Walter Aland LESLIE

Poppy

LESLIE, Walter Aland

Service Number: Officer
Enlisted: 14 August 1914, Brisbane, Queensland
Last Rank: Captain
Last Unit: 7th Field Artillery Battery
Born: 19 August 1887, place not yet discovered
Home Town: Brisbane, Brisbane, Queensland
Schooling: Brisbane Grammar School & Sydney University
Occupation: Secretary
Died: Died of wounds, Gallipoli, 6 May 1915, aged 27 years
Cemetery: Shell Green Cemetery
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, United Service Club
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World War 1 Service

14 Aug 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Brisbane, Queensland
25 Sep 1914: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, 3rd Field Artillery Brigade , Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
25 Sep 1914: Embarked AIF WW1, Captain, SN Officer, 3rd Field Artillery Brigade , HMAT Rangatira, Brisbane
6 May 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, SN Officer, 7th Field Artillery Battery, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli

Profile

The sixth child of Alexander Smith Leslie and Martha Elizabeth Aland and the first of three brothers who lost their lives in the Great War 1914-18.

Walter was born at 'Mayfield' in Hamilton, Brisbane, on 19 August 1887. Educated at the Brisbane Grammar School to which he had won a scholarship. Passed Junior and Senior, Sydney University Examination. Three years BGS cadets (Private). Four and a half years Australian Field Artillery - Commissioned Rank. O/C 3rd Bty., Aust. Fortress Arty., 16 months. Certificates in Military Engineering. Single. No issue. According to obituary, was "well known in commercial circles in Brisbane." An accountant and Company Secretary in civilian life, employed by John Reid & Nephews, Brisbane, at the time of his enlistment. Prior to that was employed by the Federal Sheep-shearing Company and by Messrs. J.P. Peterson & Son, having charge of that company's insurance business.

MILITARY PROMOTIONS: 16 January 1911 commissioned 2nd Lieutenant; 20 August 1914 promoted Lieutenant; 17 September 1914 promoted Captain, 7th Battery, 3rd Field Artillery Brigade, AFA.

ACTIVE SERVICE: Enlisted at the outbreak of war and left Australia for overseas service with the First Expeditionary Force embarking from Pinkenba on 24 September 1914 per the SS 'Rangatira'. His brother Arthur Leslie, a Gunner in the 3 FAB, was also on board. After training in Egypt the 3rd FAB formed part of the Gallipoli expedition sailing to the peninsula on the troopship 'Cardiganshire'. The ship was shelled at dusk on the 25th but reanchored out of range of the Turkish guns. During the night the order came to stand by for disembarkation. At 7 a.m. on the morning of 26 April 4 guns of the 7th Battery were offloaded onto the beach from which they were then manhandled up the "gully and across shrapnel green & thence onto the top of the ridge held by our infantry." [7th Battery War Diary 26/4/1915] By nightfall 3 guns of 7th Battery were emplaced on Bolton's Ridge practically in the infantry firing line, gunpits were dug, the guns fired and ammunition carried up from the beach by hand while under continuous rifle fire. [7th Battery war Diary 26/4/1915] By daybreak on the 27th the fourth gun was also in position. Walter commanded the 7th Battery's no.1 gun "which had an arc of fire from KAPA TEPE round to ridge in front about 70 degrees". No. 2 gun was commanded by Lieutenant P. J. Ross, No. 3 by Major F. A. Hughes (Battery O/C) and No. 4 by Lieutenant W. J. Urquhart. Their immediate targets were the "ridges and gullies south of ridge 400 where large numbers of infantry were moving" [7th Battery War Diary 27/4] but the battery also repulsed several direct assaults by Turkish troops and up to May 1 "had been continuously on the guns" for 5 days and nights. [7th Battery war Diary May 1] Walter's service was short lived but intense. He, Lieutenant Ross and two guns' crews were mentioned in divisional orders for conspicuous gallantry for their actions on 5th and 6th May when involved in an artillery duel with a Turkish battery concealed on the slopes beyond the Asmak Dere. Three Gunners were subsequently recommended for the DCM while a note appended to the Commendation said that Walter 'would have been recommended for DSO had he lived'. He took the full blast of the salvo that hit his gun on May 6. Considerable confusion has surrounded both the date of Walter's death and his place of burial. His family were initially informed that he had died of his wounds on 8 June while the postwar burial party replaced his memorial cross in Shrapnel Green with an official military tombstone. Documentary evidence, however, records that Captain W. A. Leslie was evacuated to the hospital ship HMS Gloucester Castle where he died of his wounds and was later buried at sea. The cross that perhaps still stood in Shrapnel Green when the Commonwealth Graves Commission began its task of gathering the fallen into formal military cemeteries was in fact a memorial cross erected in Walter's memory by the men of his battery. That this is so is recorded in an extract from a gunner's letter to his mother. I visited the grave in 1972 where I placed a piece of rosemary. For whether he was buried at sea or on land, it is still a fitting memorial to his sacrifice.

