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Leslie Gordon Lilly

Leslie Gordon Lilly

Birth date: 
26 August 1887
Death date: 
12 August 1974
Served with: 
United Kingdom Forces
Rank: 
Captain
Regiment: 
Westminster Dragoons

About 1915 Mr Arthur Lilly a well-known Christchurch musician composed the choral and orchestra work which he called “Life”.  Arthur dedicated “Life” to his younger brother Lieutenant Leslie G Lilly who was away on active service in the Great War.

Lesley was born 26 August 1887 in Dunedin New Zealand, to his parents Alfred and Francis Jane LILLY (nee Taylor) from Shirenewton, Wales. He was their thirteenth and youngest child.

He served his apprenticeship in the firm of Messrs Butterworth Bros of Dunedin and was later worked with Messrs, Robert Malcom Ltd.  On March 1913 he left New Zealand on board Ulimaroa to travel from Wellington to Britain and Continent, to represent the firm Messrs, Sargood, Smith and Lister as a Silk Merchant and for a short time with Messrs, Robert Malcolm, Ltd. He left to work in U.S.A and East Canada.  Later in the year he appointed to represent the silk firm in the U.S.A.

When world war one broke out Lesley was in to London to gain more business experience, and he enlisted in the U.K army, and did his training in Ireland, before rising to the rank of Lieutenant then to Captain in the Westminster Dragoons. He served in Egypt, Palestine and Syria and was demobilised on May 2nd 1919. He decided to remain in England after the war and was appointed manager for Messrs Smith and Lister, of their newly opened branch in the West end of London.

In June 1914, Arthur Lilly, his brother, received a cable that notified them there was fear for Lesley’s safety as it was thought that he was a passenger on board the ill-fated ship the Empress of Ireland. He had travelled on this ship earlier in the year when he left Liverpool and travelled to Quebec. A cable to his brother Arthur stated that he was prevented from joining the steamer last Friday as he intend. Fortunately because of a meeting he had to attend, he had cancelled his trip and he was not on board. He was on board the year before, the Great German liner SS Imperator, when a fire broke out. It was near Hoboken docks at the time. A second officer and a seaman were cut off while fighting the fire and perished.  The Hoboken fire department poured tons of water into her holds gradually putting out the flames. The ship had a great list during this time. The passengers were awoken by the smoke , dashed ashore terror stricken , but the officers managed to all in order and all escaped ( Southland Times 30 August 1913) The steamers interior was greatly damaged but her regular sailings were not interrupted.

 He married (1) Maud Elizabeth Harrop 18 December 1915 at St George’s Bloomsbury, Middlesex, England. She was the only daughter od Alderman Harrop, J.P., ex-Lord Mayor of  Manchester and Mrs Harrop of Heaton Lodge, Heaton, Mersey. The ceremony was performed by Bishop Welldon.  Maud was born 06 November 1885 in Stockport Cheshire, England and died March 1976 in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, England. Lesley went back to war in Egypt soon after the wedding. They were divorced June 2nd 1927.  They had one son Lesley Gordon Welldon LILLY, who was a Wing Commander in the air force during world war two. Lesley married Gabrielle June HODGSON elder daughter of Air and Mrs A. HODGSON of Marine Parade on July 16th 1945. In the engagement notice of February 17th 1945 it states that Lesley Gordon LILLY senior was living at that time in Cedar Road Epsom Auckland.

Lesley Gordon senior married (2) Ada Walsh Greensmith, December 22 1927, in Dunedin. Ada was born 07 May 1886 in Blackburn, Lancashire England and died 24 April 1978 in Tamaki Auckland.

In 1921 Lesley returned to New Zealand after 9 years absence. In the press of November 4th 1921 it reads that; “Early in 1921 he took a position with the British Oil Company in Singapore. A couple months later his health broke down after an attack of fever, and he returned to New Zealand to his Native land to recuperate, and eventually settle.”

He worked for many years as a Silk Merchant in Queens Street.

He later returned to England to live in Hove Sussex and where he died August 12, 1974.

Thsi text was compiled by Barbara Divehall.