Leo Magnus (Dick) MARTIN

MARTIN, Leo Magnus

Service Number: WX20297
Enlisted: 28 January 1942, Claremont, Western Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 2nd/28th Infantry Battalion
Born: Stansbury, South Australia, 24 April 1908
Home Town: Kalgoorlie, Kalgoorlie/Boulder, Western Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Underground Miner
Died: Natural Causes, Esperance WA, 2000
Cemetery: Esperance Cemetery
Memorials: Stansbury War Memorial
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World War 2 Service

28 Jan 1942: Enlisted Private, SN WX20297, Claremont, Western Australia
28 Jan 1942: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SN WX20297
29 Jan 1942: Involvement Private, SN WX20297
10 Sep 1943: Wounded Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SN WX20297, 2nd/28th Infantry Battalion, New Guinea - Huon Peninsula / Markham and Ramu Valley /Finisterre Ranges Campaigns
26 May 1944: Discharged Private, SN WX20297, 2nd/28th Infantry Battalion

14 Platoon Busu River

My father WX20297 Pte Leo (Dick) Martin was a member of 14 Platoon C Company 2/28th Battalion and was badly wounded in both thighs in an assault by the platoon in the afternoon of 10 September 1943. The Battalion had crossed the flooded Busu River on the 9th September 1943, and this was an epic feat in itself. Most casualties were drowned. The Battalion reached the Jap held west bank but had lost many of its weapons. The next morning it reorganised but was being probed by the Japs, during which the Platoon Sgt. McGregor was killed. At 3pm the platoon attacked the Jap rearguard in a swamp and defeated them killing some 60. The platoon lost 4 killed and 17 wounded. My father had been lightly wounded by grenade shrapnel early in the attack, was then shot through a thigh but kept going. The battle was a confused affair in the swamp and thick jungle, and as it died down he was further wounded in the other thigh by a burst of machine gun rounds. Crawling away through the swamp he came across a Jap crawling towards him armed with a grenade, they struggled, Dad got on top and strangled him - also the grenade went off under the Jap in the swamp. That is how he was found. Later, back in hospital in Australia one wound would not heal, and a thumb size bit of grenade was found. I have that piece of shrapnel along with his original letter home to my mother after he was wounded. I also have a considerable amount of relevant information about this battle and will try to post more if possible.

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Biography contributed by Gary Martin

Dad was the youngest of 14 kids and born in 1908 at Stansbury SA.  His Father was killed in a horse farm accident in 1917, the same year an older brother Fred Hillier Martin was killed in action in France.  Fred received a gallantry certificate a few days before his death.  Dad and brother Ralph came to WA by ship and share farmed at Bolgart before walking off and travelling to Kalgoorlie seeking work during the depression.  Both excelled at underground mining and were recognised as "gun" machine operators before Dad was promoted to Shift Boss.  

He met my mother Christina Kempt who had just turned 16 - Dad was 26 and they married in March 1942 after he had enlisted.  

Dad joined the 2/28th Battalion as a reinforcement at Al Alemien and returned to Australia by convoy arriving home in February 1943 before jungle training in Qld.  He participated in the landing near Lae and the epic crossing of the Busu River on 9 September 1943 and was then wounded in both thighs the following day when his 14 Platoon attacked and defeated the Japanese rearguard.  He was hospitalised for some months before walking again and discharged in May 1944.

He recommenced work on the Great Boulder Gold Mine as a Shift Boss.  My sister Leonie was born in 1945, I was born 1948 and brother Colin in 1951.

During the 1950's he was responsible for training many of the refugees from Europe that went to Kalgoorlie and hence we became friendly with families from places like Hungary and Poland and helped them settle into Australian life.  I recall one, Mr Kunzabo had been a airplane mechanic for the Luftwaffe and he quickly used his mechanical skills to race speedboats on the lakes near Kalgoorlie.

Dad later was made responsible for the introduction of ANFO explosives into the underground mining operations of the Great Boulder Mine and he spent much time on that project.  He later transistioned to Nickel Mining operations and due to his age and war wounds became a resupply driver to the Scotia Nickel mine north of Kalgoorlie - pick up bread, meat, beer etc each day, drive to Scotia, lunch and drive home.

Dad retired in about 1971 and relocated to Esperance.  He was a keen fisherman and took on may odd jobs around town, and was a real character driving around in an open air Austin Champ 4WD with his large Labrador dog.

In about 1977 Dad finally was granted a TPI pension for his war wounds and received a back pay for a few years amounting to about $17,000 - which he used to buy a Japanese Suburu 4WD from a German car dealer - ironic eh.