Damon Leach – Coffs Harbour City Council Member holding a photo of his Grandfather: George Leach, WWII.
The Leach Brothers were all in World War 2. The Leach brothers, from Sydney – six in all – signed up to serve Australia in the AIF. Their sister also joined as a nurse.
All were sent overseas; five of the brothers going to North Africa and the Middle East to engage Rommel’s desert forces (Afrika Korps) and the Italians. The youngest brother, Norm, went to Canada to train as a gunner in the Air Force.
One of the older brothers, Ron Leach, rose through the ranks to become a Major, he was assigned to General Staff.
Among his duties, he became a Commandant of the Z Forces and trained special service personnel to fight the Japanese behind enemy lines. He was awarded an MBE for his services at the end of the war.
George Leach became a Sergeant in the 2nd 13th Battalion, leading a patrol in the front line in fighting Rommel’s forces across the Libyan desert, and then in the defense of Tobruk. His brothers Ron, Harry, Alec and Bert were also involved in these battles. Bert was taken prisoner by the Germans but escaped by jumping off a Panzer tank when the guard was distracted, then rolling in the dust before running back to Aussie lines.
George was eventually shot in the shoulder by a German sniper and lay unconscious, severely wounded in an exposed position until one of his men, disobeying orders, crawled out and dragged him to safety. George, after many weeks in a field hospital, recovered and was sent home, where he was employed in training recruits in Queensland.
The youngest brother, Norm, was fortunate in that the war ended before he actively saw service, especially as gunners in the Air Force had a low survival rate.
The fact that they all survived (including their sister Maureen) and came home made headlines at the time of war’s end as many families lost sons and daughters from the war effort.
They have all now passed on, but left many children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, who cherish their memory. They are scattered throughout Australia and many live in the Coffs Harbour area.
George’s son, David, married Penelope, the daughter of one of George’s 2/13th Battalion comrades, (the late) Phil Jenkins. Damon is David and Penny’s son, and the grandson of two 2/13th Rats of Tobruk.
George’s medals: Infantry Front Line Service medal; The 1939-1945 Star; The Africa Star; The Defence Medal 1939-1945; The Australia Service Medal 1939-1945; Tobruk Siege Medal 1941.