Leslie John 'Jack' Locke

jack-locke   

Leslie John Locke– volunteered in 1918 following in the footsteps of his father, brother and extended family. Reproduced from the Lock family in WWI by Philippa Scarlett, original from the collection of the Darug Tribal Aboriginal Corporation.

 

Service Number 65778

Link to Service Record: http://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/records/347493/1

Leslie John Locke was born in Richmond on 27th December, 1899.

On the 25th May, 1918, eighteen year old ‘Jack’ Locke enlisted at Sydney with the Australian Imperial Force.

Jack was one of many Locke men who offered to serve in the war (see Locke Family Lineage). His father Jerome and his brother Olga Cecil had already left Australian shores for the war back in May, 1916 – although his father Jerome, was returned in 1917 being ‘over-age’.

From his Service Records he was passed as medically fit, just tall enough at 5’4”, with a chest expansion of 37” and having a ‘dark’ complexion with brown eyes and hair.  He gave his occupation as ‘farmhand’.  Although he nominated his father, Jerome, who was living in Union St., Pyrmont at the time, as next of kin, he nominated his uncle, Alexander McCabe, living at Richmond, as legatee and also gave the same address in Richmond as his own.

Jack was taken in as a Private in a Composite Battalion and embarked on the ship HMAT Bakara on the 4th September, arriving in England on the 14th November, 1918, three days after the Armistice Day of the 11th November. He was allocated to the 18th Reinforcements of the 3rd Battalion.

Jack did not return to Australia until late in 1919 so this raises the question of what he was doing after the war had finished.

Jack was sent to France from Southampton on the 22nd January, 1919, returning to England in March but then sent back to France until August when he was returned to Australia on the ship Ajana, disembarking in Melbourne on the 10th October, 1919.

France had suffered severe destruction both to farm lands and to cities.  As well, manpower was severely reduced due to the large death count.  Its economy had been destroyed and the country finally sank into the Depression of the early 30’s.  A video taken from an airship in 1919, which can be viewed on YouTube, shows the complete devastation of cities such as Paschendale.  (Link to Airship Video)

Although the history of the 3rd Battalion at the Australian War Memorial does not mention its involvement in any reconstruction work post WW1, the military were employed in the immense task of clearing up.  This included removing weapons, rubble and destroyed tanks as well as dealing with unexploded bombs.  There was also the need to fill in the never ending trenches which stretched right across Belgium and France.  It seems reasonable to suggest that Jack had been involved in this necessary work before any reconstruction could take place.

America played a major role in this reconstruction with their large-scale construction methods as well as being able to provide the huge amounts of money and manpower needed.  This came from both government and private organisations.  Many volunteers also gave their time and expertise.

At the end of his time overseas, Jack signed a statement saying he was fit and well and had no disability aggravated by War Service.  The medical officer who filled in the statement also stated that Leslie John was ‘fit for vocational training’.  It is not known if he was he given this vocational training on his return.

On their return the Aboriginal Diggers were not treated as equals with their white digger mates. The Lock family had all the land that had been given to them by Governor Macquarie in perpetuity, taken over by the Aboriginal Protection Board.

Leslie John ‘Jack’ Locke died on the 26th of September 1951.