ART00100 Bell, George, Brigadier General Raymond Leane (1919), oil on canvas, 61.4 x 51.2 cm, AWM copyright
Raymond Lionel Leane was born at Prospect, South Australia, on 12 July 1878, the son of a shoemaker. He was educated at North Adelaide Public School until age 12, when he went to work for a retail and wholesale business, which sent him to Albany, Western Australia. He moved to Claremont where he was elected to the local council.
Leane was commissioned as a lieutenant in the 11th (Perth Rifles) Infantry in 1905. In 1908, he bought a retail business in Kalgoolie and transferred to the Goldfields Infantry Regiment there. He was promoted to captain on 21 November 1910.
On 25 August 1914, Leane was joined the AIF as a company commander in the 11th Infantry Battalion, with the rank of captain.Four of his brothers also served in the Great War, as did nine nephews. The Leanes became one of the nation's most distinguished fighting families. Leane's eldest brother Colonel Edwin Thomas, a veteran of the Boer War, became Director of Ordnance of AIF Headquarters. The second, Warrant Officer Ernest Albert Leane, served with the 27th Infantry Battalion. The third, Lieutenant Colonel Allan William Leane, commanded the 28th Infantry Battalion and was killed at Delville Wood on 4 January 1917. The youngest brother, Major Benjamin Bennett Leane served as second in command of the 48th Infantry Battalion and was killed at Bullecourt on 10 April 1917.
Leane was one of the first men ashore at Anzac, shortly after dawn on 25 April 1915, his company climbing Ari Burnu to Plugge's Plateau.
On 4 May 1915, Leane was tapped to head a hazardous attempt to capture Gaba Tepe fort, a prominent position just south of the Anzac perimeter.Landing from boats on the beach at the foot of Gaba Tepe, the force of over 110 men of the 11th Infantry Battalion and 3rd Field Company. The force was promptly pinned down on the beach by heavy fire. Leane signalled the Navy to remove his wounded from the beach, which they did with a steamboat towing a rowboat. Having determined that the withdrawal along the beach was impossible owing to belts of barbed wire, Leane then signalled the Royal Navy to remove the rest of his party. The Navy sent two picket boats towing two ships' boats. Destroyers laid down covering fire, but while the Turks had held their fire for the wounded, they laid down tremendous fire one the withdrawing raiders. Many men were hit, including Leane, who was hit in the hand. The raid was a failure but Leane's leadership, courage and coolness under fire had impressed many and he was awarded the Military Cross.
Leane was slightly wounded on 28 June 1915 during the 11th Infantry Battalion's attack on Bolton's Ridge. During the attack on the enemy position that became known as Leane's Trench on 31 July 1915, Leane was again wounded. During the bombardment that followed the successful attack, he was speaking to an observer, when an enemy shell struck. The observer was decapitated and Leane was wounded in the head, but remained at his post. He was promoted to temporary major on 5 August, and commanded the 11th Infantry Battalion from 11 September. He was promoted to temporary lieutenant colonel on 8 October. Leane remained at Gallipoli until the evacuation in December. He was twice mentioned in dispatches and earned the nickname "Bull".
Back in Egypt, Leane was promoted to the substantive rank of major on 26 February 1916 and appointed commander of the newly formed 48th Infantry Battalion. He was promoted to substantive lieutenant colonel on 12 March 1916. Like Leane himself, the 48th was both South Australian and Western Australian. Serving in the battalion were a number of Leane's relatives, including his brother, Major Benjamin Bennett Leane, as his adjutant, three of his nephews (Allan Edwin, Reuben Ernest and Geoffrey Paul Leane), and several other relatives. The 48th became known throughout the AIF as the Joan of Arc Battalion because it was "made of all Leanes" (Maid of Orleans).
The 48th Battalion moved to France in June 1916, and was committed to the line at Pozieres on the night of 5-6 August. Leane immediately reconnoitred the position with his company commanders, during which they were pinned down by a German barrage and two of them put out of action. The experience did impress upon Leane that this was no ordinary barrage that they were facing. Ordered by his brigade commander, Brigadier General D. J. Glasfurd, to place two companies north of Pozieres, Leane realised that this would overcrowd the area and result in needless casualties. Glasfurd then gave Leane written orders to the effect, which Leane chose to disobey. The two men were never again on good terms, but Leane's decision was fully justified. After a furious German bombardment of an intensity they never before or later experienced, the 48th met and turned back a full scale German counterattack. In just one day and two nights of battle, the 48th lost 598 men.
Leane's brother, Major B. B. Leane, was killed at Bullecourt on 10 April 1917 and his nephew, Captain A. E. Leane, died of wounds received there on 2 May 1917. The battalion suffered heavily in the failed attack, losing 436 men, but was back in action at Messines in June and Polygon Wood in September. Leane himself was wounded at Passchendaele on 12 October 1917. He was evacuated and did not return until January 1918. When he did, he found that his brigade had a new commander, Brigadier General J. Gellibrand, who felt that his predecessor, Brigadier General J. C. Robertson, had let Leane do as he liked.
Leane won this battle. On 19 April 1918, Leane, as senior battalion commander in the brigade, became acting commander while Gellibrand was away sick, with the temporary rank of colonel. On 1 June 1918, this became permanent. Leane was promoted to colonel and temporary brigadier general. He led the brigade at Viller-Bretonneux, Amiens and the Hindenburg Line. For his services, Leane was mentioned in dispatches eight times and awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and bar and was was made a Companion of St Michael and St George (CMG) and Companion of the Bath (CB).
After the war, Leane became Chief Commissioner of Police in South Australia in May 1920. Like T. A. Blamey in Victoria, he held the post in a time of budget stringency and social upheaval. Leane crushed the Port Adelaide wharf strike in 1928, enrolling some 3,000 special constables, and he ruthlessly suppressed protests that he believed were communist inspired. He was knighted on retirement from the police force in 1944. (His son Geoffrey was Deputy Commissioner for Police in South Australia from 1959 to 1972.)
Leane commanded the 3rd Infantry Brigade in Adelaide from 1921 to 1926, when he was placed on the unattached list. He was moved to the retired list in 1938. During World War II he commanded the Volunteer Defence Corps, the Australian version of the Home Guard, in South Australia.
Leane lived in Adelaide until his death on 25 June 1962. He was buried in Centennial Park Cemetery.
Sources: Australian Dictionary of Biography, 1899-1939, Vol 10, pp. 39-41; Bean, C. E. W., The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918. Volume I: The Story of Anzac pp. 252, 558-562;Volume I: The Story of Anzac p. 484; Volume III: The AIF In France 1916, pp. 707-724
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Last update 25 February 2004