Person NameGordon-Leith; George Esselmont (1885-1965); Captain; architect
ForenamesGeorge Esselmont
SourceThe information in the above entry has been used with permission kindly granted by Gavin Stamp, author of Silent Cities (London: Royal Institute of British Architects, 1977).

Other sources include: CWGC Archive, T 2012, 'Gordon Leith G.E.'.
Biographical NoteCaptain George Esselmont Gordon-Leith was an Assistant Architect for the Imperial War Graves Commission.

Born in 1885 in Knysa, South Africa, George Esselmont Gordon-Leith trained first as an engineer and then worked at the Railway Workshop in Pretoria under the Chief Architect of the Railway Department. He went on to study music and then sculpture, but neither of these interested him enough to take them further.

Gordon-Leith then turned his focus to architecture and studied at the Public Works in Pretoria. He worked for Sir Herbert Baker on the plans for the Union Buildings in Johannesburg and became the first winner of the Herbert Baker Scholarship to travel to schools in Rome and Athens between 1911 and 1913. Upon being admitted to ARIBA, Gordon-Leith returned to South Africa in 1913 when he assisted Baker again, on this occasion with drawings for Delhi.

During the First World War, Gordon-Leith served as a Captain in "B" Battery, 342nd Bde., Royal Field Artillery. He was gassed and received a Military Cross. After the war, in December 1918, Gordon-Leith was appointed Assistant Architect as recommended by Baker. Under Baker, he designed Terlincthun and Calais South Cemeteries. He was then appointed Senior Designing Architect as successor to Holden in April 1920, before resigning in July the same year to be repatriated to South Africa. This was due to ill health, possibly as a result of his exposure to gas in the First World War.

After his work with the Commission, Gordon-Leith designed Bloemfontein Town Hall (1931), Johannesburg General Hospital, Johannesburg Railway Station and other municipal projects. In 1950, he became Advisory Architect to the Commission's South African agency and worked on many Second World War cemeteries in his native country.

He died in 1965.
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