Leslie Cecil Lloyd Averill
|Leslie Cecil Lloyd Averill
CMG MC FRCS
|Born||25 March 1897|
|Died||4 June 1981(aged 84)|
|Service/branch||New Zealand Military Forces|
|Unit||4th Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade|
|Awards||Order of St Michael and St George
Leslie Cecil Lloyd Averill CMG MC FRCS (25 March 1897 – 4 June 1981) was a New Zealand soldier who served during World War I on the Western Front. After the war, he became a doctor and established a private practice in his hometown of Christchurch, New Zealand. He also served as a medical administrator and community leader.
Leslie Averill was born on 25 March 1897 in Christchurch, New Zealand to a local vicar and his wife. His father, Alfred Averill, would later serve as Archbishop of New Zealand from 1925 to 1940. Educated at Christ's College, he was an excellent student and was head prefect in 1915. The following year, he began studying medicine at Auckland University. However, when a friend volunteered to fight in World War I with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, he decided to join as well.
Averill was commissioned as a second lieutenant after training at Trentham Military Camp. Arriving in France in May, he was posted to the 4th Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade. He fought in the Second Battle of Bapaume in August, leading a company of the battalion and would be awarded the Military Cross for his gallantry and leadership during the battle. After the battle, he was posted to the Divisional Traffic Control Branch.
In November 1918, the Rifle Brigade was tasked with the capture of the fortified town of Le Quesnoy. The town was surrounded by extensive ramparts which made a direct assault difficult, particularly as the town itself could not be bombarded due to the civilians present. On 4 November 1918, Averill, now the battalion's intelligence officer, scouted the defences and was able to locate an approach route that was not under fire from the defenders. A platoon brought up a 30 foot ladder which Averill was able to ascend to reach the top of the ramparts. Seeing off two Germans manning a guard post with revolver fire, the rest of the platoon, and shortly thereafter the battalion, joined him and entered the town. The Germans quickly surrendered Le Quesnoy. The war ended the following week and from December Averill served occupation duty in Germany for the next several months.
Granted an NZEF scholarship in October 1919, Averill studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh. He graduated as a medical doctor in 1924 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh the next year. He returned to New Zealand in 1925 and married Isabella Mary Wilkie Roberton in Auckland. His new wife had also qualified as a medical practitioner, but did not work after her marriage. The couple would go on to have five children.
Averill began a general practice in Christchurch in 1926 but would also be heavily involved in regional and national medical services and administration. He helped set up a private hospital which opened in Papanui in 1928 and would remain associated with the hospital for over 40 years. He was also employed at St Helens Hospital as medical superintendent from 1929 until 1962. The North Canterbury Hospital Board, Christchurch Blood Transfusion Service and Hospital Boards’ Association of New Zealand all benefited from his leadership. In 1961, he was recognised for his significant services in medicine in the New Year Honours List with appointment as a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George. His contributions were not limited to medicine; he was on the board of governors of Christchurch College for nearly 20 years, served as a president of the Old Boy's Associate of his former high school, and was a member of Christchurch's Rotary Club.
Averill retired from general practice in 1967. Even in retirement, he continued a long association with the Christchurch Cathedral, having served as a lay canon since 1943. He died on 4 June 1981, survived by his wife and four children.
Throughout his postwar life, Averill maintained strong links with Le Quesnoy. He returned to the town in 1923 to unveil the New Zealand War memorial with Marshal Joffre and Sir James Allen. The township appointed him a Citoyen d’honneur on the 50th anniversary of the relief of Le Quesnoy in 1968, and five years later in 1973 he was appointed a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur by the French President. In a later visit, a new school and street were named in his honour.
- Rice, Geoffrey W. "Leslie Cecil Lloyd Averill". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved December 2011.
- Harper, 2007, pp. 416–417
- Harper, 2007, p. 471
- Gray, 2010, pp. 367–368
- "New Year Honours 1961" (12 January 1961) 1 New Zealand Gazette 11 at 12.
- The London Gazette: . 27 December 1960.
- Brewer, 2012, pp. 20–23
- Brewer, Mark (2012). "New Zealand and the Legion d'honneur: The Great War, Part Three". The Volunteers: The Journal of the New Zealand Military Historical Society 38 (1).
- Gray, John H. (2010). From the Uttermost Ends of the Earth: The New Zealand Division on the Western Front 1916 – 1918. Christchurch, New Zealand: Wilson Scott Publishing. ISBN 978-1-877427-30-5.
- Harper, Glyn (2007). Dark Journey: Three key New Zealand battles of the Western Front. Auckland, New Zealand: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 978-1-86950-579-0.