Phillip Island & District Historical Society

World War 2 veterans - Les Findlay war experience

Last updated on 10-Jul-21

LESLIE WILLIAM FINDLAY

VX34186 

LESLIE WILLIAM FINDLAY

VX34186 

 

 

Les Findlay served In Darwin from July 1941 until 25th January, 1943. There he was infected by the common tropical viruses, malaria and dengue fever. Disease took a big toll on both sides in the New Guinea campaign to follow. 

 

Darwin was bombed over 60 times between the first two major aerial bombardments on February 19 until November, 1943. Darwin was unprepared for the first attack, although 2,000 civilians had already evacuated, and a build of troops and materials had already been occurring. Approximately two to three hundred people were killed, eleven ships in the harbour were damaged or sunk, buildings and airport were destroyed and planes lost. Les never forgot the awful experience of that day. 

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Les Findlay's detachment 

 

He then served in the New Guinea campaign from January 1944 to January 1945. 

 

 

 

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Areas of Les Findlay's service during New Giunea campaign

 

Rabaul, in the Australian Mandated Territory of New Guinea, had fallen to the Japanese 23rd January, 1942. By summer 1943 Japan had over 100,000 troops stationed in New Guinea, the aim being to cut off supplies to Australia. After a brutal war of attrition and manoeuvring, the Allies finally took back New Guinea at the end of March, 1944.

 

Damion Fenton of the Australian War Memorial described conditions during the war in New Guinea as:

Quote: “The New Guinea environment inflicted great physical hardship upon the soldiers of both sides. Everything used by the soldiers had to be shipped in from offshore at great risk and expense. Getting those supplies from the ports to the fighting troops was even more difficult. The harsh terrain, tropical diseases and fragile supply lines made New Guinea one of the most difficult places to fight in the world.” Unquote

 

Les Findlay and the rest of the 2/14th supported the 5th Division's advance to clear the Huon Peninsula of remaining Japanese troops after earlier successful tough offensives by other Australians. The 2/14 provided necessary artillery support for the infantry and training. The guns of the regiment were located between Madang and Alexishafen. 

 

Les then served in New Britain; an island of mountains, flats, rivers and active volcanoes located 60 miles east of the main island, from January until December, 1945. 

 

There the 2/14 was attached to the 5th Division and patrolled extensively in the area between Open and Wide Bays as the only field regiment supporting the 5th,,engaged in a series of limited offensive against the Japanese. They were also heavily engaged in fighting around Waitavalo in March, 1945. 

 

After the Japanese surrendered on September 2, the 2/14 joined the 11th Division to form a garrisoning force at Rabual. They remained there until the end of 1945. 

 

During the war in New Guinea, up to one quarter of the local people died in some parts as a result of starvation, injuries or murder. Of the 2,500 Papuans and New Guineans to serve in the Pacific Island Regiment, 65 were killed, 16 were missing, and 75 died of other causes.

 

Australia had approximately 7,500 known service personnel killed, and 2,000 remain unaccounted for. 

Japan committed 350,000 of its best troops to the New Guinea campaign, but lost 220,100; many from starvation as Allied forces outmanoeuvred and trapped them, blocking off their supplies. 

 

Les Findlay survived active service in some of the most difficult theatres in World War Two. He later married Hazel and lived at Newhaven. He became a well-known professional fisherman in Western Port.

 

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Les Findlay, fisherman, Western Port