• Leslie James Farrington

Army / Flying Corps
  • 54th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • 14th Brigade
  • Private

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  • British War Medal
  • Victory Medal
  • Enlistment - WW1

    Burwood, NSW, Australia

  • Birth

    Croydon, NSW, Australia

Stories and comments
    • FARRINGTON, Leslie James (Son / Sonny) – Pte 2650, 54th Bn (6th Reinf - A Coy, 1st Platoon)
    • Posted by FrevFord, Thursday, 3 August 2017

    Born on the 31st of January 1893 at Croydon, NSW (reg. Burwood) – son of James FARRINGTON and Margaret Louisa V SPOONER – who married on the 26/1/1891 at St Mary’s Church, Concord, NSW The family moved from Excelsior St, Croydon to Lynwood, Jones St, Croydon during 1916 Louisa and James both died at Lynwood – Louisa on the 19/7/1939, aged 68 years, and James on the 18/5/1951, aged 82 Siblings: Catherine – marr Richard Hespe; William Francis b.1895 (Caretaker); Frederick Aloysius b.1896; Gertrude Mary b.1900 (Tailoress); Frances M Lyn b.1906 – marr T. Hickey; George Joseph b.13/7/1911 – WW2 Religion: Roman Catholic Occupation: Fitter’s labourer, employed at the Croydon Gasworks WW1: Enlisted 12/6/1916 – embarked 7/10/1916 on the A40 Ceramic with the 6th Reinforcements of the 54th Battalion, and disembarked Plymouth 21/11/1916 Crossed to France on the Princess Henrietta 31/12/1916 and marched into Base at Etaples 1/1/1917 Taken on strength of the 54th Battalion 8/2/1917 Admitted to hospital (VD) 4/7/1917 and discharged to Base 9/9/1917, rejoining his Unit 6/10/1917 Reported missing 22/11/1917 Belgium, having been wounded and taken prisoner Repatriated POW statement 2nd Mar 1918: The Battalion was in position in front of Hollebeke near Ypres on the night of 22-23.11.17. The front was picqueted and I, together with a corporal and three others, was detailed for a standing patrol. We received no specific instructions other than to keep eyes and ears open and resist the enemy. We advanced some 150 yards beyond the picquet line, the group consisting of: – 1710 T/Cpl McGrath R.; 5133 Pte Love, W.T.; 5068 Pte Drewitte, F.G.; 428 Pte West, C.S. (?), and myself. On either flank were Lewis or Machine Gun outposts – I am not certain which, but I think they were Lewis Gunners. Looking along to the right from our post, I could see the glitter of steel helmets as the men changed their positions. There were four or five men. We made ourselves as snug as possible in a half depression half shell hole. There was a slight shelter in the shape of a sheet of galvanised iron placed over one corner. The Creeping Hun. Naturally we concentrated all our attention to our front and flanks. We entertained not the slightest fear that the enemy would approach from behind. Imagine our surprise therefore, when having been “set” about eight minutes, we were suddenly greeted by a volley of rifle fire and a deluge of hand grenades from our right rear. A party of Germans had evidently penetrated our outpost line, and had crept up to within a few yards of us unnoticed. Pte Drewitte was hit and collapsed into an abomination of mud and water. I fancy he was killed outright. Anyway, if wounded, he would have drowned where he lay. We had no chance of assisting him. Myself, I was wounded in five places by grenade fragments – twice back of the hips, twice behind the right knee and once in the back. We swung round quickly and engaged the enemy with bomb and rifle. They hesitated, and we “welted” them back – to a distance of about 10 yards. As they crawled back, they “whizzed” over a number of grenades, but no further damage was done. “Get at them with the Mills.” After a brief pause the Huns threatened another assault and proceeded by grenades and rifle fire. There were fifteen of them at the most, and again they started to creep forward. I glanced in the direction of Cpl McGrath and Pte Love, and saw them crouching about 10 yards distant under the cover of the galvanised sheet of iron and the protection of the side of the depression. Pte West was at the opposite end of our “post” and ready for the attack. I called to the Corporal. “Look out they’re coming again.” He did not answer. Again I said “Come on, get at them with the Mills.” We had plentiful supply of bombs and I reckon there would have been a very different tale to tell had the corporal and Pte Love elected to fight. Certainly at the first surprise they had fired a few shots, but now they had the wind properly up. McGrath answered “It’s no good sonny, there are too many of them, we will have to surrender.” “Not for me” I said. Love “chipped” in with “What’s the use? Think of your life.” In the meantime the gun team on our right had decamped without attempting to put up a fight. I was properly disgusted, and determined to see it out. A Grunt – a Splash. The Fritzs crept closer and I bombed and fired until they were within about 4 yards of me. Pte West who put up a bit of a fight was confronted by a German with