Donald John LESLIE

LESLIE, Donald John

Service Number: PA2083
Enlisted: 15 May 1941, Port Adelaide, SA
Last Rank: Able Seaman
Last Unit: HMAS Torrens (Depot) / HMAS Encounter (Shore)
Born: Adelaide, South Australia, 23 June 1923
Home Town: Port Adelaide, Port Adelaide Enfield, South Australia
Schooling: Marist Brothers, South Australia
Occupation: Not yet discovered
Died: Largs Bay, South Australia, 29 July 2012, aged 89 years, cause of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
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World War 2 Service

15 May 1941: Involvement Able Seaman, PA2083, HMAS Torrens (Depot) / HMAS Encounter (Shore)
15 May 1941: Enlisted Port Adelaide, SA
15 May 1941: Enlisted Royal Australian Navy, Able Seaman, PA2083
9 Aug 1942: Wounded Royal Australian Navy, Able Seaman, PA2083, Battle of the Coral Sea, Wounded during the sinking of HMAS Canberra I, by Japanese forces during the Battle of the Coral Sea.
31 Jan 1946: Discharged

HMAS Canberra Remembered

One of the Australian warships sunk at the Iron Bottom Sound Sea during the World War II was remembered last Friday.
A ceremony which was attended by servicemen and women, dignitaries and expatriate communities gathered on board RSIPV LATA for the commemoration of the sinking of HMAS Canberra.
There was a minute silence during the ceremonial service to remember those who gave their lives on HMAS Canberra 71 years ago.
The service included readings, hymns, a moving one minute silence and a wreath laying ceremony during which guests, diplomatic representatives, and members of the public paid tribute to the crew.
A former crew member who was wounded in the Battle of Savo Island, AB Gunner Donald Leslie, had his last wish met this day by the interment of his ashes.
HMAS CANBERRA was struck by two torpedoes on her starboard side on the evening of August 8, 1942.
When she eventually sank on August 9, she was the largest ship ever lost at sea by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).
She had a crew of 819 with 193 to become casualties.
Those confirmed killed in action were one officer (the Commanding Officer - Captain Getting) and nine ratings (including one Royal Australian Air Force); those missing believed killed were nine officers (including one Royal Australian Air Force and one United States Navy) and 65 ratings (including three Royal Australian Air Force and two Royal Navy) and those wounded include 10 officers (including one Royal Navy), 96 ratings (including AB Gunner Donald Leslie, two Royal Australian Air Force, one Royal Navy and two United States Navy) and three civilian canteen staff.
In his address to the Service, on behalf of the Australian Defence Force; Rear Admiral James Goldrick, paid tribute to their forebears who set standards that have inspired their countrymen for generations.
"It is part of who and what we are, and what we strive to be as countries, and as individuals."
Taken from a Solomon Islands Newspaper - copied verbatim.

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Biography contributed

"Donald John Leslie was born in Kent Town, South Australia on 23rd June 1923 and passed away on 29th July 2012 at Philip Kennedy Hospice at Largs Bay.  He was the middle child of Isabella and John Leslie.  His heritage was Scottish, English and Irish.  Dad loved his family, remaining close to his sister Pat and brother Frank all his life and taking a keen interest in the progress of Pat’s seven children.   In later years he visited Frank on a weekly basis, never failing to leave some rolls for Frank’s lunch.  

During Dad’s childhood the family was poor, living in a succession of houses around the Rosewater and Semaphore areas.  John Leslie was a baker who was frequently out of work during the Depression years and Dad was always mystified as to how his parents managed to provide for them.  Dad was a chubby little guy with the nickname of Fatty Arbuckle.  He attended Marist Brothers’ Commercial High School in Alberton where academics didn’t interest him very much.  He preferred sports of all kinds and was a good athlete and Captain of the school football team.

Dad left school at the age of 14 and got a job at Balm Paints in Port Adelaide.   He remained there for the next 49 years, with the exception of the war years.  In March 1941, at age 17, Dad enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy with a number of his friends from the local area, and underwent training at HMAS Cerberus in Victoria.  He then joined the crew of HMAS Canberra, flagship of the RAN, and was to spend the best part of the next four years at sea.  His role on board was gunner.    Almost 70 years to the day, on August 9th 1942, Canberra was sunk by the Japanese at the Battle of the Solomon Islands with the loss of 84 dead and missing, including her Captain.  Dad was among the 109 wounded, his injuries being described as “multiple gunshot wounds”.   After the loss of the Canberra, most of the remaining crew travelled to England where they were transferred to HMAS Shropshire.  The ship was involved in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, enduring multiple attacks by Japanese Kamikaze planes, and was present in Tokyo Bay at the signing of the surrender.  Dad remembered one of his scariest moments when he was sent ashore alone in Tokyo to collect an officer’s uniform."

To read more from Donald's eulogy, click on the link to the side.