Leonard (Len) DRAPER

DRAPER, Leonard

Service Number: 6963
Enlisted: 30 September 1916, Brisbane, Qld.
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 15th Infantry Battalion
Born: Strathpine, Queensland, Australia, 2 October 1895
Home Town: Albany Creek, North Brisbane, Queensland
Schooling: Albany Creek State School, Queensland, Australia
Occupation: Farm labourer
Died: Killed in Action, Le Verguier France, 18 September 1918, aged 22 years
Cemetery: Jeancourt Communal Cemetery Extension
IV A 3,
Tree Plaque: Woodford Avenue Of Honour
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Kallangur Pine Rivers Memorial Gates, Strathpine District Roll of Honour
Show Relationships

World War 1 Service

30 Sep 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 6963, 15th Infantry Battalion, Brisbane, Qld.
25 Nov 1916: Involvement Private, 6963, 15th Infantry Battalion, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '11' embarkation_place: Sydney embarkation_ship: HMAT Beltana embarkation_ship_number: A72 public_note: ''
25 Nov 1916: Embarked Private, 6963, 15th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Beltana, Sydney

Service Narrative

DRAPER Leonard #6963 15th Battalion

Len Draper was the son of George Edwards Draper and Jessie Draper of Albany Creek. He was born at Albany Creek and attended Albany Creek State School. Upon leaving school he worked on either the family or neighbouring farms as a labourer.

Len presented himself for enlistment to the Brisbane recruiting depot on 30th September 1916. There was a lot of pressure within the Australian community regarding recruitment at this time. The AIF divisions had received a mauling on the Somme during July and August of that year and casualty lists appeared daily in the newspapers. The British Government through the office of the Governor General was pressuring Australia to increase the number of recruits. No doubt the Strathpine Patriotic League was actively supporting this call and the Australian Government was preparing for a plebiscite on conscription later in the year.

Len’s attestation papers list his age as 21 years and zero months; in other words he had just reached the age where he could enlist without his parent’s consent. After signing up, Len proceeded to Enoggera where he was initially placed into a depot battalion before being allocated as part of the 23rd reinforcements of the 15th Battalion. Seven weeks after enlisting, Len boarded the “Beltana” in Sydney bound for England. The embarkation roll indicates that he had allotted 3/- of his daily pay to his mother.

The 15th Battalion was part of the 4th Brigade AIF which had originally been part of the 1st Division and had landed at Gallipoli on the first day. After evacuating from Gallipoli, the 4th Brigade became part of the newly created 4th Division. Before joining the 15th, Len and his mates would spend five months at Codford Camp on Salisbury Plain in training. Len crossed the channel from Folkstone on 4th June 1917 and arrived at his battalion lines south of Messines in Belgium on 21st June. While Len was in transit, the battle of Messines had begun on 7th June. The 15th were not involved in the advance on that day but manned the support trenches in case of a German counterattack.

Les than three weeks after joining his battalion and seeing action for the first time, Len sustained a serious wound to his thigh from a shell splinter. He was evacuated to Boulogne and placed on the Hospital Ship “St Dennis” before being transferred to the Lakenham Military Hospital in Norwich. His medical file states that there was no damage to the bone and that once the splinter was removed, the wound healed quickly. As was usual practice, his parents at home at Albany Creek were advised of his wound by telegram.

One month after entering hospital, Len was discharged to the Australian Convalescent Depot at Harefield and then on to Hurdcott. He still used crutches but as time wore on he regained full mobility, so much so that on 7th December he was AWL for two days. For a boy from Albany Creek, the sights were just too tempting. He was docked 7 day’s pay.

Fully recovered from his wound, Len recrossed the channel in January 1918 and was taken on strength by the 15th on 26th January. The battalion was almost in the same position it had been when he was wounded 4months before. With the Passchendaele campaign closed down for the winter, the five Australian divisions were rotating in and out of the line between Ploegsteert and Warneton, spending time in training, fatigue work and sports.

With the signing of the surrender between Germany and Russia in 1917, the German command then had at its disposal some 60 divisions that could be redirected to the western front; but the timing was critical. Ludendorff (the German Field Commander) had to strike before the American Army became operational. Operation Michael began on 21st March and the British 5th Army on the Somme broke in the face of the onslaught. Amiens was threatened and it seemed the Germans might actually win the war.

To meet the threat, Haig (British commander) called on the troops who had fought so well in Flanders the year before – The five Australian divisions. The German advance was finally halted by Australians at Villers Brettoneux on 25th April. By May all five Australian divisions, which included Len and his mates in the 15th, were on the Somme, some having travelled by London double decker buses. On 1st June, the five divisions were formally named as part of the Australian Corps; with Lieut General John Monash as Corps commander.

Soon after his appointment, Monash convinced his superiors to allow him to plan and execute a small set piece battle employing new tactics. The troops involved were all Australian (with the exception of one company of American infantry). The success of the battle of Hamel cemented Monash as an outstanding planner and field commander and boosted the reputation of the AIF as fearsome opponents. Thus began the period referred to by historians as “The Hundred Days” which saw Monash’s corps, supported by the Canadians and British push the Germans back in a series of humiliating reversals and retreats all the way back to the Hindenburg Line. After years of trench warfare in which neither side was capable of shifting the front to any great degree, the Australians were now spearheading an advance into open country; this was mobile warfare.

Len and the 15th Battalion had played their part in every major battle since Hamel but by September of 1918, they faced their biggest test, the Hindenburg Line. In an attack on an outpost of the line at Le Verguier on 18th September, Len Draper was killed by an artillery shell. His body lay where he had fallen as the advance had to keep up with the creeping artillery barrage and his mates could not stop. He was eventually buried in a shell hole by a group of Pioneers who were following up the advance and had with them the chaplain of the 16th Battalion, Rev Harper. A wooden cross was erected at the site. Len had not yet reached his 23rd birthday. The 15th Battalion suffered only light casualties that day with 11 men killed but it would prove to be the last battle for the 15th . Exhausted by three months of constant fighting, the battalion was withdrawn from the line and was still in rest billets when the war ended two months later.

Len’s mother received a parcel of his personal effects; a bible. In 1920 the Graves Registration Unit collected Len’s remains and reinterred them in the Jeancourt Communal Cemetery Extension. Upon receiving photographs of Len’s grave with its headstone of white Portland limestone, Jessie Draper wrote to base records in Melbourne thanking them for the care that had been taken with her son. The empire medal and victory medal, as well as a memorial plaque and scroll were received two years later.

Showing 1 of 1 story

Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

Leonard's parents were George Edward Draper and Jessie Greensill. He enlisted at Brisbane on 30 September 1916. The Draper and the Greensill families were pioneering families of Albany Creek. Leonard was killed in action at Amiens, Somme, France. His cousin Walter Greensill of Kobble Creek also died of war wounds.