a pistol. I saw him feel for a foothold and jump out of the hole. The German fired, but I do not know for certain that West was killed. I heard a grunt, then a splash and I never saw him again. My troubles were not over. Two Fritzes had come very close and one shouted something at me. Not understanding, I said “Eh?” The fellow spoke again. I heard it all right. – “Hands up.” I was just in the act of raising my hands, realising that my position was now hopeless, when four grenades burst about me. I got it in the arm, body and eyes this time, and helpless, I fell forward into a shell-hole full of vile water. I cried out “I’m done – I’m blind.” I was, I am, and I always will be. A Blind Capture. The Huns carried me in a water proof sheet, and the other two walked to an advanced dressing station. At least, I guess it was. I could see nothing, but had to depend on my ears and other senses. They dropped me and left me once for about 10 minutes, when one of our shells burst close by. I rested on a bed of straw for about 12 hours when I was removed by launch to Kortewilde. McGrath and Love were aboard, but they missed Kortewilde, proceeding direct to Ghent. I do not think either was wounded but I am not sure. Anyway the wounds could only have been very slight ones. Weeks later at Hamburg Love told me that he had received a bullet through the arm. It must have been a very slight touch, for he was only in hospital a week. At Kortewilde I was “hospitalized” and my wounds received their first attention at the hands of the Germans. They were dressed, in a sort of way. They certainly did not overdo the bandages. I was detained there for something over a month. I must say that it was only at Kortewilde that I received anything like humane treatment during my captivity. The well-informed Bosche. On arrival I was questioned by one whom I presume was a German Intelligence Officer. “Is the 53rd Battalion on your right?” was his first question. I answered that there was nobody so far as I knew – “It’s only a one company front” I said. He accused me, but in more kindly words, of being a liar. The next question startled me a bit. “Are Captains McNah and Benton still with your battalion?” he wanted to know. I said “they might be” As a matter of fact these officers were with the Battalion and are still as far as I know. He gave me up as hopeless at length and went away. He spoke perfect English without the slightest accent. I am convinced that he would have bothered me much more if he had not already been in possession of all the essential facts he desired to know. Scraped wound with fingers. Eventually I was transferred to Ghent. Here I remained about a week. I was in the hands of British Orderlies. Water in which to wash was provided about once a week. We went dirty the remainder of the time. Except at the field hospital at Kortewilde, my wounds were not dressed all the time I was in Germany. At Kortewilde I was put under an anaesthetic and some pieces of grenade extracted from my arm, and my eye washed. At Ghent my wounds were not looked at and I had to scrape my running eye socket with my fingers to clean it out. From Ghent I was taken to Hamburg where I remained 11 days. Here I again encountered Love who endeavoured to persuade me on his own and Cpl McGrath’s behalf, that at least 60 Germans had attacked our post. I am not convinced. The last time I encountered McGrath was on the launch when I heard him say “I’m glad now we did not run.” Germans Optimistic. I saw nothing of the life in Germany. My general impression was that the people fancy they cannot be beaten. But they don’t say much. I would not say the food shortage was excessive. Everyone is rationed, but I have no knowledge of actual hardship as a result. Soup of a very fair quality was my principal dietary. At Ghent there appeared to be an abundance of bread and butter – not margarine. The bitterness I usually associate with margarine was lacking. At Hamburg the menu was varied by meat occasionally, and fruit. I could never tackle the salty raw fish though, and gave my portion to a Russian or some other foreigner. Although I received no Red Cross parcels, I certainly did not starve. From Hamburg I moved to Gustrow and thence to Aachen. The Medical Board approved of my repatriation and on February 23, I listened to the good old British cheer that greeted us on arrival in England. Transferred to Holland 16/2/1918, and arrived in England 23/2/1918 where he was admitted to the King George Hospital Transferred to the 2nd London General Hospital 8/3/1918 Having lost his left eye and been blinded in the right, he was admitted to St Dunstan’s Hostel for Blind Soldiers (Bungalow Annexe) 11/3/1918 – discharged 3/1/1919 Trained in Baskets and Netting Returned to Australia on the SS Ulysses, embarking 18/1/1919 and disembarking Sydney 15/3/1919 Discharged from the AIF 31/10/1920 Labourer, living in the family home, Lynwood, 13 Jones St, Croydon from his return home until his