel in August 1930. In September 1931 he was appointed commandant in South Australia with the rank of brigadier and in June 1935 he became commandant in New South Wales. As the international situation deteriorated he encouraged service in the militia and school cadet units and, as president of the United Service Institution of New South Wales, also encouraged discussion on defence issues. He was promoted major general in July 1937. Next year, under his supervision, recruiting for the militia increased markedly.

On the outbreak of war in 1939 Hardie implemented arrangements for extended recruiting for militia units. Though due for retirement he served as inspector general in the Department of Defence Co-ordination in 1939-40 and inspector of administration at Army Headquarters in 1940. He retired with the honorary rank of major general on 20 March 1942. Hardie had been vice-president of, and an active worker for, the St John Ambulance Association and now became commandant general of the Corps of Commissionaires. Survived by his wife and son, he died with Parkinson's disease at the Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, Sydney, on 21 July 1956 and was privately cremated.

Hardie was a man of high professional and personal standards. Lieutenant-General Sydney Rowell describes him as 'a staff officer of rare ability'. His orders and instructions reveal his attention to detail and also a full understanding of matters of policy. A strict disciplinarian, he was held in awe by some young officers, yet he was a compassionate man. He had a high regard for the ordinary soldier, who affectionately nicknamed him 'Bull'.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F in France, 1917-18 (Syd, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • S. F. Rowell, Full Circle (Melb, 1974)
  • London Gazette, 25, 28 Dec 1917, 3 June, 11 July 1919
  • Bulletin (Sydney), 1 Aug 1956
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1, 7 June, 4, 17, 19 July, 10 Aug, 16 Oct 1935, 13 Jan 1936, 27 Nov 1937, 15, 16, 24 Aug, 29 Nov 1939, 25 July 1956
  • war diaries, Headquarters, 1st Division, and 1st Infantry Brigade, AIF (Australian War Memorial)
  • records, Dept of Veterans' Affairs, Canberra, and The United Service Institution of New South Wales and the University of Melbourne
  • private information.

Citation details

R. Sutton, 'Hardie, John Leslie (1882–1956)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 17 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


20 March, 1882
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia


21 July, 1956 (aged 74)
Concord, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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