No.317 Lieutenant Leopold (Leo) Paul Little M.C.
Leopold (Leo) Paul Little was born in 1890, at Mambourin, to David Armstrong Little and Annie Mary Hanigan. His parents had married in Victoria in 1886, and had seven children:
- Rose Helen Little - born 1888, Bacchus Marsh
- Thomas "Tom" John Little - born 1889, Reg Bacchus Marsh
- Gerald Thompson Little - born 1890, Reg Bacchus Marsh, (AIF No.2303)
- Jean Dorothea Little - born 1891, Reg Bacchus Marsh
- Leopold "Leo" Paul Little - born 1892, Reg Bacchus Marsh, (AIF No.317)
- David Little - born 1893, Reg Bacchus Marsh, (AIF No.3508)
- John Phil "Jack" Little - born 1894, Reg Bacchus Marsh
When he was born, his birth was registered as Leopold Paul Little. Later, on his attestation papers, he had shortened his name to Leo Paul Little.
After his parents married, his father held several prominent positions in local government, in the west of Melbourne.
In 1885, Leo's father was the rate collector for the Shire of Romsey, and in 1886 he took the same position with the Shire of Bacchus Marsh. He then became the hydraulic engineer to the Bacchus Marsh Water Trust and the Secretary/Engineer for the Melton Shire.
After 27 years with the Bacchus Marsh Shire Council, he moved to Werribee in 1913, and took over the position of secretary. He retained that post until his death in 1926. In Werribee, the family home was at 56-58 Wattle Avenue, and it is now included on the Wyndham Heritage Overlay.
Heritage of the City of Wyndham, Vol 2, report prepared by Context Pty Ltd, in association with Dr Carlotta Kellaway, 1997, p.348.
Leo Little and his four brothers were all borders at the St Patrick’s College in Ballarat. According to his school's website, Leo Paul Little passed his junior Public Service exams in eight subjects, and was the handball champion of the school. After leaving college he continued to play handball, and represented Victoria at a state level. He also began a career with the Department of Home Affairs.
In 1914, along with a friend, they both completed a motorcycle ride to the summit of Mt Kosciusko on a pair of 1912 Triumphs. Leo wrote a long descriptive article of his ride and the impressions that it made on him. He even carved his name on the summit pole. His story was published in the Bacchus Marsh Express, 19 December 1914, p.1.
Leo Little's enlistment was reported in the Ballarat newspaper. It mentioned that he had previously been a champion of the University Football Club, and that he was then working as an officer in the Home Affairs Department in Canberra. His fellow Department officers presented him with two gifts before he departed.
Ballarat Courier, 12 February 1916, p.4.
Paul Little swore his Oath and presented for a medical exam at Melbourne on 8 January 1916. It was noted that he had a scars on his right and left shoulders, and this was possibly a reason for his later return to Australia. He was first sent to the Military Camp at Seymour for initial training, and this was completed on 18 April 1916, when he was appointed as a Private to "A" Company of the 37th Infantry Battalion. Prior to his sailing, Private Little was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.
On 3 June 1916, he embarked at Melbourne per HMAT Persic A34, with the 10th Infantry Brigade, 37th Battalion’s "A" Company, and sailed for England. After stops at Albany, Western Australia; Capetown, South Africa, and St Vincent in the Caribbean, the Battalion disembarked at Plymouth on 25 July 1916, and moved to the No.5 Camp at Lark Hill.
The 6 August 1916 was a Saturday night, and Sergeant Little for some reason decided to go absent without leave. He didn't return to Lark Hill at the specified time of midnight, and eventually returned to camp at 10 p.m. the following evening. For this offence he was awarded 2 days field punishment and the loss of one day's pay.
As a break from the routine of training, a highlight for the Battalion was when King George V inspected the 3rd Division at Lark Hill on 27 September 1916.
King George V inspecting Australian Troops - 27 September 1916.
The 37th Battalion sailed to France on 22 November 1916 from Southampton, and arrived at Armentieres one week later where half of the Battalion immediately took up duty in the front line trenches.