death Died on the 18th of December 1962 at the family home in Croydon, NSW, aged 69, following 3 months of poor health. Buried at Rookwood [Catholic Mortuary 2&3, Sect 12, Row 5] Extract from Red Cross Wounded and Missing File: “I knew Farrington very well; he was in the gas-works at Croydon, Sydney, on a motor-lorry and his two brothers run a big dairy at Croydon.” Ankers, 2615 (28/1/1918) Every Week (Bairnsdale, Vic), Thur 6 Jun 1918 (p.4): A LETTER FROM MISS PENNEFATHER The following letter, written by Miss Pennefather, London, to her sister, Miss A. Pennefather (published in the "Weekly Courier") will be read with much interest : — ………………………………………………………………………. On the 24th of last month 34 more of our boys among almost 200 soldiers arrived from Germany — the second big batch within a month — among them being L. J. Farrington, 54th Battalion, Sydney; … The day after they arrived at the K.G.H., the War Office claimed them, and on the day following the Red Cross got up a right royal welcome for all the returned prisoners then in the hospital. It began with a very fine tea up in the big "A" ward on the 5th floor. I peeped in while they were all enjoying it. About 300 or 350 were seated at the long table. The ward was beautifully decorated, and every man was crowned with some ridiculous design out of a cracker! Farrington, the boy from Croydon, Sydney, I knew, was blind, and I asked a sister from the ward in which he was if he were among the party at tea. Owing to the official business that had to be gone through the day after they arrived, I had not seen any of this lot of returned prisoners. Sister said he was not there, so I went down to his ward to look for him, and found him in bed in the lowest depths of despair and misery. Was it any wonder? Although blind, of course, all the months he had been a prisoner in Germany, he, and a young English boy, whose sight had been destroyed also, always had clung to the hope — almost a certainty to them — that when they should reach England they would be successfully operated on, and only that morning after a thorough examination, which gave not a ray of hope for either of these boys, had the oculist broken it to them that they would never see again The English boy had broken down completely, and cried like a little child. Our laddie, poor dear, had taken it much more hardly. He demanded to be brought back to his ward, got into bed, and said he hoped to God he would never get out of it again. It took a good while to persuade the boy to let me fetch his blues and get him ready, and bring him upstairs to join the party, but at last he gave in. In the ward were several repatriated men, not well enough to get up, and it was sweet to hear them encouraging and cheering on poor Farrington — "Good old Aussie," "Good luck to you, Aussie," "Tell us all about it when you come back, Aussie." The variety entertainment had just begun when F. and I got to "A" ward, and as we opened the door one of the boys out of F's. ward, seeing F. come in with me, called out to the blind English boy who was sitting a little way off with his girl "Here comes Aussie, Joe" and with a joyful little exclamation Joe stretched out a blind groping hand towards Farrington. A place was found for F. in front of the English boy, so that they could talk to one another, and from my seat near the door (a spot of armstair on which were two or three Sisters as well) I watched our laddie, and was rewarded for persuading him to come, by seeing him laugh several times, and apparently appreciate the really excellent entertainment provided. Lady Tree gave a most awfully funny recitation, very well done. Ben Davis sang several times, also Ivan Novello, the composer of "Keep the Home Fires Burning," sang that song — (the writer of the words, Mrs. Ford, was buried in her own house, not far from my room in Sutherland Avenue, with her husband and children, on the night of the Zeppelin raid, the night after I left London) — and there were ever so many other good items. The Pipers of the Scots' Guards marched up one side of the great ward and down the other several times piping well known Scotch tunes and dances, and, oh, how the boys did love them, and what a perfect uproar of applause they gave them. Later on the pipers marched through several of the wards and played their pipes to the lads who could not leave their cots. Princess Mary was there, and Princess Patricia. I had never seen the latter before. She is very tall and handsome and full of life and animation, "beans,” as the boys would say, a real sport, I should think. When the show was over I put my arm through poor Fs. to take him back to his ward, and he said, "Thank you, lady for making me come, I've enjoyed it" and promised to come out with me and all the rest of our repatriated men who were able to be up, to the theatre on Thursday, two days ahead. The next day Mrs. Chirnside was entertaining them, so I booked theatre tickets for the day following. Mrs