Dr. Leslie MacDonald Outridge was born in Brisbane on the 1st November 1900. He was a graduate of the University of Sydney in 1924, and then returned to practice in various locations around Queensland before settling on Gympie to set up his own practice.
When it became apparent war was imminent Dr. Outridge enlisted and joined the 5th light horse, rising to the rank of captain. However when a formal declaration of war occurred in 1939 he chose to transfer to the Australian Army Medical Corps.
During the war he served in Darwin and Papua New Guinea - performing so well in the latter that he was Mentioned in Dispatches. He was then assigned to the hospital ship Centaur.
(Dr. Outridge's citation - image from the Australian War Memorial archives)
The Centaur was a hospital ship, clearly marked as such, converted from in early 1943. It was notable for being involve in the rescue of survivors when the German ship Kormoran was sunk by HMAS Sydney in 1941.
On the 12th May 1943 the Centaur sailed from Sydney carrying her normal crew, as well as stores from the 2/12th Field Ambulance but no patients. All told 332 persons were on board.
(AHS Centaur - public domain image sourced from wikipedia)
At 0400 on the 14th May, when approximately 50 miles north of Brisbane, she was sunk by Japanese submarine 1-117 - although the Japanese would refuse to acknowledge this war crime for many, many years to follow.
Dr. Outridge had chosen to sleep on the bridge that night rather than belowdecks, a decision that likely saved his life. By the time he awoke after the explosion the ship was already ablaze and only 9m remained above water. Luckily as he jumped overboard the next wave brought a lifeboat alongside him. An intact medical kit also floated past.
The survivors of the bombing then spent the next 35 hours floating in life boats awaiting rescue.
Although injured himself, Dr. Outridge was responsible for dragging several members of the crew to safety. He then spent the next 35 hours tending to the wounded, mainly burns, as best as possible. He was the only doctor to survive. The only other medical personnel to survive the bombing and the only woman was nurse Sister. Eleanor Savage who was instrumental in caring for the surviving men.
(Dr Outridge recovering in hospital following his rescue)
Following his recovery he was assigned to 2/8 Field Ambulance and inviolved in providing medical support for various campaigns in PNG and Borneo, where he served with distinction. Outridge was in charge of a field hospital, performing surgery in primitive conditions often exhausted himself. Nonetheless is service during this period was exemplery and no doubt many diggers owe him and his team their lives.
He retired from the army in 1946 and returned to his General Practice in Gympie.
Ill health forced him to retire from his practice in 1967, and he moved back to Brisbane with his wife Barbara. He passed away in Brisbane in 1973. His son Jon is still a GP with the RFDS in Queensland.
We Who Proudly Survived, patrick Kenny