Leslie Caldwell RADCLIFFE


RADCLIFFE, Leslie Caldwell

Service Number: 2232
Enlisted: 25 February 1916
Last Rank: Second Lieutenant
Last Unit: 49th Infantry Battalion
Born: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, date not yet discovered
Home Town: Ayr, Burdekin, Queensland
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Sugar Grower
Died: Killed in action, France, 2 August 1918, age not yet discovered
Cemetery: Hourges Orchard Cemetery, Domart-sur-la-Luce
Memorials: Brandon War Memorial, Brisbane Grammar School Memorial Library WW1 Honour Board 2, Corinda Sherwood Shire Roll of Honor, Graceville War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

25 Feb 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 2232, 47th Infantry Battalion
16 Aug 1916: Involvement Private, SN 2232, 47th Infantry Battalion
16 Aug 1916: Embarked Private, SN 2232, 47th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Boorara, Brisbane
2 Aug 1918: Involvement Second Lieutenant, 49th Infantry Battalion

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Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

Leslie Radcliffe was born in Sydney on 29th October 1894. His family moved to North Queensland while he was young. Leslie attended Brisbane Grammar until he was 15. The Golden Book at Brisbane Grammar, which records all past students who enlisted in the First World War, lists six Radcliffes who were Leslie’s brothers and cousins; one of whom, John, was a Rhodes Scholar.

When Leslie enlisted on 25th February 1916 aged 21, he was living in Ayr and working as a cane farmer. He gave his father as his next of kin with the same address so it is reasonable to assume that he was working on the family cane farm. Although only 21 Leslie had previous military experience with the 2nd Light Horse and in signalling. He was drafted as a private into the 11th reinforcements of the 47th Battalion.

After two weeks of home leave in May 1916, Leslie boarded the “Boorara” in Brisbane on 12th August. He arrived in Plymouth on 13th October and by February 1917 was with his unit. Leslie had joined his unit at a very unsettling time. The 47th Battalion had a reputation in the AIF as a bunch of “toffs and street loafers and wasters all mixed in together.” After a mauling at Bullecourt in 1916, the 47th were in a rest area in early 1917.

The commanding officer was replaced in January 1917 by Lt. Colonel Imlay who had a reputation as a “hard man.” Soon after Leslie joined the unit, Imlay ordered a route march to toughen up the battalion. A number of men fell out of the march and Imlay ordered that the defaulters receive 14 days pack drill. One of the defaulters, Private Noud, while waiting for the drill to commence committed suicide with his own rifle in front of the battalion. This incident would no doubt have had a lasting effect on the newly arrived reinforcements like Leslie.

In June 1917, the Battle of Messines began with the exploding of 19 mines under the German lines. The 47th battalion advanced 800 metres under a creeping artillery barrage on the first day and continued to hold the line gained. Messines was the opening of a series of battles that became known as The Third Battle of Ypres or more commonly Passchendaele. During this period, Leslie was promoted to corporal and then lance sergeant.

After the final assault on the Passchendaele Ridge in October 1917, Leslie was posted to the officer cadet battalion in Oxford, England. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant on 1st May 1918 and on 22nd May joined his new battalion, the 49th on the Somme.

After the decisive battle of Villers Bretonneux in April 1918, the Australian divisions were holding the line while regrouping for the Battle of Hamel (July). On 2nd August 1918, while waiting to go into the line at the Battle of Amiens, Leslie Radcliffe was killed in action. The battalion war diary simply records “2nd Lieutenant Radcliffe killed by shell fire.” Leslie’s parents, who had by this time moved briefly to Thallon Street, Sherwood, were informed of his death but soon after returned to North Queensland.

Leslie was buried in a nearby civilian cemetery, Domart-Sur-La-Luce with the Rev. H. Harper in attendance. In 1934, the Imperial War Graves Commission wrote to Leslie’s mother, his father having died, to seek her permission for Leslie’s remains to be reinterred in the Hourges Orchard Military Cemetery. The reason given for the reinterment was that his grave would be better cared for in the new location. Emily Radcliffe, writing from Ayr, gave her permission. In 1938, Doctor D. Radcliffe of Otago Region, NZ, wrote to enquire if the family could obtain photographs of his brother’s new grave. He was informed that the request could be granted with the payment of six shillings.

It is unlikely that Leslie Radcliffe ever lived in the Sherwood District. The reason for his name appearing on the Sherwood Honour Roll is probably attributable to his uncle, who lived at Sherwood and whose son Alan Radcliffe (see below) also appears on the memorial.

Courtesy of Ian Lang

Mango Hill