RECOMMENDATION:
'This officer, with Lieut. P.J. Ross, 7th Bty., was in charge of two guns, which it had been necessary to place practically in the fire trenches on the right of our line. On the 5th May the enemy opened a violent cannonade on these guns and this portion of our trenches at very close range, the action lasting from 4.30 to 5.30 p.m., when the enemy was silenced. On the following morning the enemy opened an equally heavy fire. Captain Leslie by his gallant courageous conduct and example encouraged his men to continue to a successful termination the action, the enemy again being forced to cease fire. Just before the action ceased Captain Leslie was severely wounded and died while being removed to the hospital ship.'

The action is mentioned in Bean's OFFICIAL HISTORY OF AUSTRALIA IN THE WAR OF 1914-18, Vol.I 'The Story of Anzac', p.77: 'Captain Leslie and Lieutenant Ross, with two guns' crews of the 7th Battery, though completely exposed in their position in the firing line, gallantly turned their pieces against the hidden position, east of Gaba Tepe, from which the bombardment seemed to be coming, and continued to fire until it ceased; but in the meantime a shell, bursting in the headquarters dugout, had wounded both Rosenthal and Burgess. Next morning the same guns opened again, shelling Phillips's and Hughes's batteries as well as the whole right of Anzac. The camp of the 3rd Field Ambulance was swept with shrapnel, patients being killed and Colonel Marshall, the second officer on Bridges' medical staff, wounded. In the large southern depot of food-supplies newly-formed near Brighton Beach the shells played havoc, twenty mules being killed and several men hit. The Bolton's Ridge guns again answered this battery, but Leslie and Ross were unable to locate it definitely, and could only search with their shells the concealed slopes beyond the Asmak Dere, where they believed it to be. Leslie was mortally wounded and died during the morning.'

REGARDING WALTER'S DEATH:--

EXTRACT from 'The Dardanelles' Story of the Attack told by Gunner Sidney Prior, p.11: 'Captain Leslie, of the 7th battery was killed with a whole shell and died game and brave. I was his trumpeter at my first camp at Tambourine. He was a good fellow and well liked by all the boys.'

EXTRACT from a Gunner's letter home: 'The poor old skipper was game to the last and refused to squeak although his wounds must have given him hell. His wrist was almost blown away & he had three or four wounds in the back besides the one in his leg. I was very sorry to hear of his death as I was a great favourite of his & in return I liked him the best of any of our officers. He would often have a yarn with me on the desert or on the march & once on the Cardiganshire we talked together all one afternoon. The battery is a good deal poorer by his loss.'

