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Lt. Commander Leon Verdi Goldsworthy

G.C., D.S.C., G.M., R.A.N.V.R.

"For Gallantry"

Leon Verdi Goldsworthy was born in Broken Hill, New South Wales on 19 January 1909, the son of Alfred Thomas GOLDSWORTHY and Eva Jane RIGGS.  He was educated at Kapunda High School, the Adelaide School of Mines and the University of Adelaide.  He moved to Western Australia in 1930 at the age of 21.

On November 4, 1939 he married Maud Ellen RUTHERFORD, daughter of Frank E. RUTHERFORD and Maud Ellen "Tottie" nee McKENNA   Sadly, his wife Maud died in 1959. 

He became the Production Manager of Neon Signs (W.A.) Pty Ltd, Perth in 1963 and married for a second time, Georgette JOHNSTON,  in 1968. He enjoyed golf and was a member of the Commercial Travellers Club in Perth.

Always known as "Goldy", Leon's extraordinary military career began in 1941 when he was mobilised Sub-Lieutenant on Probation on 24 March of that year.  His Medical Examination Record notes that the small toes were missing on both his right and left feet. [He had what are known as "hammer toes" and had both his small toes removed when, ironically, that condition and his small stature - a mere 5 ft. 5 in. -  earlier prevented him from joining the Navy in WA in 1940.]  He was, however, destined to become famous for his work as an underwater mine recovery expert.  His operational territory prior to the invasion of Europe stretching from Portsmouth to Bexhill.  His nickname of 'Ficky' was a derivative of his reputation as 'Mr. Fixit'.

In late April of 1941 he proceeded to England, and during a long period of mine disposal he disposed of German acoustic mines in a number of British harbours. 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.

Goldy was awarded the George Medal in April 1944 [London Gazette 18 April 1944] 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 mine from the Coal Barge Wharf at Southampton on 17 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, Silverton, London on 7 October 1943.

He was awarded the George Cross in September 1944  [London Gazette 19 September 1944] and at that time he was promoted to Acting Lieut.-Commander.  The George Cross was awarded to Goldy for his skill and courage during a series of recoveries on 12 June 1943 and 10 April 1944 which led to the recovery of four German ground mines, three magnetic mines and one acoustic mine.  On 13th  August 1943, using the special diving suit which MOULD had been instrumental in developing [to accommodate his small stature] he made safe a German ground mine underwater off Sheerness.  Being only the second time this weapon had been rendered safe underwater it was a particularly hazardous operation, with no escape for Lieutenant Goldsworthy should the fuse start.

On 10 April 1944, Goldy dealt with a dangerous acoustic mine near Milford Haven (Wales), successfully extracting the fuse and primer and later removing the whole mine intact. During that operation he struck his head on the foot of a ladder while under water and ricked his back while trying to get clear.  He was wounded on another occasion when a German parachute mine and aluminium case exploded prematurely and several foreign metal objects (shrapnel) had to be removed from his back.

The Distinguished Service Cross was awarded to him in January 1945 for "gallantry and distinguished service in mine clearance", with particular reference to his stripping of the first German "K" Type mine in fifty feet of water at Cherbourg when the harbour was being hurriedly cleared before the Allied invasion of Europe following the invasion of Normandy.  "P" Parties as they became known, were in effect human minesweepers for the clearance of the harbours, rivers and canals of Europe after the invasion.

Late in 1944 Goldy 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 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.

Lt. Commander Goldsworthy, succeeded RAN Lt Hugh Randall Syme as the most highly decorated member of the R.A.N., being awarded the George Cross in September 1944, the George Medal in April 1944, the Distinguished Service Cross in January 1945, and Mentioned in Dispatches in August 1944 (on two occasions)

By his example and courage Goldy was a great inspiration to his team of sea divers who worked with him on these dangerous assignments.  The constant depth charging and shelling increased the hazard of his occupation  -  if any explosion occurred within a mile of him he was likely to be fatally affected by the compression effects of water.  He was also a great inspiration to his family. 

For a man initially rejected as being physically unfit for the Navy, Goldy finished the war as the most highly decorated man in it's history, the acknowledged underwater mine disposal expert in Europe, the conqueror of over one hundred weapons in European waters and about thirty in the Pacific.

My father, Doug McKenna, was living with his Aunt and Leon's Mother-in-Law, Maud Rutherford, as a child in Wickham  Street East Perth after  the death of his mother.  He still vividly recalls the day when the notification that Goldy had been awarded the George Cross was delivered to the door.

Goldy returned to Western Australia in January of 1945. He had one child, a daughter Pamela, from his first marriage. He is one of only eight people in the world to have been awarded both the George Cross and the George Medal.  He died on 7 August 1994 at the age of 85 in Perth Western Australia and was cremated at a service at Karrakatta Cemetery in Perth with full Military Honours.

He will always be remembered as a gentleman, a great Australian and as an example to us all. 

