He volunteered for service in the British Army in the South African Boer War of 1899-1902, from where he contracted typhoid. After being avacuated to England, he returned to Australia form where rapid promotions followed.
In May 1914, Bridges was appointed Inspector General, the Army's top post. He was in Queensland when the war crisis began, and arrived in Melbourne on August 5 1914. Bridges met with cabinet and was charged with the creation of an expeditionary force for overseas service of 20,000 men.
While touring the lines on May 15 1915, Bridges was shot through the femoral artery by a Turkish sniper. Dragged to safety he was evacuated to the hospital ship Gascon. Infection set in but amputation was deemed impossible since he had lost so much blood.
Made aware of Bridge's imminent death, King George V knighted him on May 17, the first Australian General to receive a knighthood. He died the following day. His body was returned to Melbourne where he received a state funeral. He is one of only two Australian World War I soldiers killed in action or died of wounds who was buried in Australia. The other is The Unknown Soldier, disinterred from a French grave and buried at the Australian War Memorial in 1991.