EXTRACT from a Gunner's letter to his mother: 'Yes, dear mother, I can tell you all about poor old Captain Leslie's death. You see we were in action on the top of a ridge engaging a battery of four Turkish guns, and I might say they (shells) came over very thick and often. The shells were falling all round our gun and Capt. Leslie's observing station just outside our gun pit. One or two shells went right through our pit putting our phone out of action. Then a high explosive fell right into the hole containing Capt Leslie and a lookout man a Bomb. Bumpus. The Bombardier escaped with only a light peppering of small splinters of the shell, but the poor skipper received the full force of the explosion, shattering his thigh & leg and tearing away a huge piece of flesh from his forearm. Oh dear he was game to the last. He was hit about 9.30 a.m. on the 6th of May and died and was buried at sea from the hospital ship. The last I saw of him was being carried down to the beach after receiving first aid by our Dr. Alex Marks and the Capt was saying 'I hope the boys won't think I'm a coward.' Why anyone who knew him could not say or think anything like that. You see he was in very great pain. I must say (for I was with him from the start) he was as brave and game a man as ever one may wish to meet. He was so keen & brave that I think at times he was just a little too reckless in exposing himself. I saw him have more than one narrow escape. You see the previous day we had fought single handed a four gun battery & gave as good as we got but my word it was hot work. This was what Capt Leslie, myself & detachment were mentioned in despatches for. We were all very sorry to lose such a keen officer & comrade as the Capt proved to be, and he will not easily be replaced. We are erecting a large wooden cross in the graveyard behind the ridge where he was killed in memory of Capt Leslie, close by a few more of our old battery.'

EXTRACT from an Australian nurse's letter: "I was talking to an Australian who was there when Walter was killed and he told me the following which I want you to tell Mrs. Leslie. He said that Captain Leslie was very brave at the last. He made all his men get into their dugouts (they were under very heavy Turkish fire) and said he was going to fire 20 shots from the gun himself. He went on & on and the men begged him to let them relieve him but he said - "No boys, get back to your dug-outs" and went on - the 18th shot was reached when a Turkish shell burst near him and he was put out - but he really died doing a brave deed and I was so pleased to hear it."

CONDOLENCE LETTER to A.S. Leslie from F.C. Urquhart of "Haytor", Toorak Road, Hamilton, Brisbane - July 19th, 1915: "Dear Sir, By last mail I received from my son Lieutenant Urquhart of the seventh Battery a short note containing the following. "Let Captain Leslie's people know that I was with him just after he was hit, but all he said to me was "I think we knocked that battery out - remember me to all the boys". In sending you this message I beg you will allow me to say how grieved I am at the occasion for it & the loss of the fine young officer whose acquaintance I made at Enoggera camp last year and to express to you the deep sympathy my wife and I feel for you Sincerely yours---"

EXTRACT: From Arthur Leslie to his mother: 'Needless to say I was frightfully cut up on hearing about him, and my thoughts were also with both you & Father in your bereavement, but Mother dear he died doing his duty as an officer, gentleman & soldier of his King & the Empire & although it is hard for the ones who suffer the loss of their children there is that consolation at the very least.'

CONDOLENCE LETTER from Major F. Hughes, O/C of 7th Battery, to Walter's mother: "Dear Mrs Leslie, You will have been officially informed by now by the Defence Department of the death of your son Captain W.A. Leslie in action on 6th May. Although nothing that I can say will alleviate your grief, I am writing to let you know that he met his death while fighting his gun & bravely doing his duty as a gallant artilleryman. Our battery was hotly engaged with the enemy's artillery about 9 a.m. on Thursday 6th May, they having the advantage of a concealed position while our guns were practically in the open in our infantry firing line. Walter was in charge of our No. 1 gun, the guns being fought separately each with an officer in charge, when a shell entered the dug out from which he was observing, and wounded him in the leg. He was removed from the Battery to the beach and thence to the hospital ship being quite conscious and even cheerful when he left. Unfortunately the injury was more serious than it seemed for he died about two hours afterwards from shock. I have been intimately associated with Walter ever since he has been in the Artillery and his loss shocked me considerably. I beg to express the sincere sympathy of myself and the whole of the 7th Battery with yourself and your family on your sad loss and we can only hope that it may afford you some consolation to know that your son died while doing his duty to his King & country & met his end in as brave a manner as any of us can hope to do, should it be our lot to fall. Believe me, Mrs Leslie, to be very sympathetically yours---"