Chirnside is splendid, the way she never loses a moment in doing all she can for our returned prisoners as soon as they arrive. Thursday's show was a musical variety one at the Alhambra, and Farrington said he really enjoyed it, and the dear old thing caught up the songs so quickly and joined in all on his own. But the joy of joys was when we went to the Anzac for tea (I always have a brake or char-a-banc from Tilling's), Mrs. Mitchell was there with two of our boys from St. Dunstan's, both blind, of course, and one was not only in the same battalion as F. but came from the very spot he does, Croydon, Sydney, so perhaps you can picture what the next hour meant to F. The returned prisoners are allowed passes out of hospital every day, and the following day an English pal — Sergt. Andrews — who was in the same prison camp as Farrington, and who looks after him and waits on him — (a Mons prisoner he was) — brought F. out and to the Anzac. I happened to go in there about 5 o'clock. Mrs. Rattigan had hunted round among all the boys to find some out of the 64th Battalion — had found two who knew F. — and she said to me, "Just come and see them." It was good to see the boy looking quite happy with a pal on either side of him and their three tongues going for all they were worth. Mrs. Rattigan said "Here's Miss P., Farrington," and he shook my hand and said, "Do you remember me saying I wished I was dead that first day you found me? Well, I wouldn't be dead now for £5 a day!" Leave Mrs. Rattigan alone for finding out the saddest boys and trying to bring sunshine into their lives. I believe this boy will go to St. Dunstan's, and, of course that will be the happiest thing for him. He has been very interested in a lot of things I have told him about this wonderful place, and very cheered, too, but a long time will have to go by before he has gone through the last of his dark sad hours, poor dear. ……………………………………………………………….. The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Mon 21 Jul 1919 (p.9-10): PEACE PROCESSION THE INCAPACITATED – 1200 CHEERFUL SOULS ………………………………………………………………………………… Pride of place in the procession of incapacitated and wounded soldiers was given to the blinded soldiers, whose interests were safeguarded by Mr Ibels. The names of the totally blind men who put in an appearance were: – Messrs……………………………………………….., and Farrington, ……………………… The Sun (Sydney, NSW), Tue 8 Mar 1927 (p.19): LADY PEARSON BLINDED SOLDIERS GIVE TEA PARTY Lady Pearson, who takes such a devoted interest in the blind, spent most of yesterday afternoon visiting the Sydney Industrial Blind Institution, but found time afterwards to be present at a gathering at the Blinded Soldiers’ Café, where she was able to meet and talk with a number of the men. ………………………………………………………………. The blinded soldiers present were………………………………………, Farrington,………………………….. The Sun (Sydney, NSW), Mon 20 Jul 1931 (p.8): “BLIND” DRUNK When a constable tried to assist Leslie James Farrington, 36, a blind man, down the steps of a building in Market-street on Saturday, Farrington aimed a blow at him and started to use indecent language. To-day, at the Central Court, Farrington, who said he was drunk at the time, was fined 15s for the language by Mr Camphin, S.M. The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), 20 Dec 1962 (p.18): DEATHS FARRINGTON, Leslie James – (Sonny) December 18 1962, at his residence, 13 Jones Street, Croydon, blinded soldier, World War 1, late 54th Batt, A.I.F., beloved son of the late James and Margaret Farrington, loved brother of Kitty, Frank and Fred (deceased), Gert, Lyn and George, dear brother-in-law of Dick, Mary (deceased), Tom (deceased), Phyllis and Therese, fond uncle of their children and nephew of Theresa Farrington, of 64 Croydon Road, Croydon, aged 69 years. Requiescat in pace. FUNERALS FARRINGTON – Requiem Mass for the repose of the soul of the late Mr LESLIE JAMES FARRINGTON, of 13 Jones Street, Croydon, will be celebrated at Holy Innocents’ Church, Webb Street, Croydon, This (Thursday) Morning at 9 o’clock. The Funeral will leave the Church after Mass for Catholic Cemetery, Rookwood. St Dunstan’s Review No.511, Feb 1963 (p.8): “In Memory” Leslie James Farrington, Australian Imperial Forces We have heard with deep regret of the death on December 18th last of L.J. Farrington, of Sydney, Australia. He was 69. He had been in poor health for three months but nevertheless his death came very suddenly. He enlisted in June, 1915, with the 54th A.I.F., was wounded at Hollebeke in November, 1917, and was admitted to St Dunstan’s in March, 1918. After training in braille, typewriting and netting he returned to Australia in January, 1919, and we have since received little news of him. He was a single man and the news of his death has been sent to us by his sister, Miss Gertrude M. Farrington, to whom our deep sympathy goes. Miss Farrington wrote: “He never forgot St Dunstan’s and always spoke of his days there with pride.”