Colonel Sir Leslie Orme WILSON, G.C.S.I., G.C.M.G., G.C.I.E., D.S.O.

 (Woodbadge Project 24 Jan 2006)


Text Box: LTCOL Leslie Orme Wilson
15 January 1919 age 43

Picture source:

Sir Leslie Orme Wilson was born 1 Aug 1876 in London, UK, son of Henry Wilson, stockbroker, and his wife, Ada Alexandrina, nee Orme.[1] 

He was educated in London and was appointed as a second lieutenant in the Royal Marine Light Infantry in 1895.  He served with distinction in the Boer War as a Lieutenant from 1899 – 1901, being mentioned in dispatches and awarded the Queen’s Medal with five clasps, and the Distinguished Service Order.  From 1903 to 1909 he served in the rank of Captain as aide-de-camp to the NSW Governor, Sir Harry Rawson.  It was at this time that Baden Powell (BP) was establishing the Scout Movement and he soon became an enthusiastic support of Scouting.  Captain Wilson returned to the UK in 1909, marrying Winifred May Smith, the daughter of a Sydney merchant.  In 1913 he entered politics as a member of the British House of Commons. The Rt. Hon. Lt Col Leslie Orme Wilson MP represented Reading from 8 Nov 1913[2] until late 1923. 

Cap badge of the Machine-Gun Corps units of the RND

With the outbreak of the First World War he was made a temporary Lieutenant Colonel and given command of the 2nd (Hawke) Battalion of the 1st Naval Brigade in the Royal Naval Division.  The battalion was part of the hastily assembled Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF)[3] that landed on Cape Helles at Gallipoli in April 1915[4].  This was one of the most futile and desperate actions of the war.  Casualties were horrific.  Wilson was wounded and again mentioned in dispatches.  In 1915 he was sent to France and in November 1916 was severely wounded. 


Sir Leslie Wilson achieved the military rank of Colonel[5] although this was probably an ‘honourary’ rank as he only attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel whilst in the British Army.  In some cases officers of the British Army were allowed to take the title of the next higher rank on retiring.


In 1918 he resumed his political career and in 1922 was appointed to the Privy Council.  During this time he also held a position as a County Commissioner of Scouts[6] (equivalent of Regional Commissioner).  In 1923[7] SLW was appointed Governor of Bombay, India, and held the position until March 1926.[8]  In India he continued his interest in Scouting, became Chief Scout of Bombay.


Sir Leslie Wilson was appointed Governor of Queensland from 13 June 1932 until 23 April 1946[9] and was the Chief Scout of The Boy Scouts Association, Queensland Branch from 1932 until 1942. 

Text Box: Sir Leslie Wilson being carried by scouts at Government House, Brisbane.  Source: Qld Scouts archives

 During his time as The Governor of Queensland, Sir Leslie Wilson was an enthusiastic supporter of the Scouts and used to enjoy visiting camps and scouting activities on a regular basis.  He was a very cheerful, polite and easy going character and was well liked by the scouts of that time. [10]   He campaigned strongly to build up to poor financial position of the Scout movement in Queensland and actively supported the establishment of Air Scouts.[11]  


While Sir Leslie Wilson was too old to have been a Scout himself, he epitomised the spirit of Scouting, always supporting outdoor activities and actively leading and being involved in the Scout movement[12].  His strength of character and outstanding personal example illustrated many of the facets of the Scout Law and Promise of that time.  He was a man of honour; loyal, courteous, friendly, cheerful, obedient and thrifty, and he displayed a readily apparent sense of duty to God and King (country).[13]



Handsome and courteous, Wilson had natural presence.  His affable nature, keen interest in sport and unflagging support he gave to organisations [such as Scouts] and service functions during the war years were warmly regarded by Queenslanders.”

- Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol 12: 1891 – 1939[14]



By the early 1940s his relations with The Boy Scouts Association were strained by his disagreement with the Chief Commissioner, Charles Snow, over the introduction of payment for the Chief Commissioners position, as he believed it should be an honourary position[15]


He resigned as Chief Scout in 1942 and in 1945 the Scout Association acknowledged his support by naming the Sir Leslie Wilson Scout Camping Ground in Florence Bay, Magnetic Island, in his honour[16]


On leaving office as Governor in 1946 he returned to live in his home county of Surrey in the UK.  He died on 29 September 1955 at age 79 after being run down by a truck while walking.









Sir Leslie Wilson’s decorations include:


DSO -       the Distinguished Service Order awarded 1901.  The DSO is a military decoration awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers during wartime, typically in actual combat.[17]

CMG -      Companion in The Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George, appointed in 1916.[18]  This is a British order of chivalry to honour individuals who have rendered important services in relation to Commonwealth.

GCIE –     Knight Grand Commander in The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire appointed in 1923.  This is an order of chivalry founded by Queen Victoria in 1877.

GCSI –     Knight Grand Commander in The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India appointed in 1929.

GCMG -   Knight Grand Cross in The Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George, appointed in 1937.[19]



[1].             Ritchie, J. (ed), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol 12: 1891 – 1939, Melbourne University Press, p.528.

[2].    accessed 14 Nov 05.

[3].    accessed 14 Nov 05.

[4].             Rhodes, R.J. 1965, Gallipoli, Pan, London, pp. 156, 162.

[5].    accessed 14 Nov 05.

[6].             Interview with Manfred Cross, President of Scout Qld and Scout Aide to SLW during WWII of 8 Dec 05.

[7].    accessed 14 Nov 05.

[8].    accessed 14 Nov 05.

[9].    accessed 14 Nov 05.

[10].           Interview with Manfred Cross, President of Scout Qld and Scout Aide to SLW during WWII of 8 Dec 05.

[11].           Fones, R. 1992, In the light of all the year: A history of Scouting in Queensland, The Scout Association of Australia – Queensland Branch, Brisbane, p.89.

[12].           Pan Pacific Jamboree, 1955, ‘Obituary – Sir Leslie Wilson’ p. 3.

[13].           Baden-Powell, R 1935. Scouting for boys: The official handbook for Boy Scouts, Arthur Pearson, London, p. 12.

[14].           Ritchie, J. (ed), op cit, p.529.

[15].           Interview with Manfred Cross, President of Scout Qld and Scout Aide to SLW during WWII of 8 Dec 05

[16].           Fones, R ibid.

[17].  accessed 14 Dec 05.

[18].  accessed 14 Dec 05.

[19].           An occasionally used humorous mnemonic from Yes, Minister to remember the seniority order is: CMG "Call me God", KCMG "Kindly Call me God" and GCMG "God Calls me God".