Leslie Sawle (Les) PLAYER

Badge Number: S65055, Sub Branch: Tumby Bay

PLAYER, Leslie Sawle

Service Number: 3445
Enlisted: 30 June 1915
Last Rank: Corporal
Last Unit: 4th Machine Gun Battalion
Born: Mitcham SA, November 1895
Home Town: Tumby Bay, Tumby Bay, South Australia
Schooling: Mitcham SA
Occupation: Clerk
Died: Circumstances of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Centennial Park Cemetery, South Australia
Memorials: Cudlee Creek Millbrook Public School Roll of Honour, Gumeracha Anzac Honor Roll, Gumeracha Town Hall WW1 Roll of Honor, Tumby Bay RSL Portrait Memorials
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World War 1 Service

30 Jun 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 3445, 10th Infantry Battalion
1 Jul 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 3445, 10th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
27 Oct 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 3445, 10th Infantry Battalion, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '10' embarkation_place: Adelaide embarkation_ship: HMAT Benalla embarkation_ship_number: A24 public_note: ''
26 Feb 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 50th Infantry Battalion
2 Aug 1916: Wounded AIF WW1, Private, 3445, 13th Machine Gun Company, Battle for Pozières
9 Apr 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Corporal, 3445, 4th Machine Gun Battalion, German Spring Offensive 1918
8 Aug 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Corporal, 3445, 4th Machine Gun Battalion, "The Last Hundred Days"
5 Apr 1919: Embarked AIF WW1, Corporal, 3445, 4th Machine Gun Battalion, RTA
8 Jul 1919: Discharged AIF WW1, Corporal, 3445, 4th Machine Gun Battalion

Help us honour Leslie Sawle Player's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Geoffrey Stewart

Les was born at Mitcham (SA) in November 1895 to Sawle Player and Catherine Player (nee Memus).  He was one of 9 children, 3 boys and 6 girls; One of the boys, his twin brother, died at 3 months of age.  The family lived in Gumeracha (SA).  His father was an Auctioneer and General Commission Agent with E Coles & Co. of Adelaide.

Les went to school at Mitcham, leaving at year 7 as was common for the time.  He then took employ with the same company as his father, working as a clerk, and remained in this employ until his enlistment.

Les enlisted in Adelaide at the end of June 1915 at Keswick (SA) and was posted to 10th Battalion as a reinforcement.  After basic training, he embarked on 27 October 1915 aboard HMAT “Benalla” for Alexandria.

In Egypt the 'Doubling of the AIF' was taking place in perparation for service in France. The 10th Battalion spawned the 50th, its so-called 'pup' Battalion.  Les was thus allocated but almost as quickly was re-allocated to the newly forming 13th Machine Gun Company which drew soldiers from each of the Battalions in the 13th Brigade.  He was promoted to Sergeant.  After 4 months he was again on the move, this time aboard the “Ivernia” bound for Marseilles (France), arriving on 12 June 1916. 

On arrival in France his unit went straight into action when the 4th Division took over a section of front line between St Laurent Blangy and the southern edge of Vimy Ridge, near Arras. They moved south in late July to reinforce The Somme and were in action at High Wood, The Battle of Guillemont, The Battle of Flers-Courcelette, The Battle of Morval and The Battle of Le Transloy.   

Les was wounded on 2 August 1916 and transferred to 4th Casualty Clearing Station before being evacuated to 22nd General Hospital, UK.  After convalescence, he returned to the front and was reposted to the 4th Machine Gun Battalion, seeing further action on the SOmme in 1918.  The Machine Gun Battalions suffered some of the heaviest casualties of any units during WW1.

Les had a difficult time with authority whilst in the Army, having made the rank of Sergeant on 4 different occasions; each time losing his stripes due to some misdemeanour, the most serious resulting in a Court Martial in the UK.

Les returned to Australia aboard the SS “Armagh”, arriving in July 1919 and took his discharge on the 8th of that month.  He worked in a number of locations in Adelaide, all associated with the hospitality and hotel industry.

In March 1926 Les married Isabel Wilcomb Read at the Prospect Baptist Church.  On 24 June 1927 their first child was born, June Isabel, but unfortunately the little girl died one year later (18 November 1928) at North Adelaide.  It was then that the family decided to move to Tumby Bay, arriving at Christmas 1928.  Les then became the licensee of the Tumby Bay Hotel (The Red Roof), holding the licence from16 Jan 1929 until 1 May 1949 and was a very well known figure in the town.  Of course this was during the Great Depression and operating any type of business must have been extremely challenging; Les not only operated the business successfully, but was well respected in the community.

An interesting piece of memorabilia which is held in the local museum is a china cup with the inscription “Player Hotel” on it which was found at the rear of the Tumby Bay Hotel.  It is referred to as “The Player Cup”.

Whilst in Tumby their second child was born, Peter Benson: he went to school at Tumby from 1936 to 1943, when he left to attend Scotch College in Adelaide.

Les was a founding member and stalwart of the RSL in Tumby Bay: he was president for 15 years from 1931 to 1946.  In 1935 he re-formed the Tumby Bay sub Branch after it moved from Lipson. He was made a life member in 1950 and returned to Tumby Bay on 14 May 1977 as guest speaker at the annual RSL dinner. 

His medals are displayed in the National Trust Museum in Tumby Bay.

Medals and Decorations

1914 – 15 Star.                                                                                                           

British War Medal                                                                                                    

Victory Medal