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Leon Verdi GOLDSWORTHY, GC, DSC, GM

No. & Rank at the Time of Action: Temporary Lieutenant

Unit/Occupation: Royal Australian Navy Volunteer Reserve, attached to HMS Vernon, Royal Naval base, Portsmouth (Mine Clearance Specialist)

Date and Place of Birth: 19th January 1909, Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia

Family: The son of Alfred Thomas Goldsworthy and Eva Jane Riggs. Husband of Mrs Maude Goldsworthy after her death remarried Georgette (nee Johnston).

Early Life: Leon Verdi Goldsworthy obtained his secondary education at Kapunda High School, South Australia, then went on to the Adelaide School of Mines and the University of Adelaide. After graduating he moved to Western Australia where he went into the electrical sign business. He married Maud E. Rutherford on 4th November 1939, they had one child, a daughter Pamela.

At the outbreak of World War II, he applied to enlist in the Royal Australian Navy but was rejected due to his small stature. Later he was asked to reapply and on 24th March 1941 enlisted in Femantle and was appointed into the Royal Australian Navy Volunteer Reserve with the rank of Sub-Lieutenant. He arrived in England about two months later where he became a member of the Rendering Mines Safe Section of HMS Vernon, joining other Australian RANVR members on mine defusing duties. Some of the other Australians at HMS Vernon (The mines school) were Lt George Gosse, GC, RANVR, Lt George John Mould, GC, RANVR, and Lt Hugh Syme, GC, GM & Bar, RANVR.

Date and Place of GC Action: 12th June 1943 - 10th April 1944, UK Mine disposal

London Gazette: 19th September 1944

Citation: "The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the GEORGE CROSS to:-

Temporary Lieutenant Leon Verdi Goldsworthy, GM, RANVR.

for great gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty."

The citation is very short and only covers the period of time (10 months) of this officer's service in mine delousing, although there were many exploits undertaken by this officer.

Account of Deed: Lieutenant Goldsworthy was an expert in mine disposal and was awarded the George Cross for skill and courage of a high order during a series of underwater mine recoveries extending from 12th June 1943 to 10th April 1944. These included four German ground mines, three magnetic mines and one acoustic mine. On one of these occasions (13th August 1943) he made safe a German ground mine off Sheerness. It was only the second time that such a weapon had been rendered safe under water, and it was regarded as a particularly hazardous assignment for the diver, who had no means of escape should the fuse operate. Again, on 10th April 1944, Lieutenant Goldsworthy dealt with an especially dangerous acoustic mine near Milford Haven, successfully extracting the fuse and primer and later removing the whole mine intact.

Remarks: Late in 1944 Goldsworthy, along with another mine disposals specialist, was transferred to the Pacific theatre for a tour of duty with the US Navy's Mobile Explosive Investigation Unit, which involved an entirely new standard of training and identification as the Japanese weapons bore no resemblance to those of the Germans. His work involved neutralising of Japanese mines and booby traps following the American Invasion of the Philippines and similar tasks in support of the various Australian landings in the Borneo area.

While he was on his way back to London the war ended, and he was presented with his George Cross and Distinguished Service Cross by King George VI in February 1946.

He retired from the RAN with the rank of acting Lieutenant Commander, and was Australia's most highly decorated naval officer of the Second World War. After the war Lt Goldsworthy returned to civilian life as a factory manager of an electric sign business.

Additional Information: Goldsworthy's many gallantry awards were announced in the London Gazette as follows:

T/Lt. L.V. Goldsworthy RANVR G.M. HMS Vernon for Mine Disposal UK Aug - Oct 1943 (LG 18.4.44, p.1775) Presented 25(3?).5.44. Citation: For Gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty.

T/Lt. L.V. Goldsworthy RANVR M.i.D. HMS Vernon for Mine Disposal Channel 21 Apr 44 (LG 15.8.44).Citation: For Distinguished Services

T/Lt. L.V. Goldsworthy RANVR G.C. HMS Vernon for Mine Recovery UK Jun 43 - Apr 44 (LG 19.9.44) Presented 26.2.46.

T/Lt. L.V. Goldsworthy RANVR D.S.C HMS Vernon for Mine Disposal Seine Bay, Cherbourg 1944 (LG 16.1.45 p.419) Presented 26.2.46. Citation: For gallant and distinguished services in the work of mine clearance in the face of the enemy.

His extraordinary military career began in 1941 when he joined the Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve. Over the next three years in England he defused German acoustic mines in a number of British harbours. His operational territory prior to the invasion of Europe stretching from Portsmouth to Bexhill. He had some initial advantage as a result of his studies in engineering at the Adelaide School of Mines and Adelaide University with an emphasis in electricity and physics, which gave him a valuable basic insight into the intricacies of German mines and booby traps. His nickname of 'Ficky' was a derivative of his reputation as 'Mr. Fixit'.

His first decoration, the George Medal was awarded for 'gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty in rendering enemy mines safe, on two separate occasions.' The first was the removal of a two year-old German parachute mine from the Coal Barge Wharf at Southampton on 17th September 1943 in conjunction with another Australian, C.J. CLIFF. A similar exercise was carried out in the River Thames at Tate & Lyle's Wharf, Silvertown, London, on 7th October 1943. The second decoration, the MiD, was awarded for a series of mine defusing over a period of time. Goldsworthy's DSC was awarded for stripping and defusing a German "K" mine in 50 feet of water in Cherbourg Harbour just before the end of the war.

