Leslie Oliver Chalker (MM)
Serial No. 3554A
18th Battalion, 54th Battalion, 57th Battalion & 15th Light Trench Mortar Battery
Leslie Oliver Chalker (MM) - Information
Leslie was born in Bowral c1894. When the war began, he was living with his family in Thirlmere, and working as a labourer. He then enlisted in the AIF in Holsworthy on the 30th of October 1915. During training, Leslie was posted to the 8th Reinforcements, 18th Battalion as a Private. He was then sent overseas onboard the HMAT Aeneas which departed Sydney on the 20th of December 1915.
Leslie landed in Egypt in early 1916 for further instruction. He was then transferred to the 54th Battalion in April. In June, Leslie was transported to the Western Front and was reassigned to the 57th Battalion. Leslie and his unit marched out to the front. They then fought during the Battle of Fromelles between the 19-20th of July, in a bid to distract German troops from the Somme. The attack was devastating; men ran into enfilade fire cut to pieces or were pinned down in No Man’s Land. Despite heavy losses, the 57th continued to man the frontline in the Fromelles sector for two months. Leslie was then slightly wounded in action on the 25th of September, returning to duty on the 10th of October. At the time, the weather was turning bitterly cold, making life in the trenches miserable as the men were moved to the barren landscape on the Somme battlefield. Unfortunately, duckboards did not relieve troops of heavy rainfall and mud. Consequently, he reported sick on the 21st of December with trench foot. Six days later, he was evacuated to England from Havre. He had recovered by mid February 1917, and returned to duty at Perham Downs. Here, he was transferred to the 66th Battalion, and in March, returned to training at Wareham. However, there was not enough manpower to develop new units, and Leslie found himself back with the 57th Battalion in September, returning to France the following month.
On the 1st of November, he was detached to the 15th Australian Light Trench Mortar Battery, and was permanently assigned in April 1918. Leslie and his Battery were pushed to the max, in the chaos that followed the German Spring Offensive in March and the Allied Campaign in August. On the morning of the 2nd of September, Leslie’s unit were on the attack at Peronne. The Officer and crew were wounded when shelled with gas cylinders. Leslie then took command continuing to fire mortars against the enemy. Also he sent information back and forward to Headquarters. He was then hit by shell fragments, injuring in his arm. On the 6th, he was invalided to England and admitted to Beaufort War Hospital in Bristol. On this day, he was recommended for the Military Medal for his brave actions. The damage to his arm was serious; he was still recuperating when the war ended. On the 28th of November, he was invalided home onboard the Suevic. Leslie returned to his life in Thirlmere, where he was later awarded the Military Medal in June 1919.