They remained in the Armentieres area until 18 January 1917, when they relocated to Steenwerk. The day before the move, Sergeant Little was appointed as a 2nd Lieutenant, with the 37th Infantry Battalion.
[After moving to Chapelle D’Armentieres on 28 January 1917, a separate composite Battalion (known as the "X Battalion") was formed from the residue of the 37th and 38th Battalions, plus one Company from the 42th and another from the 44th Battalion. It was soon disbanded. Names of those allocated to it were not recorded.]
In a long letter to the Editor of the Advocate newspaper, dated 7 February 1917, Lieutenant Leo Little praised the work of Father Howse *, who was the Roman Catholic Chaplain to the 37th Battalion. He administered to the spiritual needs of all men in the Battalion, and even cared for the dying German prisoners that he came across.
The Advocate (Melbourne), 28 April 1917, p.10.
Between January and March 1917, the Battalion operated in the area around Chapelle D'Armentieres, and then they were ordered to move to the Quelmes training area on 24 March 1917.
Early in April 1917, the Battalion were ordered back to Armentieres, and this required a march of 20 miles under extreme conditions, due to roads choked with snow. After they arrived, they went into the line at L'Epinette.
On 6 May 1917, 2nd Lieutenant Little received his appointed to Lieutenant. One of his next acts was on the evening of 20 May 1917, when he led a silent raid against the enemy near Ploegstegrt. They met with opposition near the German enemy trench, as the barbed wire was insufficiently cut. Not being able to progress further, his party returned to their lines without casualty.
The 37th Battalion moved to the Rue du Sag Camp on 31 May 1917, where they were amalgamated into in a large force that were making preparations for an imminent big offensive. The unit war diary entry for 2 June 1917 said that there was “intensive artillery activity by both artilleries. Ploegsteert Wood received special attention from the enemy each night. They are expecting our approach march, and putting large quantities of H.E., Shrapnel Shells and Gas Shells into the wood, and onto all roads in the vicinity.”
On 6 June 1917, the Battalion were at Rue Du Sac, and were told that Zero hour for their forthcoming Battle on Messines Ridge (in Belgium) would be at 3.10 a.m., on the following morning. Over the three days of this battle, the Battalion's casualties subsequently totalled - one officer and 66 men killed, 10 officers and 321 men wounded, and four men missing.
One of the first casualties in the Battalion was Lieutenant Little, who was gassed ** on the first day. (first wounding) His unit marched into the Ploegsteert Wood as part of the second wave, where he was badly gassed and received a gunshot wound to his arm.
Treatment for gas was the removal of clothing, washing of the body and eyes, and continuous soaking of the skin with sodium hypochlorite. Lieutenant Little was treated by the 24th General Hospital at Etaples, and his recovery was completed at the 8th Convalescent Hospital at Dieppe.
Three months after being wounded, Lieutenant Little was able to re-join the 37th Battalion at Bleqiun village (in Northern France), on 1 September 1917. They then relocated to Winneselle on 29 September, 1917, and began reconnoitring for their next 'stint'.
The Battalion bivouacked near the Menin Gate at Ypres, prior to the attack which commenced on 4 October 1917. This was officially called the "Ypres Battle – Phase 3" and later became known as the Battle of Broodseinde.
During the preparation for the battle, Lieutenant Little was detailed for special duties with the 10th Australian Brigade Headquarters. It was while performing these duties that he was later awarded a Military Cross.
The attacking force comprised of four Battalions, and they all went over the top in two waves, commencing at 6 a.m. on 4 October 1917. At zero hour, the shout was “We’re in it boys!", and they ran across 500 yards of exposed ground facing enemy shell fire. By 7.15 a.m. the men had reached their objective, and began consolidating and re-organising their forces.
The citation for Lieutenant Little's Military Cross states – "For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, while in action east of Ypres, on the 4th October 1917. This Officer selected and supervised the preparation of the approach route and the assembly line for the assault, and carried out his work in a most satisfactory way. The necessary reconnaissance involved a considerable amount of difficult and dangerous work under heavy enemy fire. At the commencement of the attack, when, on account of the difficult country, the carrying parties in the forward area needed to be reorganised. By his efforts, he put the whole scheme on a satisfactory footing. After that he made several important reconnaissance’s under heavy fire, and brought back very valuable information.”