Goldsworthy ended the war as the acknowledged underwater mine disposal expert in Europe, having defused over one hundred mines or bombs in European waters and about thirty in the Pacific. He is one of only eight people ever to have been awarded both the George Cross and the George Medal and succeeded Lt Hugh Randall Syme as the most highly decorated member of the RAN. He was discharged from the RAN on 24th May 1946, his final posting being on HMAS Leeuwin.

Following his wife Maude's death, Leon remarried Georgette Johnston in 1968. He became the Production Manager of Neon Signs (W.A.) Pty Ltd, Perth in 1963. He enjoyed golf and was a member of the Commercial Travellers Club in Perth.

Final Rank: Lieutenant-Commander

Other Decorations/Medals: GC, GM, DSC, MiD

GC Location/Sale History:

Date and Place of Death: 7th August 1994, Perth, Western Australia; Aged 85.

Cause of Death:

Burial/Cremation:

Obituary: (The Times, 10th August, 1994; p15)

Lieutenant-Commander Leon GOLDSWORTHY, GC, DSC, GM, died on August 7 in South Perth, West Australia, aged 85. He was born at Broken Hill, New South Wales. on January 19. 1909.

Leon Goldsworthy won the George Cross for the skill and courage he displayed during a series of mine recovery operations in Britain between June 1943 and April 1944. His efforts led to the recovery of four German ground mines, three magnetic mines and one acoustic mine. Having already been awarded the George Medal and going on to receive the DSC, he became Australia's most highly decorated naval officer of the Second World War.

Leon Verdi Goldsworthy obtained his secondary education at Kapunda High School, South Australia, then went on to the Adelaide School of Mines and the University of Adelaide. When the war began he was in business in Western Australia. He married just two months after the war started.

Physically, Goldsworthy was small and light, but he had a tough and wiry body which had been strengthened by wrestling and gymnastics. He tried to enlist in the Royal Australian Navy, but his small stature caused him to be rejected initially. Later he was asked by the Navy to reapply. This he did, and in March 1941 he was appointed to the RANVR with the rank of sub-lieutenant. About two months later he arrived in England, and ultimately became a member of the Rendering Mines Safe Section of HMS Vernon.

Goldsworthy had already received training in electricity and physics in his civilian days. This was valuable to him in his new career among the complicated mechanisms of German mines and booby-traps, in a maze of known and unknown dangers that seldom gave second chances.

His first decoration, the George Medal, was gained on September 17, 1943, for the removal of a mine from the coal barge wharf at Southampton, where it had lain for over two years. He worked in the operation with Lieutenant-Commander G. J. Cliff. GM (Bar), MBE: and only three weeks later carried out a similar operation in the River Thames together with Sub-Lieutenant K. J. Birkett. On August 13, 1943, he had made safe a German ground mine under water off Sheerness. On that occasion he used the special diving suit which a colleague had helped to develop. It was only the second occasion on which such a weapon had been rendered safe under water, and the work was regarded as being particularly hazardous, for the diver had no means of escape should the fuse operate.

Goldsworthy dealt on April 10, 1944, with an especially dangerous acoustic-type mine near Milford Haven. The mine had been laid two and a half years earlier. Again using the special diving suit, Goldsworthy successfully removed the fuse and primer, and later removed the mine intact. Other incidents underlying Goldsworthy's George Cross award included rendering safe a mine near Weymouth on June 12, 1943, and another at West Hartlepool on an unspecified date. Goldsworthy was mentioned in dispatches in August 1944 for "great courage and undaunted devotion to duty", and the following month he received the George Cross - a decoration second only to the Victoria Cross and awarded for gallantry, primarily to civilians but also to the fighting services for actions where purely military honours would not be appropriate.

A Distinguished Service Cross was awarded to Goldsworthy in January 1945, for "gallantry and distinguished service in mine clearance". This was for stripping, in 50 ft of water at Cherbourg, the first German "K" Type mine, when the harbour was being hurriedly cleared for Allied use during the invasion of Europe. .

Late in 1944 Goldsworthy, with another disposal specialist, visited the South Pacific theatre for a tour of duty with the United States Navy. This involved work on Japanese mines and booby-traps during General MacArthur's invasion of the Philippines. He performed similar tasks in connection with the landings in the Borneo area. He was on his way back to London when the war ended, and in February 1946 the insignia of his GC and DSC were presented to him by King George VI at Buckingham Palace. At an earlier investiture, on May 23, 1944, he had received the George Medal from the King.

After the war Goldsworthy returned to Perth and became factory manager of an electric sign business. Since 1991 he had been vice-chairman (overseas) of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association. He is survived by his wife Georgie and a daughter.

Memorials: His portrait hangs in the War Memorial in Canberra. A postage stamp portraying Lt Cdr Goldsworthy was issued by Australia Post on the 10th August 1995. This was one of four stamps issued as a set entitled ¬ĎAustralia Remembers¬í.

GC Memorial CanberraSource: Michael Southwell-Keely

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