The second Count of Monte Christo

To some, Galli was a patriot, an idealist, even a hero. Born in Italy, but a naturalised British subject, Galli was amongst the first to volunteer. And from the moment he put his pen to the Army’s enlistment papers he projected an intriguing persona.

Landing on Gallipoli, Lance-Corporal Galli was told to advance up the ridges. But Galli appears to have seen very little of the Australians in action. He was evacuated on the same day he landed. The absence of any apparent injury on Galli himself soon roused the suspicion of authorities. Galli could not say by whose authority he had left his platoon. In the space of twenty-four hours, Galli claimed to have been ‘shot in the leg’, ‘dazed’ by shellfire, and suffering from rheumatism, sciatica, and an ingrown toenail.

Invalided back to Australia as medically unfit, Galli was commissioned as a recruitment officer. Officers in the field may have found Galli wanting, but at home he served the purposes of the authorities admirably. Galli was described as a clever speaker, informative, impassioned, and something of a hit with the ladies.

Did Leo Galli succeed? In the course of a tour that stretched from southernmost Victoria to tropical Queensland, Galli claimed credit for four thousand new recruits. But during the last two years of the war, the First AIF suffered more than thiry thousand dead and over twice that number wounded. As the country grew more and more war weary, even a man as charismatic as Galli failed to persuade the uncommitted. 

And what became of Leo Galli? After the war he continued—as many men did—to trade on his war service. Galli wrote an unsuccessful book and fielded an even less successful film. Then he migrated to New Zealand. Despite his service in the First AIF and the fact that he was a naturalised British subject, Galli was interned as an enemy alien for most of the Second World War. Leo Clement Galli died in 1964 in Auckland.