1916. 17 January. Leader .Orange
Wallace Leathem , son of Mrs Leathem, proprietress of our esteemed contemporary, the Molong “Express’ was presented with a wristlet watch by his cousin, Miss Belle Leathem on behalf of his father and uncles, at Mr Jack Leathem’s residence, Molong, on Wednesday night, prior to his entering Liverpool camp early next week.
1916. 8 April. Molong Express and Western District Advertiser NSW.
Signaller W. Leathem was “played off” at the station on Friday of last week. He expected to embark on active service this week. Pte. J. Patterson was “played off” on Monday.
1916. 1 July. Molong Express and Western District Advertiser NSW.
Signaller W”. H. Leathem, writing from Egypt on May 23, says that he has been transferred to the Cyclists’ Corps.
“Since I joined I that,” he adds,” I have been living a high life on bully beef and bread and marmalade; no drill and lots of sleep. We have had no drill at all so far, except a bit of ‘flag-wagging’ each day.
I like this life alright, except for the heat, which is almost unbearable at times.” The Signaller had ‘ a taste of the arduous life of a soldier, however referring to his journey from the boat to the camp he says:—
“We arrived here at about 1 am, we had to march about two miles with full equipment (which weighs about 90lbs) and two big kit bags up. We camped out in the sand for the night. We have been issued with a summer uniform of khaki drill and a cork -helmet, which is the general uniform over here. I’ll bet you wouldn’t know me in my present rig-out.
1916. 29 July. Molong Express and Western District Advertiser NSW.
Molongites in England.
Signaller W. Leathem, writing to his father on June 9 from England, says:—
Our unit arrived here last night (about 2000 Australians came into this camp) from Egypt.
We left the Tele-el Kebir Camp on 21st May, and embarked on H.M.S. Briton for England. The trip over was fairly good. The only trouble was the food, which was absolutely rotten. We were on the bread and marmalade and bully beef diet principally, although we had porridge for breakfast; but it was almost unbeatable.
We are, I think, the first batch of Australians to enter this camp (Salisbury Plains). The most extraordinary thing here is the length of a day. Last night it was nearly 9 p.m. before the sun went down, and it was not dark until almost mid night.
Fact! I’m stoney broke like the rest of our Unit, none of us have received any pay since May 2nd. That’s a fair stretch to do on 30s, eh?
1916. 17 August. Molong Express and Western District Advertiser NSW.
Signaller W. LEATHEM, writing home from England says that he expected to be classed as a first class signaller in a fortnight’s time, as the result of an examination. Rain had been falling heavily, and the camp was in consequence a place of mud and slush.
He had not received any letters from home, but had received two letters from friends in Australia. Referring to a week-end leave which he spent with a British tommy friend in Worcester, Signaller Leathem says:—I had a great time. Not many of the people there had seen an Australian before, so you can guess I was a bit of a novelty. I pitched some great tales about Australia, which caused them to open their eyes in wonder.”
1916. 19, August. Molong Express and Western District Advertiser NSW.
Signaller W. Leathem, in a letter written from England on June 22, says:—
Still alive and kicking, and things much the same as when I last wrote. All the troops in camp here were inspected by the High Commissioner for Australia (Andy Fisher) last week, and he was pleased with the state of affairs at the camp.
The C.O. of the Cycling Corps was congratulated on the general conduct, etc., of the men. The only fault with this camp is that we are too far out of civilization.
The closest town is four miles away. I’m on a pretty soft job here now—instructing some of the men in signalling. I’m getting lazy on it already, and will soon forget all the drill I have learned if I don’t look out.
I struck Charlie Finch, Jack Betts and Ern Taylor on the boat coming from Egypt. Jack and Charlie are in the Field Engineers. They are in this camp and I see them every day. I think they will be moving shortly. I haven’t seen Taylor since we left the boat.
It’s rotten not getting any letters or papers; we get hardly any Australian news except what we see in the English papers, and that’s very little. I haven’t received a single letter or paper since leaving Australia almost three months ago.
We are being looked after well in regard to food now. At present the menu is:—
Breakfast: Bacon or rice, tea and bread and jam; dinner: stew or hot meat and vegetables, bread and jam and tea; tea: bread and jam, butter, tea and cheese or potted ham. We are getting good food, and plenty of it.
1916. 16, September. Molong Express and Western District Advertiser
Signaler Wal Leathem, writing from camp in England on July
This is a much better camp than the last in regard to position, as we are only about five minutes run in the train from Swindon, a town with a population of over 50,000. We generally manage to get in once or twice a week, and that helps to break the monotony. We have all been granted leave to go to London. I had my four days leave last week, and had a great holiday.
My mate and myself viewed nearly all the principal historical buildings, such as Westminster Abbey, The Tower, Parliament House, etc. The underground electric railways, which take the place of electric trams, are a wonderful improvement on the old system.
At all the principal stations moving stairways are found, and the only thing one has to do is to step on to the stairway and be carried down to your platform, and then step into your train—no waiting, as trains are running every three minutes.
