Tragically, the 2 McLeod brothers died within 11 days of each other. Alexander John McLeod 1709 was killed in action at Lone Pine on 18 August 1915 and his younger brother, Leslie John McLeod died on 29 August 1915 of disease. He was on the transport ship HMAT Kyarra when he died of ‘cerebro spinal meningitis’ just before it reached Fremantle on the voyage to Egypt.
The 2 brothers were the sons of Senior Constable Alexander Mcleod who had been appointed to Yarram in September 1914. There was a brief note in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 25 September 1914 relating to his appointment.
The new “senior” made his first appearance in the court, and was greeted with words of welcome from the bench and clerk of courts. In returning thanks he expressed a determination to do his duty fearlessly, and to put down the use of obscene language in the town.
The issue of obscene language in the town will be taken up in a later post.
Obviously, Senior Constable McLeod was very well known in the local community. However, the extent to which his 2 sons were commemorated in the Shire was limited. Alexander John McLeod is not included on either the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll or the Shire of Alberton War Memorial. His younger brother, Leslie John McLeod, is included on the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll but he is not noted as ‘killed’, and nor does his name appear on the Shire of Alberton War Memorial. Presumably there are 2 reasons for this situation. The first is that the family did not arrive in Yarram until September 1914 and it was as soon as January 1915 – just a few months later – when the older brother, Alexander, enlisted in Melbourne. It was perhaps too short a period of time for him to be regarded as ‘local’. Perhaps he never even lived in Yarram. He gave his occupation as clerk and, even though he was only 18yo at the time of enlistment, perhaps he was boarding with relatives in Melbourne and working there. However he certainly gave Yarram – his father’s address – as his address when he enlisted. Moreover the younger brother – Leslie – was definitely living in Yarram because he was given a railway warrant – number 117, dated 24 June 1915 – to travel to Melbourne to enlist. The second reason for the limited recognition of the 2 brothers was the fact that the family moved out of Yarram at the end of the War when the father was posted to Daylesford. There was no one there in the period after the War to represent the interests of the family in acknowledging their sons’ service..
Whilst the brothers might not have been well known in the Shire of Alberton, the picture below indicates that they were certainly remembered in Yarra Glen. Yarra Glen was, in fact, given by the parents on the (National) Roll of Honour form as the place with which both sons were ‘chiefly connected’. Presumably it was the place where the father had had a previous posting. The picture is of 3 stained glass windows in St Paul’s Anglican Church Yarra Glen. The windows commemorate the 2 sons – Alexander John and Leslie John – killed in WW1 and also a third son – Othel (Keith) McLeod – who was killed in WW2.
Alexander John McLeod
Alexander McLeod enlisted 5 January 1915. He was 18yo, single and, as indicated, he gave his occupation as clerk. He had spent 2 years in the senior cadets at South Melbourne. On the enlistment form his religious denomination was entered as ‘Pres’. The permission from the father for his under-age son to enlist simply stated: I hereby give my permission to my son joining the Expeditionary Force. 1/1/15
His unit – 7 Battalion reinforcements – left Melbourne 0n 13 April 1915 and he joined the battalion on Gallipoli on 26 May . At the same time, his appointment as lance corporal was cancelled and he reverted to private. There was no explanation for this reversion. His file does not indicate that it was at his request, which was a relatively common practice.
He was killed in action on 16 August and buried the same day at Beach Cemetery, Shrapnel Gully by Rev. W. E. Dexter. Walter Ernest Dexter was a Church of England chaplain in the AIF. He was from South Melbourne and was 41yo. He had served previously in South Africa.
At the time, 7 Battalion was involved in the ongoing fighting at Lone Pine . The action described in the war diary for 16 August is, by the standards of the time, rather low key.
During yesterday we sniped a good deal inflicting losses on the enemy. The enemy was evidently annoyed at out activity & replied with frequent bursts of Machine Gun fire which damaged our sand bags a good deal & about 4pm the enemy’s 75mm fired 6 rounds which however did no damage. During the night a few bombs were thrown by each side. We also secured some rifle grenades which we fired with good effect into the enemy’s trenches. Improved and deepened our trenches.
The only casualties recorded that day were: 1 killed, 2 slightly wounded. The one killed must have been Private Alexander John Mcleod.
