Leslie, or Les as he was known to his friends, was born on the 3rd October 1921 at Kensington, New South Wales, and enlisted in the RAAF on the 4th January 1941.
We don’t really know much about Les. However, we do know that he was at No.57 Operational Training Unit (OTU), which was based at RAF Hawarden in Wales, so he would have started his initial training in Australia and Canada before arriving at No.57 OTU. He was posted from No.57 OTU to 457 Squadron and served with the Squadron from April 1942 to March 1943.
At that time, 457 Squadron had just been redeployed from a training role to a more active one with 11 Group RAF at Redhill, Surrey, just south of London. It conducted patrols over south-east England and the English Channel, and escorted bombing raids and conducted sweeps to engage enemy aircraft in the skies above occupied France and Belgium. The photo is of a Supermarine Spitfire Mark VB, of 457 Squadron returning to Redhill after a sweep over northen France, whilst another Squadron aircraft stands at its dispersal point, plugged into a trolley accumulator at readiness.
Then, under orders to return to Australia, 457 Squadron withdrew from operations in Britain on 28 May 1942. It sailed for home on the 21st June, arrived in Melbourne on the 13th August, and re-assembled at Richmond on the 6th September. The Squadron began refresher training at Richmond with a motley collection of aircraft, its Spitfires having being commandeered in transit by the RAF in the Middle East.
457 Squadron returned to front-line service on the 31st January 1943. Re-equipped with Spitfires, it was based at Batchelor in the Northern Territory and joined 1 Fighter Wing, defending Darwin. The Squadron relocated to Livingstone on the 31st January, and that is when Les would have been posted somewhere else.
Looking at his Half Yearly Return of Flying Hours, we can see that Les spent a lot of his time on Tiger Moths and Fairey Battles as well as Spitfires. He must have spent some time instructing, as both aircraft were used for training. Battles operated mainly at Bombing and Air Gunnery Schools and the Tiger moth was a well known initial training aircraft. His “Assessing Officer’s Statement” states that “he is not a slacker” and that he was recommended for a further tour of operations.
Les was eventually discharged on the 18th January 1946 from No.84 Operational Base Unit (OBU)
Phil Listemann (Author of the History of 457 Squadron) and David Hamilton
Updated by Vince Conant
The Spitfire Association