ANZAC Day - 25 April 1989

The West Australian, p. 30


There are times - like today - when Leon "Goldy" Goldsworthy remembers the years he was a mere heartbeat away from death. Australia's most highly decorated ex-naval man will also recall his mates as he leads his fellow servicemen along St. George's Terrace on the ANZAC Day march. "I look forward to the annual reunion, of meeting old friends, and seeing who is left," he said. "I might not be able to make it next year."

Twelve medals - including the George Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal  (sic) and the George Medal - bedeck the chest of the small man who carried out one of World War II's most harrowing jobs. He spent five years disarming German and Japanese mines on land and under water. At 80, Leon Goldsworthy, of South Perth, is modest about the dangers he experienced.

After studying at Adelaide University, he worked in the neon sign industry, moving to Perth in 1931. When war broke out, he joined the navy on a yachtsman's ticket, was commissioned as sub-lieutenant and went to Britain.  "I was reading a notice board one day which included the small request 'Aussies get into the mining business'," he said. "I volunteered for a brief mine disarmament course, hardly realising what was ahead."

He said his civilian technical training and gymnastic and wrestling workouts helped him through some close calls. Once, he was blown up underwater. His spine was injured and he had blackouts until an operation stopped the problem.

"Some people were afraid to die in those times, others didn't give a blooming hoot," he said. Which category did he fall into? He wouldn't say - especially not today.


Statement of War Service (Department of Veteran's Affairs): Leon V. Goldsworthy


Period From


Rank or Rating

Ship or Depot




"Leeuwin" (Depot)




"Cerubus" (Depot)




"London Depot" (Depot)




"London Depot" (Depot) - "King Alfred" (Depot)




"London Depot" (Depot)




"London Depot" (Depot) - "President I" Depot)




"London Depot" (Depot) - "Vernon" (Depot)



Act. Lieut. Commander

"London Depot" (Depot)




"London Depot" (Depot) - "President I" (Depot)




"Leeuwin" (Depot)




"Torrens" (Depot)




"Lonsdale" (Depot)




"Golden Hind" (Depot)




"London Depot" (Depot)








"Penguin" (Depot)




"Leeuwin" (Depot)



 Signed: C. McKenna, Director of Navy Accounts, 5 Dec 1950




The George Cross

Founded by King George VI in 1940 as the highest award for acts of conspicuous gallantry performed by men or women when not in the face of the enemy. In order of precedence it comes immediately after the Victoria Cross. At the time of its inception, living recipients of the Empire Gallantry Medal exchanged their medals for the George Cross and the Empire Gallantry Medal then became obsolete. In 1971 surviving holders of the Albert Medal and Edward Medals were also enabled to exchange their medals for the George Cross. The RAN won four awards during the 1939-1945 War for bomb and mine disposal and a fifth, posthumously, for the Voyager sinking in 1964. All four Army awards were posthumous, 3 for the 1939-1945 war and 1 for Korea. The medal itself consists of a plain silver cross with a circular medallion in the centre, surrounded by the words "For Gallantry". The ribbon is dark blue, 1½ inches wide. Thirteen Australians have been awarded the George Cross.  

The George Medal

The George Medal was founded by King George VI in 1940 at the same time as the George Cross. The circumstances of award are exactly the same as those of the George Cross except that the act of gallantry for which the award is made need not be of such a high order as that which would merit the award of the Cross. The only recipient of the George Cross, George Medal and bar is RAN Lt Hugh Randall Syme.

Distinguished Service Cross

Founded by King Edward VII as the Conspicuous Service Cross it was changed and given its present name in 1914. The Cross is for award to Officers of the Royal Navy up to and including the rank of Commander, for acts of gallantry in the face of the enemy. Bars may be awarded for further acts of gallantry. Provision is made for officers of equivalent rank in the Royal Marines, the Army, RAF and Merchant Navy to be eligible when serving afloat. Bars for subsequent acts were authorised in 1916. Three Australians have received second bars to the award.

References & Further Reading:

"The Register of the George Cross"  Published by This England, ISBN 0 906324 06 8

"Australia in the War of 1939-1945"  Series Two NAVY, Volume II Royal Australian Navy 1942-1945; G.Hermon GILL

"Of Nautilus and Eagles"  History of the Royal Australian Navy; P. FIRKINS, ISBN 0 7269 2862 3

"Who's Who in Australia"  XIXth. Edition, 1968 An Australian Biographical Dictionary and Register of Titled Persons, with which is incorporated Johns' Notable Australians (first issued 1906); Compiled and edited by J.S.LEGGE; Published by The Herald and Weekly Times Limited.

"Dragons Can Be Defeated"  A complete Record of the George Medal's Progress from 1940 to 1983; Major (Retired) D.V.HENDERSON, G.M., ISBN 0 907605 14 1

National Archives of Australia  Series K26/93/193; Item RX 55545 - Goldsworthy: L.

Naval Historical Review Summer 1972 - The Touch & Go War Author L.V. Goldsworthy