It appears that the parents received advice about their son’s death on 11 September 1915. Even after 100 years, the following letter – dated 14 September 1915, Yarram – from the Rev George Cox, the local Church of England minister, reads as a desperate cry from the mother for it all to be wrong. It cannot be her son:
I am writing on behalf of Mrs McLeod of Yarram to ask if you think any mistake has been made in notifying her of the death of her son for the following reasons.
Notification gives death of Private A. J. McLeod, but her son left here as a corporal.
The mother always signed as “A.” McLeod, the notice came addressed Mrs “E” McLeod. [The son had in fact given his mother’s name on his enlistment papers as ‘Elizabeth McLeod’. Her full name was Elizabeth Margaret Loftus McLeod]
The lad enquired after was in 4th Reinforcements 7th Batt. 2nd. Aust. Inf. Brig.
He was a confirmed member of the Church of England, as also is his mother, yet the notification was sent to the Presbyterian minister. [as indicated, ‘Pres’ was entered as his religious denomination on the enlistment forms]
Intimation came to hand last Saturday, 11th. inst.
Thanking you in anticipation
The formal reply came on 24 September. It discounted each of the apparent anomalies, and concluded:
It is regretted that there does not appear to be any doubt about the accuracy of the report conveyed to Mrs. Mcleod.
Personal items – Testament, purse, coins 2, letters – were returned to the family at the end of 1915. In fact, additional items were sent at the end of 1916, but the mother had what must have been the distressing task of returning them to Base Records. She wrote on the form that the items did not belong to her son, and that, instead, they needed to be sent to the family of the late James McLeod 1787 of the same Battalion.
Leslie John McLeod
The service record for the younger brother, Private Leslie John McLeod 1077, is very brief. He enlisted in Melbourne on 1 july 1915 in the 9 LHR. His group of reinforcements left Melbourne on HMAT Kyarra on 20 August, and he died at sea just before the transport reached Freemantle – or possibly it was when the vessel was moored in Freemantle Harbour – on 29 August. He was given a military funeral and buried in the Freemantle Cemetery on 30 August. His entire service was just short of 2 months.
It appears that the family were notified of the death on 31 August. Two weeks later, the family was to learn that the other son had been killed earlier, on 16 August.
When he enlisted Leslie gave his age as 18 years and 3 months. He was single and he gave his occupation, like his brother, as clerk. His religion was recorded as Church of England. Both brothers had attended unnamed state schools.
The following article from the local paper on 1 September 1915 gives more detail on his age:
Yesterday morning Senior-Constable McLeod received a wire, per the Rev. Geo. Cox, announcing the death of his son Leslie John on the troopship off Freemantle, at the age of just 16 years. The cause was meningitis. This lad had joined in Melbourne some months ago, in his 15th year, but was persuaded by his parents to leave camp on account of his youth. He had passed the Bankers’ Institute examination, and it was hoped he would accept a position in a bank. He came to Yarram, but his heart was fixed on a soldier’s life, and having gained the consent of his parents, again enlisted. Unfortunately he never reached the fighting line. His remains were to have been buried with military honors at Freemantle yesterday.
When his mother completed the (National) Roll of Honour form, she gave his age at death as 17yo.
The news of the death of the second son was reported on 15 September:
Our readers will sympathise with Senior-Cons. and Mrs. McLeod, of Yarram, who received word last week of the death of their second son, at the front. Only recently Private Leslie John McLeod died on the troopship, when off Freemantle, of meningitis. Closely following on the sad news came the announcement of the death of Private Alexander John McLeod, who was killed in the big battle at the Dardanelles on 18th August. He was 19 years 3 months old. The Defence department wired expressing regret and sympathy of King and Queen and the Commonwealth.
As indicated, there was a third brother killed in war. Othel (Keith) McLeod (VX 122632) was born in 1909. He died on 9 September 1943 when serving in New Guinea. A US bomber loaded with bombs crashed on take-off and he was badly injured (burns). He died from injuries 2 days later. In his peacetime work he had been a bank-teller. He was single.
Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
Alexander John McLeod
National Archives file for McLEOD Alexander John
Roll of Honour: Alexander John McLeod
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Alexander John McLeod
Leslie John McLeod
National Archives file for McLEOD Leslie John
Roll of Honour: Leslie John McLeod
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Leslie John McLeod