Just three days after their battle, the 37th Battalion received information that it would be part of another attack, along with the other Battalions in their Brigade. This left them with only a few days to replace their missing comrades, and to re-equip, before moving into position by 10 April 1917. Lieutenant Little was to be part of the Headquarters Staff, and was placed in charge of the Carrying Party.
At 5.25 a.m. on 12 October 1917, the Battle of Passchendaele commenced. (In the planning stages, this battle was referred to as "Ypres Battle - Phase 5.") It again consisted of two attacking waves. Riflemen and bombers in the first wave, and Lewis Gunners and Grenadiers in the second. Despite crossing very heavy ground, and sustaining many casualties form machine gun fire and artillery, their objective was reached by 7 a.m. The Battalion Headquarters was at Hamburg Farm, and over the duration of the battle, it came under heavy artillery fire, and the lines of communication were cut several times. The shelling was so heavy that runners couldn’t be used, so carrier pigeons carried many of the important messages.
The result of the battle was that the front line had advanced 200 yards, across a width of 500 yards, and 100 prisoners from the Bavarian Regiments had been captured. Battalion casualties were: One officer and 27 other ranks killed, and nine officers and 170 other ranks wounded. The 37th Battalion was relieved on 13 October 1917, and retired to Hassar Farm. From there they were subsequently ordered to return back to the village of Blequim.
On 13 November 1917, Lieutenant Little was detached for duty to the 10th Australian Infantry Brigade Headquarters, and to act as their Intelligence Officer.
The Unit War Diary of the 10th Australian Infantry Brigade Headquarters for 24 November 1917, records that they planned and carried out a gas attack against the enemy. A total of 300 gas drums were fired from Livins Projectors onto three separate targets in the area around Warneton.
It was now time for Lieutenant Little to leave France, and to change his military career. On 21 December 1917, he was ordered to proceed to England, where he was to join the Australian Flying Corps. ***
Lieutenant Little spent three weeks over Christmas with the Abel-Smiths at Cole Orton Hall, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, and prepared to enter the A.F.C. In a letter to his parents at this time, he describes his time in England, and the presentation ceremony at Buckingham Palace on 2 January 1918, where he was presented with his Military Cross by the King. The newspaper article which published his letter, also includes a portrait of Leo Little, in uniform.
The Advocate (Melbourne), 20 April 1918, p.6.
After his leave, Lieutenant Little went to the Australian Flying Corp (A.F.C.) Depot at Wendover for initial aviation training, and remained there until 1 February 1918. He was then on Command at the No.1 Royal Flying Corp School of Military Aeronautics until 22 May 1918, when he marched-in to the 5th Training Squadron of the Australian Flying Corp at Minchinhampton.
Several weeks into his course, on 18 June 1918, Leo crashed his plane while attempting a landing downwind. The aircraft was written off, and he only received a slight injury (bruising) to his right shoulder. On 6 July 1918, he was admitted to the 2nd Southern General Hospital in Bristol with a partial paralysis of his right arm, as a consequence of his crash. Further investigations revealed that he was suffering from traumatic synovitis in his right shoulder - a condition where the muscles around the joint waste away. Being unable to fly, he was placed in the Non-effective Officers Pool until 13 August 1918, when he was posted back to the 1st Wing Non-effective Officers Pool at Tetbury.
Between 27 August 1918 and 12 October 1918, Lieutenant Little received further treatment to his injured shoulder at the 3rd London General Hospital. His problem could not be corrected sufficiently to allow him to resume flying, and it was decided that he would return to Australia.
On 12 October 1918, Lieutenant Little was transferred to the 38th Battalion but remained seconded to the A.F.C. (On 14 October 1918, his original unit, the 37th Battalion, was reorganised into two companies and amalgamated into the 38th Battalion. Personnel from the 37th Battalion became A and B Companies of the new 38th Battalion. Existing A and B Companies were amalgamated to become C Company.)
