Victor Leslie Lancaster (DCM)
Serial No. 2085
Victor Leslie Lancaster (DCM) - Information
Victor was born in Ballarat, Victoria, before the Lancasters moved to the Campbelltown area. He grew up in the area and attended school in Wedderburn. After his father passed away, Victor’s mother, Martha, relocated the family. They settled in Camperdown with her new husband a Mr Dunn. When the war broke out, Victor was living with his family at Bristol on Salisbury St in Camperdown, and working as a dairy hand. Both Victor and his older brother, Horace, decided to join the AIF together. They enlisted in Newcastle on the 11th of September 1915, when Victor was 21 years old. They were both posted to the 30th Battalion. Victor was then sent overseas for war service on the 16th of February 1916, however, his brother stayed behind in camp due to illness. Victor was shipped out from Sydney aboard the HMAT Ballarat and arrived in Suez, Egypt in March.
Victor was marched out to join the 30th Battalion on the 1st of April at Ferry Post. The 30th Battalion was then assigned to the 5th Division, and he departed Alexandria for the Western Front in June. Shortly after arriving in France, the 5th Division were mustered for an attack. On the 19th of July, they confronted the Germans at Fromelles. The attack was designed to straighten Sugarloaf Salient and occupy German reserves from the Somme. The battle devastated the Division as the men became stuck in No Man’s Land pinned down by enfilading fire. The 30th Battalion then spent the remainder of 1916 in and out of the lines before enduring the bitter winter of 1916-1917. During this period, Victor had been charged with numerous infractions, including failing to salute an officer and being absent from a Tattoo Roll. No doubt this was a result of seeing the ridiculousness of military protocol amongst the suffering and death. Despite this, Victor was promoted to Lance Corporal in the field on the 1st of April 1917, although further charges saw him lose his rank in July. However, Victor proved himself to be a capable soldier and inspiration to his mates and was again promoted to Lance Corporal on the 1st of January 1918. In March, the Allies faced the German Spring Offensive. Victor and his unit helped to halt the German advance in April. They spent the next few months creeping towards the Germans as they withdrew, using small tactical incursions. On the 10th of June, Victor’s unit captured Morlancourt. Then on the night of 22/23rd of June, having consolidated their new position, he participated in a night raid on the opposing German trenches. Victor was in charge of the lewis gun covering the left flank of the attack. The Germans began firing back and throwing grenades. One grenade was thrown towards Victor’s position. The blast blew up in his face and shot away the lower right part of his jaw. The wound was serious; he was bleeding heavily, could not speak and was in deep shock. Despite his horrific wound, he kept firing at the Germans, covering the flank of his team. As the Australian troops returned to their lines, Victor laid down covering fire protecting their retreat and those in the rescuing party. He continued to shield his mates until he was overcome by exhaustion and loss of blood. He then handed over his lewis gun to his No. 2 and walked back to the lines.
After initial treatment at the Aid Post, Victor was quickly rushed to the 20th Casualty Clearing Station. Sadly, here, he died of his wounds on the 23rd of June 1918. He was then buried at Vignacourt British Cemetery, near the Somme River. His family was then informed of his death, which would have been especially difficult for Horace to hear, having been sent home for ill health. For Victor’s heroic actions under fire, he was recommended for the Victoria Cross by the Commander of the 30th Battalion. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Cross Medal in July 1918. It along with the rest of his belongings, were sent back to his family in Camperdown. His name is proudly recorded on a plaque at Dredge’s Cottage on Queen St in Campbelltown.