No.466 Private Leslie George Morris
Leslie George Morris was born in early 1894 at Rutherglen in north-east Victoria, close to both the Murray River and the New South Wales border. At some point the family moved to Werribee and were living at El Dorado Farm when Leslie Morris enlisted in the army in September 1916, aged 21.
He was assigned to the 7th Reinforcements, 15th Machine Gun Company. Prior to the war, Leslie had served for five years in senior cadets and with the militia in the Werribee district.
Barely a month after joining up, Private Morris was aboard the HMAT Ulysses heading for Plymouth, England. He arrived on 28 December 1916. The Ulysses was part of a requisitioned fleet of cargo and passenger vessels that transported men and materiel to all corners of the globe during the war years. The Ulysses even went on to serve in WWII before it was sunk by a German U-boat in April 1942 carrying a cargo of pig iron and general goods between Sydney and Liverpool.
On their arrival in England on the cusp of a new year, Private Morris and his mates were put through an intensive period of training at the Australian Machine Gun Depot at Grantham in Lincolnshire and then at Perham Downs on the less-hospitable Salisbury Plains in Wiltshire. He left England for France in May 1917 and was taken on strength with the 15th Machine Gun Company – part of Brigadier General Harold 'Pompey' Elliot’s Australian 15th Brigade. The 15th Brigade – with the 15th Machine Gun Company in tow – had served in France and Flanders since 1916. It saw action at Bullecourt, Polygon Wood and Villers-Bretonneux and, in 1918, at St Quentin Canal.
Private Morris was in France until 22 February 1918 when he was given a short period of leave in England. He returned to his unit in mid-March at Messine in Belgium – just in time for the renaming of his unit to the 15th Machine Gun Battalion and his promotion to Lance-Corporal. By March 1918, the German’s had launched its last ditch attempt for victory with its spring offensive. It raged for three months, made considerable territorial gains in France and Belgium and inflicted significant casualties on both sides. Estimates suggest the allies lost 537,000 men killed, wounded or missing and the Germans, around 509,000. With the Americans now in the war, the Allies could replace their losses – both men and equipment. The Germans couldn’t - even though it now had access to soldiers from the eastern front following the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917 and Russia’s subsequent withdrawal from the conflict.
At the end of May 1918, the 15th Machine Gun Battalion had moved from Messines in Belgium to the Somme in France, just to the west of Amiens. It was the Allies who then took the initiative in the summer of 1918 with its 100 day offensive between August and November. In August, Leslie Morris reverted to Private. By late September, the 15th Machine Gun Battalion was involved in operations designed to penetrate the Hindenburg Line along the St Quentin Canal, 85 kilometres east of Amiens.
During this operation, Private Leslie Morris was wounded in the chest. It appears that the wound was relatively minor because he was back with his unit within a week or so. However, he was hospitalised again in mid-October with pneumonia – this time evacuated almost 190kms to the 20th General Hospital at Camiers, just south of Boulogne. He succumbed to the disease on 21 October 1918 aged just 24…and only 21 days before 'the war to end all wars' finally drew to a close with the signing of the Armistice on 11 November 1918.
Private Leslie George Morris is buried at the Etaples Military Cemetery, just a few kilometres south of Camiers.
Medals & Entitlements
[received by his parents, Martin and Emma Morris]
- British War Meda
- Victory Medal
- Memorial Scroll and plaque
Service record citation: NAA: B2455, MORRIS LESLIE GEORGE
Machine Guin Company war history and war diary mentions - Australian War Memorial