John Patrick LE STRANGE

LE STRANGE, John Patrick

Service Number: 5367
Enlisted: 17 February 1916, Brisbane, Queensland
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 25th Infantry Battalion
Born: Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia, November 1886
Home Town: Brisbane, Brisbane, Queensland
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Labourer
Died: Killed In Action, France, 3 October 1918
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Memorials: Enoggera Shire Council Roll of Honour WW1, Mitchelton St Matthew's Church Groveley Roll of Honour, Villers-Bretonneux Memorial (Australian National Memorial - France)
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World War 1 Service

17 Feb 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 5367, 25th Infantry Battalion, Brisbane, Queensland
8 Aug 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 5367, 25th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
8 Aug 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 5367, 25th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Itonus, Brisbane
3 Oct 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 5367, 25th Infantry Battalion, "The Last Hundred Days"

A Soldier’s Biography

John Patrick (Jack) Le Strange came into the world in December 1887, the eldest son of John
Patrick (Paddy) Le Strange and his wife Mary-Jane (Jenny), residents of Rockhampton,

Little is known about Jack’s early life until he married in August 1912. Family rumour
provides one exception, an estrangement between Jack himself and his father, Paddy, shortly
after his mother’s death in March 1899.

This rumour has it, the two differed regarding Jenny’s will, which somehow related to the
local Catholic priest. This same rumour speculates this is the reason why Jack changed his
middle name of Patrick, to Percival – officially or not, is unknown. He also converted to a
Protestant religion at the same time, to further distance himself from his father. What this
argument was about, is also unknown.

The family rumour continues to state, that after this incident, Jack went to work on a cousin’s
sheep station, Kilcummin, west of Rockhampton – never speaking to Paddy again. This
where he met and married the station cook, Mabel Ruth Colborn, on Saturday August 31st,

Jack, Mabel and Norma, Mabel’s daughter, settled down to family life on the station until
sometime in 1913, when Jack moved his family to the Brisbane suburb of Red Hill. Whether
this was before or after the birth of their first child, John Alexander on July 19, 1913, is not

The next year, World War 1 broke out on August 4, when Britain declared war on Germany,
turning the world upside down.

Regardless, life went on with Jack working as a grocer’s assistant and Mabel looking after the
house and children until the birth of their second child, William Dardenelle George on
September 19, 1915. Not long after William’s birth, Jack moved his family to Grovely, to be
nearer to some of Mabel’s family.

No doubt Mabel and Jack discussed the war, how it could affect them, and Australia’s role
therein. Whether they were for or against such a conflict is unknown, but the following year,
Jack enlisted as a Private in the Australian Imperial Force on February 17. His reasons could
be one of many – such as the 6s a day, (60¢) regular pay, probably a strong enticement.
This regular pay would go a long way to providing for his family, in an era of high
unemployment and financial uncertainty.

Like most AIF volunteers, Jack bounced around several training camps, before arriving at the
front. First assigned to No 11 Depot Battalion for training at the Bells Paddock Camp,
Enoggera, Brisbane, from his enlistment in February. Whether he lived in camp or at home
with his family. is unknown. He most likely lived in camp and returned home to the family
on his days off, seeing as they lived not far away.
He later transferred to the 14th Reinforcements of the 25th Battalion on April 6, 1916, setting
sail on August 8, aboard the A50 Itonus for Plymouth, south-west England, arriving October
Once in England, Jack, and no doubt others of the 14th Reinforcements, joined the 7th
Training Battalion, situated at Rolleston on the Salisbury Plain, until early December 1916.

These Reinforcements, along with Jack, boarded the SS Victoria at Folkestone, in south-east
England, arriving in France on December 14, to join their unit by February 4, 1917. What that
actual unit was, and why the delay, is unknown. It had taken Jack nearly a year to arrive at
the Western Front.

Undoubtedly, Jack and Mabel exchanged letters and photographs during his training in
Australia and England, as well as at the front. Family rumour has Jack carrying several photos
of his family.

The 25th Battalion saw heavy action in France. The campaigns in which Jack may have taken
part, were the Second campaign at Bullecourt, Menin Road, Broodseinde, Polygon Wood,
and many others.

How Jack coped with the mud, the cold, the smell, the rats, and the disease in the trenches is
unknown. We can only speculate based on other soldiers’ accounts of time in the trenches.
They slept where they could, insects such as flies and lice were big problems, continual
artillery noise, cold, damp and the constant threat from snipers, combined to create a stressful
environment. Cramped conditions, the threat of diseases such as dysentery and “trench foot”,
added to the soldiers’ stress. A hot, filling meal and clean water were practically unknown,
along with working latrines.

We mustn’t forget the grief suffered by Jack, and others, when one of their comrades-at-arms
died. We can only speculate how often this happened.
One bright spot were the message dogs, who carried messages, killed the rats and were often
pets to the soldiers.

There are no highlights within Jack’s service record, except for an entry regarding going
AWOL (Absent without Leave), March 30, 1918. He was absent from his billet for 1½ hours
that afternoon, and as a result, he lost 14 days’ pay.

Further, family rumour asserts that Jack was a sniper. If so, since the Army regarded sniper
rifles as specialist pieces of equipment, would possibly have had it specially made for him.
It was this role that eventually caused Jack’s death.

How Mabel coped during these 2½ years is unknown, most likely just got on with life caring
for her family and “keeping the home-fires burning”. Having to care for a young family
would have prevented Mabel from taking on war-work outside of their home, but she may
have knitted socks, scarves, and other items to send overseas, if not specifically for Jack.

Mabel never saw Jack again after he left for overseas, as he was killed in action, October 3,
1918, during the Battle for the Beaurevoir Line. Jack’s service record does not record how
Mabel learnt of this tragedy, but possibly by the dreaded pink telegram sometime in October
1918. However, his Service Record does record his death.

We can only speculate how this news affected Mabel and her children; grief, despair, anger
most likely affected her days, but somehow, she kept going for her children, just like many
others in her situation.

The family history states that Mabel opened a grocery store in Grovely to feed and clothe her
family. Most likely she received a pension of sorts, along with his medals, a few personal
items, a Memorial Scroll and Plaque, also known as the "Dead Man's Penny". Not much
compensation for the loss of her husband and her children’s father.

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