Leonard George BATTAMS

BATTAMS, Leonard George

Service Numbers: SX28857, S37895
Enlisted: 28 October 1941
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: 25/33 Garrison Battalion (SA)
Born: Payneham, SA, 25 September 1905
Home Town: Barmera, Berri and Barmera, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Not yet discovered
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World War 2 Service

28 Oct 1941: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Sergeant, SN SX28857, 25/33 Garrison Battalion (SA)
4 Mar 1943: Involvement Sergeant, SN SX28857
4 Mar 1943: Involvement Sergeant, SN S37895
4 Mar 1943: Enlisted Barmera, SA
17 May 1945: Discharged Sergeant
17 May 1945: Discharged Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Sergeant, SN SX28857, 25/33 Garrison Battalion (SA)

Sergeant Leonard George Battams

Sergeant Leonard George Battams (By Samantha Battams)

Leonard George Battams came from a family that served in the Australian army, with his grandfather, uncles, father and all of his brothers serving in the First or Second World Wars, or both.

His grandfather and father went to Pompoota Station, the first training farm for soldier settlers, after they returned from WW1 and before settling at Moorook where they were granted blocks of land. Two of Leonard’s Uncles remained behind, buried in France and Belgium. The soldier settlers were issued with two tents per family (one for cooking, the other for sleeping in).

Leonard was athletic, winning many swimming races in the Murray River and playing in the Moorook Football Club in its premiership sides of 1926 and 1932. Leonard married Meta Otillie Boormann in 1924, whose Christian name was tattooed on his upper arm. The Boorman family hailed from Posen, Prussia and arrived SA in 1841, six years before Leonard Battams’ forebears. However Meta’s parents did not speak English at home. Whilst his brothers served in the Australian army overseas, Leonard served in Australia due to his large family of 7 girls and 2 boys (born 1924 to 1940).

Leonard quickly moved from Private to Corporal to Sergeant in the army and was a gardener and guard at the Loveday Internment Camp, first enlisting in October 1941 at Wayville and immediately working at the Prisoner of War camp at Loveday, part of the 25th/33rd Garrison Battalion. Leonard would likely have known some of the POW interns of German descent via his wife’s family, and it would have been a very conflicting time for those in the SA regions where communities were integrated.

Leonard only received 4 days weekend leave every couple of months, so his wife Mata was largely left on her own to raise the 9 children during the war years. Leonard also had some land and his son Len jnr described doing hard labour on the farm and pulling a plough when he was just 9 years old – about the time that his father started in the POW camp at Loveday.

In 1943, eight months after becoming a Sergeant, Leonard was charged with neglecting to obey Loveday orders – although his army record does not detail what orders were disobeyed.

The gardening work must have been very hard physical labour, and he suffered from hernias on a few occasions and had to go to the army general hospital.

There were three subsidiary camps of Loveday, including at Moorook West where wood was cut for irrigation pumps, where Leonard may have been located. Leonard had a shoe/clothes brush in a wooden casing carved into a dog – with the tongue being the handle of the brush which had been given carved and given to him by a Japanese prisoner of war at Loveday. Hearing that Leonard could be violent, I wondered if this gesture was ‘a curse or just a carving.’ It was something that he treasured, the gift in the harsh context that seemed to be meaningful.

In May 1945 he applied for discharge and was discharged from the army. Leonard later worked as a gardener and groundskeeper at St Peters School, when author Colin Thiele was Headmaster – he gave him a book with a signed dedication to him when he left.

Meta died in 1979 and Leonard lived until the age of 93, dying in 1998.

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