Topic: Lt Col George McLeod

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Signing up at 15 years of age to do his bit in the war effort, one of the first things the services insisted on was "teaching me how to smoke". Listen to him describe some of his journey in the Navy from England, Russia, New Zealand, the Islands and Japan .

Lt Col George McLeodThis article look wrong? Click here to see archived version.

You can hear the entire interview with Lt Col George McLeod by clicking here (22 minutes) or you can hear two shorter segments by clicking the links below.

George Joseph McLeod is London born (1926) and England raised until joining up for the war effort in 1941 at just 15 years of age. He joined the Royal Marines because “they were the only people accepting boy soldiers” at the time, and because “so many of my neighbours and friends had already been killed by 1941”.

For three months he trained on the Isle of Man out of the public eye. His training included learning how to smoke, because “it was good for us and our offsiders in times of stress”…”they insisted on it”. After three months  he was posted locally and developed a gunnery specialty before being posted to HMS Furious (pictured below centre) an aircraft carrier that was part of a protective convoy of ships to Russia. These ships came under aircraft assault by German planes based in Scandinavia as well as submarine attack.   During these trips McLeod was on gunnery duty. He recalls that once berthed at Russian ports they were not allowed ashore as the Russians didn’t trust them.  “We didn’t like the poor old merchantman blown up all around us…bodies in the water and we couldn’t… daren’t pick them up of we would have been picked off…” In his mind the runs from England to Russia became “quite frankly a bloody great blur” there were so many of them. This wasn’t helped by the winter days which gave only a few hours of light each day.

 While injured, off duty and “bored out of my mind”, McLeod took to reading all notices posted over the ship and came across a New Zealand Navy notice asking for volunteers. He immediately signed up but was added to the Burma draft before getting orders to transfer. After a bit of “kicking and screaming” he was put on a troop ship to Colombo, and then the HMNZS Gambia (pictured below left). Gambia conducted raids on Japanese occupied places such as Java and Sumatra until in 1944 it took some leave in New Zealand.

HMNZS Gambia

 Attached to the American 5th fleet the crew of Gambia were the first New Zealand troops to put foot on Japanese soil at the end of 1945.  McLeod was chosen to attend the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on board the USS Missouri (pictured below).

Post war McLeod stayed in the New Zealand Navy for another 4 years and saw The Gambia return to the Royal Navy.  Although deemed officer material for the Royal Navy, McLeod had “fallen for New Zealand and felt like a kiwi”. Around that time (1949) it was decided that the Royal Marines were no longer needed in New Zealand so McLeod joined the Auckland Regiment before joining the Hauraki Regiment.  McLeod eventually made his way up to becoming the commanding officer of the Hauraki Regiment before being posted to Auckland as Military Secretary of the New Zealand field force, after which he retired to the sunny Bay of Plenty.

In 2007 he was awarded the Queen's Service Medal. George McLeod passed away on May 15, 2012. An obituary can be read on the Daily Post (May 22, 2012).  Lt Col George McLeod was no stranger to the local media. You can read more about him in the following:

  • The H.M.S Gambia website (http://www.hmsgambia.com/hmnzsarticle.html)
  • Stuff- The Rotorua Review. 2005 April 5 Aiming for 50th on parade
  • Stuff- The Rotorua Review. 2005 April 27 The spirit of ANZAC
  • Stuff- The Rotorua Review 2006 April 20 A time to remember
  • The Daily Post  A003 2011 Nov 12 Armistice Day interest grows
  • The Daily Post A15 2008 April 24 Early risers to see jewel in day of remembrance ANZAC DAY
  • The Daily Post  A03 2008 April 15 McLeod's Anzac honour
  • The Daily Post A03  2008 April 26 McLeod: Youth turning to crime Anzac Day: Soldiers didn't fight for young people to become criminals, service told

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This article archived at Perma CC in Septmeber of 2016: https://perma.cc/PRG2-9ZUJ

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Lt Col George McLeod


Year:1926, c.1940, 1949, 2007, and 2012
Note:"... On I April 1966. Lieutenant Colonel George McLeod, a real estate agent, took over as Commanding Officer [ of the Hauraki Battalion]. Lieutenant Colonel McLeod had previously served with the Royal Marines (1941-49) and the Auckland Regiment (1951-54), before transferring to the Hauraki Regiment in 1955. Lieutenant Colonel McLeod is remembered for his flamboyant leadership and tactical acumen - and an enormous moustache. He brought a humorous approach to exercise planning and play, adopting such personas as the Duke of Hauraki, Chairman Mac, and Lt Col Mac Tse Dung. At the same time however, he was earnest about training hard: soon after assuming command he noted "it is my intention to treat the [next] three years on the basis that I shall be the last peace-time COP of this Battalion. All the Annual Camps through Lieutenant Colonel McLeod's tenure were brigade exercises, held around Waiouru. ... In addition to his command duties, Lieutenant Colonel McLeod was also heavily involved in a campaign to raise funds for new colours. ..." (From Comrades Brave)
First Names:George Joseph
Last Name:McLeod
Place of Birth:England