Besides these, motor busses are running in every street in charge of women conductors. Women do a big amount of the work on the underground rail ways as well. During the time I was there French Day was celebrated, and there were sports, etc, held at Hyde Park.
The city is swarming with soldiers—Tommies, Australians, New Zealander’s, Canadians, and some Belgians and French, I noticed some Japanese Red Cross nurses one day.
This camp is mainly composed of cyclists. Most of them are British, except for about 250 Canadians and the same number of our boys. We are all side by side in the tents, and all get on pretty well together; although the Tommies have a slight dislike for the Canada boys, who put on some “dog” at times.
I think it will be a few months before we get to the front, as we have a hell of a lot of training to go through, a batch is going in a month’s time, and I may get away with them, but am not sure.
At this camp the boys are put through the training under “dinkum” trench warfare conditions. They do bombing every day, and go into the trenches with steel helmets on, as the bombs used are pretty powerful.
At present a lot of Tommies are bombing from a trench about 200 yards away, and the pieces of shell are flying round a treat. I have just picked a little piece up at my feet.
Our company have to go out on night operations to night. We get this twice a week, and it’s rotten out on a march at night here. Sometimes we don’t get back till about 2 a.m., and then have to turn out at 6 a.m. in the morning. We signallers do practically nothing at all now, but in the ranks they get the drill poured in properly.
Have received no letters or papers since I left Australia; so we have something to complain of about the postal facilities, eh?—that beats the Molong post office.
1916. 4, Nov. Molong Express and Western District Advertiser NSW.
“They are very short of men out here,” writes Signaler W. Leathem on Sept. 15th from Salisbury Plains camp.” They could not keep up the reinforcements to the 1st and 2nd Brigades, and had to transfer the whole of the 3rd Brigade to rein force the 1st and 2nd the other day. About 600 or more came to this Brigade (the 1st) a couple of days ago.
The cold foots want touching up a bit over there. I would not be surprised to see conscription brought in if things don’t alter.”
1916. 18, Nov. Molong Express and Western District Advertiser NSW.
under date of Sept. 27
Life at the Front and In Camps.
Signaler W. H. Leathem, 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, A.I.F., writes from Perham Downs, Hants, England, under date of Sept. 27, to his father; Mr. W. Leathem, of the ” Express” Office :—
” I am still O.K. Things are going on much the same here —not extra much doing.
The weather is beginning to get fairly cold, and the winter will not be long coming in now. There has been some talk of the Australians being shifted to France next month to complete their training there as it is thought the winter here will be too severe for the Colonials.
Last winter hundreds of Canadians died in this camp through the cold, so it is not too bright an outlook if we have to see the winter through here.
We may possibly be billeted ‘ in different towns in England as soon as winter comes on, but nothing is definitely known yet as to the arrangements. We were reviewed by the King today at Bulford Camp, about six miles from here. Practically all the Australian troops in England were present.
There must have been between 40,000 and 50,000 altogether, and it was a great sight to see the troops marching along the road. As far as one could see the road was lined with them. All the men from the convalescent camp went across in motor transports and all the different kinds of units were present—Light Horse, Artillery, Engineers, A.M.C., A.S.C., Infantry, etc.
The King rode round and through all the troops inspecting each unit. The massed bands (about 40 altogether) played while the review was going on.
After we had been inspected an aviator gave an exhibition in fancy flying, looping the loop, etc. We had to march home through rain and mud carrying full equipment and pack, and it rained all the time.
I twisted my ankle just after we started and got a lift back on one of the transports. I heard that Don White (who was in Cumnock P.O. at one time) is in France, I wrote to him a few days ago; so far I haven’t had a reply.
I am still in the signal school here. Am at present instructing the learners. I’m fed up of signalling; it’s getting too monotonous now, hut I have to be satisfied as I can’t get out of it yet.”
1917. 23, April Leader, Orange, NSW.
Signaller W. H. Leathem, in a postcard dated 14th February, from somewhere in France, states that he is well, and that he saw Jack Betts a couple of weeks ago. The latter, he states, is O.K., and wished to be remembered to all the Molong folk.
1918. 13, April. Molong Express and Western District Advertiser
Signaller W. H. Leathem, in a letter to his cousin, Miss Marion Phillips, of Dilga, written from France on Xmas Eve, says:
Here I am again and it’s Xmas although lots of things have happened since last Xmas it does not seem quite twelve months ago.
Our brigade is in the line again and I am writing this in a comfortable little dug out-comfortable because we have a fire, and I am smoking a nice cigar. We are most decidedly comfortable at times.
Have not received any Xmas parcels so far; I expect the mail is so heavy that they cannot deal with it all.
I received a parcel from Dilga while we were out resting a few weeks ago, needless to say the contents were soon ‘devoured and enjoyed by yours truly and his pals.
Everything is quiet to-night, hardly any guns going at all, so I guess the Huns, as well as our boys recognize that; this is hardly a time to make things willing.
