GREENLEAF, Lester Webster

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GREENLEAF, Lester Webster

Enlistment Address

Eumungerie, NSW

Service Number

4783

Unit

13th Battlion, 15th Reinforcement

Comment

Gilgandra Coo-ee.

Fate

RTA 2.3.1919

Information

Leslie Greenleaf was an orphan who arrived in Sydney from London, and went straight to Gilgandra by train and mail coach to Collie to work at Dicks Camp in early 1915. He enlisted with the Gilgandra Coo-ees but he was only 17, so he bought a pipe to make himself look older.

Leslie Webster Greenleaf states he was 18 years old when he enlisted at Gilgandra on October 9, 1915 and marched to Sydney with the Coo-ee March. He was born in London, England and was a butcher. His next of kin was his sister Phyllis Greenleaf of 2 Woodside Road, Surrey, England. His last address was Eumungerie, NSW. He had no previous military service. The medical examination described him as 5’7”, 126lbs (57kgs), fair complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. His religion was Church of England.

On arrival in Sydney Leslie was assigned to the 13th Battalion and trained at Liverpool. He embarked from Sydney on the ‘Star of England’ on March 8, 1916, bound for Egypt. After training in Egypt and a few weeks in hospital with mumps, Francis arrived in France in July 1916 and was taken on strength by his unit to face the Battle of the Somme. In August 1916, when the 13th Battalion was attacking Mouquet Farm, Leslie suffered a gunshot wound to his hand. On that day the 13th Battalion were experiencing great difficulty owing to mud, crumbling parapets and rifles clogged with mud. Due to the heavy shelling and rain they experienced great difficulty evacuating the wounded. He was one of 95 men wounded that day; 18 men were killed and 31 men were missing.

He was evacuated to England for treatment and convalescence for his wound and several bouts of sickness. He also forfeited a few days’ pay for being Absent Without Leave and smoking on parade.

He returned to his unit in France in December 1917, mainly on restricted duties.

Private Leslie Greenleaf was awarded a Military Medal on June 16, for an action on May 2, 1918. The citation reads ‘East of VILLERS BRETONNEUX on the morning of the 2nd May 1918, when an officer was severely wounded by machine gun fire and lay within full view of the enemy, Private GREENLEAF and (1403SN) SMITH went to his assistance and carried him in at very great personal risk. With the assistance of two other men they improvised a stretcher squad, and, as the case was a serious one, carried through with it to the Regimental Aid Post. This was done in broad daylight, and practically the whole route was under observation of enemy snipers who were very active’.

He rarely talked about this but fortunately told John Meredith the story for his book ‘The Coo-ee March’. He had been on restricted duties for about a year following the wound to his hand but was called up that night to act as a runner between the front line and the OC (Officer Commanding). They were all called to the front line and Captain Henry (the OC) was in no man’s land with his leg nearly shot off. Leslie went out to help and could only call for help himself. He had an emergency pack on his back and the Germans had been firing at him with machine guns and the back pack had just about gone. A stretcher bearer came out and between them; Captain Henry was taken to the aid station.

A few weeks later on May 20, 1918, he was wounded in action when a bomb exploded and injured his left arm. He was sent to Brighton and Harefield hospitals for treatment and convalescence and work at Sutton Veny. He never returned to France.

He returned to Australia February 12, 1919 on the ‘City of Exeter’ and arrived on March 2, 1919. He was discharged on May 11, 1919.

He received the Military Medal, the Victory Medal and the British War Medal

Leslie married Gladys Sarah Dawes in 1920. They had a farm and shop at Eumungerie but the depression sent him looking for work in Queensland. He eventually found work with the PMG (Post Master-General) in Dubbo and settled there. He is buried in Dubbo Cemetery with the headstone inscription ‘The Last Coo-ee’.

He is commemorated on the Coo-ee Memorial Gateway, the Heritage Centre, Gilgandra District Roll of Honor and the Eumungerie WW1 Honour Roll.