Leslie Kenneth Garfield Browning, MC and Bar
When war broke out in August 1914 the Australian Naval and Military Expedition Force was hurriedly assembled and dispatched to New Guinea to seize control of the German colony. After limited resistance, the German forces surrendered and the expeditionary force returned to Australia leaving a small detachment to guard and administer the territory.
Leslie Browning was just eighteen when he resigned his position as a bank clerk and joined the Australian Expeditionary Force. Like many of those who had rushed to answer their country’s call, Browning applied almost immediately to enlist in the AIF on their return.
The sixth of nine children, Leslie Browning was keen to emulate his older brother Francis, who enlisted in the AIF in November 1915 and was assigned to the 7th Field Artillery Brigade where he won rapid promotion to sergeant within a year and was commissioned as Tri Lieutenant in 1917.
Leslie Browning’s attestation papers show that he was born in Tingha, a tiny village near Inverell on the New South Wales northern tablelands. His father, James Samuel Browning, was a pastoralist with extensive holdings in the area. When he retired the family moved to Rhodes where they lived in “Narooma” cottage (25 Llewellyn Street).
Like his brother, Leslie Browning showed early potential. He was marked out for officer training while serving in New Guinea and within a very short period, he rose through the ranks to be commissioned as an officer. His promotion to Lieutenant was confirmed in March 1917. A week later he led his platoon in an assault on an enemy position that earned him the Military Cross.
His citation read: “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, he led out a patrol, successfully engaged a strong party of the enemy and brought back valuable information. He set a fine example in his men.
In September 1917 Lieutenant Browning was wounded in a separate action and was evacuated to a hospital in England. He was again commended and a bar was added to his Military Cross (November 1917).
In 1915 Browning married his first wife, Margaret Caldwell Caird MacFarlane, in Glasgow. In 1926, Browning surprised his friends by marrying Almeida Isabelle Parker in Redwood City, California. Browning, who now lived in North America, had become a successful businessman in San Francisco and resident of British Columbia. Returning to Australia, Browning was married a third time to Lois Gwendoline Moran in 1945.
Browning served in World War II with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He died in November 1957 at his home in Elsternwick, Victoria.
(Note: Our Archivist, Andrew West, is currently researching all WW1 servicemen listed on the various monuments and honour boards. This is just one of the stories.)