Leo (Kell) KELLY


Service Number: 906
Enlisted: 25 March 1915
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 20th Infantry Battalion
Born: Wagga Wagga New South Wales, Australia , 13 February 1897
Home Town: Wagga Wagga, New South Wales
Schooling: St Michaels, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation: Drover
Died: Killed in Action, France, 26 July 1916, aged 19 years
Cemetery: Pozières British Cemetery
Plot 3 Row O Grave 12, Pozieres British Cemetery Ovillers-La Boisselle, Pozieres, Picardie, France
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Wagga Wagga Cenotaph
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World War 1 Service

25 Mar 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 906
25 Jun 1915: Involvement Private, 906, 20th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières , --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '13' embarkation_place: Sydney embarkation_ship: HMAT Berrima embarkation_ship_number: A35 public_note: ''
25 Jun 1915: Embarked Private, 906, 20th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Berrima, Sydney

Leo's war history

Leo Kelly was the son of James Patrick, a native of Wagga, and Isabella (or Isabel) Susan Frederics (her later married name, formerly Kelly) of Balmain. Leo (and his younger brother Austin) attended St. Joseph’s Boys’ School. In December 1907, when Leo was in (Lower) Third Class, he was awarded a prize for Word Building and Composition.

At the time of enlisting, it was James who gave written consent for his son to enlist in the AIF. It was the 19 March 1915, and Leo was just over 18 years of age.

James was apparently a well-known drover in the Wagga district, and it appears that Leo had followed in his father’s footsteps.

Embarking from Sydney aboard HMAT ‘Berrima’ on 26 June 1915, Leo arrived at Gallipoli just as the August offensive was petering out. On Gallipoli, the role of the 20th Battalion was purely defensive. From 26 August, until its withdrawal from the peninsula on 20 December, the 20th Battalion was responsible for the defence of Russell's Top.

Leo proceeded to join the M.E.F. (Mediterranean Expeditionary Force) at Gallipoli on 16 August 1915, before disembarking at Alexandria early in January 1916. Here, the men of the 20th undertook further training. While based in Egypt, he ‘had a brush with the Turks on the Suez Canal’ and also forfeited four days’ pay, having been charged with being AWL (Absent without Leave) for three days between 7 a.m. 16 January 1916 until 10 a.m. 19 January 1916.

On 18 March, Leo, having joined the B.E.F. (British Expeditionary Force) sailed aboard HMT ‘Ingoma’ from Alexandria, disembarking at Marseilles on 25 March.
The 20th Battalion entered the trenches of the Western Front for the first time in April 1916, and in the following month, had the dubious honour of being the first Australian battalion to be raided by the Germans. (Machine) Gunner Leo and his comrades took part in their first major offensive around Pozieres between late July and the end of August 1916.

On 26 July 1916, Leo was reported missing in action in France. Following a court of enquiry held 29 September 1917, he was declared ‘Killed in action’ on the same day he went missing.

In the Red Cross files, Leo is described as ‘Tall, well built, clean-shaven, stout, about 21’. Reports of his demise are varied, but one eye-witness stated ‘I saw them both killed instantly by the same shell as we were advancing in the open at Pozieres, on 26th July. I knew them both well. We were all in C. Co. We left Australia together. They were blown to pieces.’

When Leo’s death was reported in the Daily Advertiser on Thursday 27 September 1917, his father told of the last letter he received from his son:
‘His closing words were: “Whatever happens I am satisfied. We have been through a rough time for 19 months, but everyone has treated me well, and I face the future contented.”’

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