CONDOLENCE LETTER from Major F. Hughes, O/C of 7th Battery, to Doug Leslie: "Turkey May 31/1915, Dear Doug, I have already written to your mother advising her of poor Walter's death. We had a fairly rough time when we landed as our guns were rushed right up into the Infantry firing line which need our help pretty badly. On the day Walter was hit we were having a bad time being shelled by batteries who were concealed in dips in the ground & while we were pinned down to one spot they (the Turks) could move whenever we located them & come at us from a fresh place. It seems an extraordinary thing to me that any of the old 7th Battery is left at all. They have made several attempts to reach us & one night they got within 10 yards of the guns. Needless to say I was much distressed at losing Walter as was the whole battery but it is a melancholy satisfaction to think that he went down by gamely doing his job. He was removed to the Hospital Ship when hit at about 9am, & died from shock at about 11am & was buried at sea. His effects have been despatched through the usual official channel & should reach you in due time. I also advised Thos. Cook & Sons Cairo & instructed them to forward his boxes etc stored with them. Dude* is a driver in the 4th Battery & is at present with their horses in Alexandria. With kindest regards to your wife & self & all your people together with my sincere sympathy. I am yours…"

* Dude is a reference to Arthur Leslie

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Rosenthal, O/C 3rd F.A.B. made the following COMMENDATION to the O/C Div. Artillery: "I beg to specially bring before your notice the particularly good work done by the officers and detachments of nos. 2 & 3 guns of 7th Battery on the afternoon 5th May 1915. As I was myself wounded on that morning and until resuming duty a few days ago had been in hospital in Cairo, I was unable to submit a report. On the afternoon 5th May two --- guns from the OLIVE GROVE (approx.--- about 14 pounders) opened fire on No. 2 & 3 guns with percussion with the evident intention of destroying materiel. The firing commenced at about 1.30pm and was continued at a rate of --- until after 5pm. The ---was hit and my Headquarters Dugout was ploughed up giving a clear indication of the intensity of fire. During the whole of this cannonade No. 2 & 3 guns were served continuously and in my opinion the work of the detachments was particularly ----. A few minutes after 2pm a percussion shell entered my dugout, Major Burgess and myself being within and we were both wounded. I was therefore unable to watch the termination of the duel. ___Major Blamey, Intelligence Staff, who was in the vicinity at the time, reported to me late the same evening prior to my boarding the Hospital ship that he had personally seen both the enemy's guns knocked out. The following is a list of the Officers and complete detachments: No.2 Gun Capt. W.A. Leslie, 1606 Sgt. A.K. Stewart, 2282 Gnr. E. Baynes, 1645 Br. W.H. East, 1651 Gnr. M. Cooney, 2257 Br. N. McFarlane, 1673 Gnr A.C. Giraud; No. 3 gun Lieut. P.J. Ross, 1654 Br. W.P. Sparkes, 1613 Corpl. E.L. Coleman, 1706 Gnr. c. Perkins, 1713 Gnr. F. Leigh, 2316 Gnr. W. Teerman, 1674 Gnr. J.H. Graham. I would especially recommend to notice the work of the two officers named, particularly Capt Leslie who in an equally courageous manner again fought his gun on the morning 6th May under an equally heavy cannonade from the enemy. On that morning he was wounded in his observing station at 9am and though he received immediate medical attention and was promptly removed to the Hospital ship "Gloucester castle" on which I was then a patient, the nature of his wounds was so serious he died at 2pm 6th May and was buried at sea." A note appended reads: "Div. H.Q. : Forward. I can vouch for the correctness of O/C 3rd Bde Report." [J.T. Hobbs, Commanding. Div. Art, - 3.6.15] Walter was 27 at the time of his death.

WAR GRAVES COMMISSION: Name: LESLIE, WALTER ALAND Initials: W A Nationality: Australian Rank: Captain Regiment: Australian Field Artillery Unit Text: 7th Bty. 3rd A.F.A. Bde. Date of Death: 06/05/1915 Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference: I. I. 1. Cemetery: SHELL GREEN CEMETERY Cemetery: SHELL GREEN CEMETERY Country: Turkey. Shell Green was a sloping cottonfield on the seaward side of Bolton's Ridge at the southern end of the Anzac area. Shell Green Cemetery is 300 metres up a hilly track from the coast road and like all the grave yards overlooks the sea. Walter's grave, however, is a memorial grave erected by the men of his battery. His remains were buried at sea from the hospital ship 'Gloucester Castle' somewhere between the Dardanelles and Egypt. AWM145 Roll of Honour cards, 1914-1918 War, Army.

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