Cecil Burleigh was born in 1870 in the Bay of Islands, going to sea in 1886 as a cadet of the New Zealand Shipping Company, later transferring to the Peninsula and Orient Line (PO). In 1915 he was captain of the SS Duke of Clarence, which later that year was requisitioned by the Royal Navy for conversion as an armed boarding steamer in November of that year, as part of a group of ships enforcing the economic blockade of Germany, Burleigh retained command as an officer in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR). On 24th August 1916, operating with another armed boarding steamer, SS Duke of Albany, when that ship was attacked and sunk by the German submarine UB 70, Burleigh rescued survivors, keeping the submarine at bay until several destroyers arrived. For this he was created a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order. He continued his service in the RNVR, being awarded the Volunteer Reserve Decoration (VRD) in 1931. He continued his mercantile career, becoming a commodore in the PO line. He died in 1941.
- Companion of the Distinguished Service Order - Was instituted in 1886 to recognise acts of gallantry by military officers for which a Victoria Cross was not considered appropriate.
- 1914-15 Star - Awarded to servicemen and servicewomen who served between 5 August 1914 and 31 December 1915 in any "theatre of war", provided they had not qualified for the 1914 Star. Those eligible for the medal must have 'served on the establishment of a unit in a theatre of war' during the relevant dates of operations in that area. This included service in Gallipoli (25 April 1915 - 31 December 1915), Egypt (5 November 1914 - 31 December 1915) and service during the capture of German Samoa on 29 August 1914.
- British War Medal - Recognises the successful conclusion of the First World War. Its coverage was later extended to recognise service until 1920, recognising mine clearing operations at sea, and participation in operations in North and South Russia, the eastern Baltic, Siberia, the Black Sea and the Caspian.
- Victory Medal - Was issued to all those who had already qualified for the 1914 Star or the 1914-15 Star, and to most persons who had already qualified for the British War Medal. It was awarded to all New Zealand troops serving overseas, except for those who arrived in Samoa after 30 August 1914 and those serving in Great Britain only. It is also sometimes referred to as the "Allied War Medal", because the same basic design and double rainbow ribbon were adopted by 13 other allied nations.
- Royal Naval Reserve Decoration - Granted for 15 years commissioned service (sub-lieutenant and above) in the Royal Naval Reserve, active service in wartime counting double.