Arthur James Leeson
4225A Pte. Arthur James Leeson was born in Cowes in 1893 to James Leeson and Alice Cox. He was a grandson of early Western Port settlers James Leeson and George Cox. He was farming at Cowes when he enlisted in Melbourne on 20th July 1915.He joined D Company 11th Battalionon 20th August 1915, C Company 10th Battalion on 4th Nov 1915 and 13/7th Battalion on 24th Nov 1915.
He embarked on HMAT Demosthenes on 29th December 1915 for Egypt.
He was taken on strength with the newly formed 1st Pioneer Battalion at Serapeum on 19th March 1916.
“Trained as infantrymen, the pioneers were tasked with light combat engineer functions in the field, with a large number of personnel possessing trades from civilian life.
After a short period of training at Serapeum, in Egypt, in late March 1916 the 1st Pioneer Battalion embarked on HMAT Ballarat from the port of Alexandria, bound for Marseilles. After landing in France, they boarded a train and were subsequently transported to the Somme. From there, the 1st Pioneers moved to Armentieres where they established a camp, in an area which was dubbed a “nursery” sector by the Allies, where newly arrived units could gain their first experience of fighting on the Western Front. They subsequently entered the front line around Fleurbaix.”
Arthur was wounded in his neck 14th June 1916 and was admitted to the 13th General Hospital Boulogne on 18th June. He was transferred to the 2nd Western General Hospital Manchester then to the No. 1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital Harefield. He was discharged to No. 1 Command Depot, Perham Downs on 31st July for convalescing and was taken on strength of No. 11 Pioneer Training Battalion, Parkhouse on 24th August.He proceeded overseas to France on Princess Victoria on 4th December and rejoined the unit on 23rd December.
Arthur was sent to hospital with scabies on 7th February 1917 and rejoined the unit on 4th March.
He was on leave on 10th January 1918 and rejoined on 27th January.
Arthur was wounded in action, gassed on 20th March 1918. He embarked for England and was admitted to Central Military Hospital Eastbourne on 26th March. He transferred to the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital, Dartford on 24th April. He proceeded overseas to France and rejoined the Battalion on 5th July 1918.
“After the defeat of the German offensive, a lull period followed during which the Allied armies sought to regain the initiative through a series of small scale actions dubbed peaceful penetrations, which were carried out throughout June and July 1918. During the Allied Hundred Days Offensive that was launched in August, which finally brought about an end to the war in late 1918, the pioneers took part in the Allied offensive around Amiens, taking part in the capture of Lihons and then exploitation beyond Proyart, losing around 80 casualties during the month. The following month they followed up the drive through the Somme until the 1st Division was withdrawn from the line in late September 1918. They remained out of the line until the armistice in November 1918 and did not see any further action.”
Arthur embarked Southampton on 28th March 1919 on the City of Poona and disembarked at Melbourne on 14th May.
He returned to Cowes working as a laborer until the 1930’s when he moved to Footscray North. He married Beatrice Irene Buse in 1933.
Arthur died on 23rd February 1967 at West Footscray and was buried in the Altona Memorial Park.
Arthur James Leeson is commemorated on the Phillip Island RSL Book of Honour, the Phillip Island RSL Roll of Honour and the Cowes School Roll of Honor.