Lieutenant Little was allocated a passage home on H.T.S. Sardinia, and embarked on 19 October 1918. His medical condition was "Traumatic Synovitis of the shoulder. (Wasting in the joint)." He disembarked in Melbourne on 27 December 1918, and his appointment with the A.I.F. was terminated on 19 August 1919 at the 3rd Military District.
Leo and his brother Gerald Little were both presented with Gold Medals from the Shire of Werribee at a Welcome Home ceremony held in the Werribee Mechanics Institute on 22 January 1919. The newspaper report noted that they were two of Shire Secretary Mr. D. A. Little's four sons who had answered the call of the Empire.
Werribee Shire Banner, 23 January 1919, p.2.
In January 1919, Lieutenant Leo P Little M.C. announced his engagement to Miss Doris Speck, the eldest daughter of the late Mr Paul Speck, of London. The Australasian (Melbourne), 18 January 1919, p.34.
The couple married on 20 March 1920. They lived at Birdwood Avenue in Elsternwick for most of their lives, where they raised their six children.
When Leo Little's father (Mr D.A. Little, J.P.) died in 1926, his surviving children were listed in his obituary. They were:
- Rose Helen (Mrs O'Connell, Sydney),
- Rev. Fr. Thomas J Little, P.P. (Fern Tree Gully),
- Gerald, C.E.L.S. (Little and Brosnan),
- Jean (Mrs R. A. Manly, Werribee),
- Leo, barrister (Selborne Chambers),
- David (District Engineer, P.M.G.'s department, Sydney),
- John, M.N., B.S. (resident superintendent, St Vincents Hospital, Melbourne).
In 1943, Mr Leo Little was appointed as the Victorian Crown Prosecutor. The Argus reported that he had a wide practice in common law, and in recent years, appeared in many notable trials and Royal Commissions. The report also included a portrait photo.
The Argus, 7 April 1943, p.5.
The Who’s Who in Australia dated 1944, has a listing for Little, Leo Paul, M.C., LL.B., Crown Prosecutor, Vic, since April 1943. It lists his recreations as tennis, fishing, golf, shooting. His clubs were – The Victoria Club, Navy Army & Air Force Club, and the St Kilda Yacht Club.
Mr Leo Little's death in 1956 was reported in the Argus. It noted that he was appointed to the Bar in 1923, and appointed as a Crown prosecutor in 1943. He was survived by his wife, two sons and four daughters.
The Argus, 20 November 1956, p.7.
A death notice also appeared in The Argus, 20 November 1956, p.14 and listed his children as:
- Peter (Rev. Father Little, S.J.),
- Pamela (Sister Mary of Carmel D.C.),
- Pauline Little,
- Ian Little (deceased),
- Josephine (Sister Josepha I.B.V.M.),
- Ann Little and
- John Little.
Medals and Entitlments:
- Military Cross
- British War Medal
- Victory Medal
His name appears on the Werribee Shire Roll of Honour Board as "Little, L.P."
His name appeared in the Roll of Honor, published in the Werribee Shire Banner between 20 April 1916 and 6 March 1919.
He played for Melbourne in the Victorian Football League.
He has a tree planted in his Honour in the Bacchus Marsh Avenue of Honour.
* The spelling of the Chaplains name was corrected in a later edition, to Chaplain-Captain 4th Class, William J Howes, C.SS.R., R.C. Clergyman.
** The main gas used in WW1 was "Yellow Cross", and it was delivered via shrapnel shells. (Yellow Cross shells contained the feared mustard gas. Blue crosses contained arsenic, white crosses were phosgene, and green crosses were chlorine gas) The Last Fifty Miles by Adam Wakeling, page 6. Penguin/Viking
*** A.F.C. Halefield Camp, Wendover, Bucks. On 29 September 1917, a portion of the Halton Camp East (near Wendover) was allotted to the Australian Flying Corps as a depot for training and supplying pilots, and a pool for Officers and Cadets.
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