John LEAK VC

Badge Number: S19349, Sub Branch: STATE
S19349

LEAK, John

Service Number: 2053
Enlisted: 28 January 1915, Rockhampton, Queensland
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 9th Infantry Battalion
Born: Portsmouth, England, February 1892
Home Town: Rockhampton, Rockhampton, Queensland
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Teamster
Died: Natural causes, Adelaide, South Australia, 20 October 1972
Cemetery: Stirling District Cemetery, S.A.
Tree Plaque: Not yet discovered
Memorials: Adelaide 150 Jubilee Commemorative Pavement Plaques - WW1 VC Recipients, Adelaide Torrens Training Depot, John Leake VC Memorial, Keith Payne VC Memorial Park, North Bondi War Memorial, Winchelsea WWI Memorial
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World War 1 Service

28 Jan 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 2053, Rockhampton, Queensland
16 Apr 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2053, 9th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
16 Apr 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 2053, 9th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Kyarra, Brisbane
22 Jun 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2053, 9th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
23 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2053, 9th Infantry Battalion, Pozières
31 May 1919: Discharged AIF WW1, Private, SN 2053, 9th Infantry Battalion

Not perfect but perfectly brave

Private John Leak of the 9th Battalion was awarded the Victoria Cross for extraordinary bravery at Pozieres on 23 July 1916. Leak’s platoon was suffering casualties from Germans throwing hand grenades into their trench from an elevated position. Leak climbed out of his trench alone and single-handedly assaulted the German trench, killing three occupants. His comrades then came up to him to occupy the new trench. The Germans then counter-attacked and the Australians withdrew with Leak the last to leave providing covering fire so that his comrades could get out. Leak was uninjured and the trench was later retaken by the Australians. In 1917, Leak’s discipline deteriorated. Beginning in January of that year, he was reprimanded for entering the Officer’s Mess and demanding drink. This was compounded by a defiant rejection of orders to leave by the officers present. He was then found guilty of taking absence without leave (AWL) on three separate occasions. By October 1917, a recuperated Leak was posted to Belgium and offended again. This time, more seriously as his AWL was from the frontline. He faced a Field General Court Martial on November 25, 1917, for absenting himself from November 1 until 6. On December 15, the outcome was a suspended sentence. It is important to bear in mind the gravity of this offence during this period in military history. Soldiers were being executed for these transgressions. Leak was perhaps leniently dealt with because of his VC. The very thing that almost got him killed in 1916, saved his life in 1917. In March 1918, Leak was again wounded in action and taken from the battlefield, following a gas attack. He spent the next months in English hospitals but was well enough to again be AWL in May of that year. Further charges of insolence to commanding officers followed before he returned to France in June 1918. He survived the last few months of war, but the gas poisoning was to have a lasting effect on his health. Leak was not a perfect human, but he was a brave one. There is a memorial to him in Rockhampton, Queensland.

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Biography

'English-born John Leak (1892-1972) came to Australia as a boy and in January 1915 enlisted in the AIF. He served on Gallipoli and next year accompanied his unit to France, in time to be thrown into the bloody fighting at Pozières. In a battle notorious for its scale and intensity, Leak's solo attack with bombs and bayonet on a German post stood out. In a further action on 21 August he was wounded.

Few came out of Pozières without physical or mental scars and this brave soldier was no exception, yet he served on only to be severely gassed in March 1918. After a few jobs, Leak became a garage proprietor in Western Australia, before retiring to South Australia, where he died.' - SOURCE (www.awm.gov.au)

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