I’ve been wondering to-night what I would be doing; if I was back in dear old “Aussie” again. Anyhow, we intend having a real good time to-morrow and make it seem as much like Xmas ‘as we possibly can under the circumstances. We have arranged with the cooks to have a decent dinner and I am sure we will all have a gay old time.
Outside it is snowing a treat so tomorrow ‘ we will have, as per usual, the snowclad landscape, such as they have in Blighty, but the surroundings of course, will not be so bright.
Have just heard that the whole of our Xmas mail has been sunk-very cheerful news at this ‘stage-enough to give a fellow the blues. It’s no use grumbling ‘about it, it’s the war.
Will have to close now, hope you have a Merry Xmas at Dilga, I suppose all the people from home will be out to spend Xmas at Dilga, so I guess you will have a good time. I can assure you that my thoughts will be with you all to-morrow.
1918. 8, February .Writing again on
Signaler Leathem says:
Had a great time while on my leave in Blighty; had 14 days altogether, and spent the greater part of it in Edinburgh, Scotland. I struck bad weather, as it was snowing most of the time I was there. There was well over a foot of snow for a couple of days; it was piled up in the streets, and for a day or two most of the tram traffic was suspended.
Gangs of workmen and hundreds of soldiers were put on to clear the snow away before it began to thaw.
I spent the last three days in London and had a decent time, seeing pretty well everything that was worth seeing, and used to complete the day’s program by going to one of the theaters at night.
When I arrived back in France again I was sent to the hospital with a slight attack of bronchitis, and was discharged after a week and went down to the Base, where I am at present.
Expect to get back to my company again inside a week.
While in Scotland I met Mr. Carter, who used to be teaching in the Molong public school. He wished to be remembered to all his old Molong friends. Have had no mail for some months.
1918. 29, June. Molong Express and Western District Advertiser
Corporal A. G. Robinson, of Arncliffe, nephew of Mrs. M. Leathem, proprietress of the “Express” has been killed in action in France.
Note: also uncle of Signaller Wallace Leathem.
1918. 12. July. Molong Express and Western District Advertiser
The Situation in France.
Signaller Wallace Leathem, son of Mr. W. Leathem, writing from France on April 16, says:
I came out of hospital a few days ago, and am at present at the base expecting to go up the line any day now. Am feeling as fit as a fiddle. Things are pretty hot all along the line at present; I think it’s right at its top.
On my arrival here (at the base) I received my long looked-for mail, which has been delayed for some weeks. In all I got about 40 letters-so am well posted up with all the doings in Aussy.
The Australian divisions have done particularly good work in the present series of attacks. Most of the Australians have been cleaned up in all the bases here, as well as in England, and sent up the line to reinforce our divisions. I don’t think there are very many of them left in Blighty now.
I don’t know what will happen if the present number of casualties occur up the line. We will be down to zero in no time, as there seem to be very few reinforcements leaving Australia.
At the time of writing, and if Hun keeps up his present tactics much longer, the whole thing will be decided either one way or the other. He has given the British a nasty set-back, and things are not looking very bright at all.
I think the position is much worse than the heads try to make out, but of course they have to look on the bright side of affairs and take up an optimistic attitude at this stage. The French have saved the situation, though, I think.
1918. 27 July. Molong Express and Western District Advertiser
“Aussies”‘ Good Work-Fighting and Marrying.
Signaller W. Leathem, writing from France on May 10, says:-
I’m at present at the Base having a bit of a spell, I came here from a hospital about a fortnight ago, and as I’m feeling tit again I expect to go back up the line in a day or two, to carry on with the good work. Our boys have been getting a pretty rough time since this offensive started; but have always come out on top.
Four of the Australian Divisions have been specially mentioned for good work. From what I can hear, nearly all the girls in “Aussy” are getting married lately.
In every letter I get from Australia I read that so and so has been married, and somebody else is engaged. Why, if they keep the present pace up, all the poor old war veterans will be left at the post when they get back.
1919. 12 July. The Sydney Morning Herald
BY THE AENEAS.
The following members of the A.I.F are returning to Australia by the steamer Aeneas, and will arrive overland from Melbourne tomorrow. W.H Leathem..
1919. 18 July. Molong Argus, NSW.
After over three years of fighting on the other side of the world, Signaller Wallie Leathem, son of Mr W. Leathem, arrived home again, safe and sound, on Tuesday morning. Wallie was one of the big batch of returned soldiers who came over from Melbourne to Sydney last Sunday by special train.
1919. 21 July. Leader Orange, NSW.
Sapper W. Leathem returned to Molong on Tuesday, after an absence of over three years or active service.
1919. 24 July. Western Champion Parkes, NSW
Sapper W. Leathem returned to Molong on Tuesday, after an absence of over three years on active service.
Though he had been in several tight corners he was fortunate enough to escape wounding, and, beyond a Brief illness, lie was not incapacitated from duty.
1919. 31 July. Western Champion, Parkes, NSW:
Sapper W. Leathem, on Monday night, and was presented with, a gold ring (inset with his regimental colours) and a pair of military brushes.