Leslie, or Les as he was known to his mates, was born on the 14th February 1914 in Melbourne, Victoria, and he enlisted in the RAAF on the 7th december 1940.
By looking at Les’ Half Yearly Return of Flying Hours, we can see that at some stage he was with No.2 Operational Training Unit (OTU) at Mildura. Of interest, almost every fighter pilot who served in the South West Pacific theatre was either trained at Mildura or did a “refresher” course there. It was not a mundane job being an instructor. Approximately 52 young RAAF pilots lost their lives while training there.
In early May 1944, Les was with posted to 457 Squadron until December 1944. At that time, the Squadron had just relocated to Livingstone on the 31st January 1943, where it remained until it transferred to the newly formed 80 Wing and moved to Sattler on the 13th May 1944. During the Squadron’s time as part of Darwin’s air garrison, it detached aircraft on several occasions to Milingimbi, Drysdale, Perth and Exmouth. While at Livingstone, the Squadron was re-equipped with an updated version of the Spitfire, imported from Britain, which arrived in a grey and green camouflage scheme. This led to the squadron nicknaming itself the “Grey Nurse Squadron” and adorning its aircraft with a distinctive shark’s mouth on the nose.
The photo is of 457 Squadron while it was at Livingstone Field in 1944. Allen iis in the front row, far right. From left to right:
Top row: Ian C. “Geoff” Chandler, Gilbert G. “Harpo” Marks, Christopher V. “Vince” Madigan, Ronald H. Bolton, Wilfred G. “Wally” Dial, Allen C. Beckwith, J. Lysle Roberts and Frederick M “Fred” Fuernhardt.
Middle Row: Frederick J. Inger, Kenneth D. McLeod, James H. “Jim” Greaves, Percy Colin Lambert, Bob Bawden, James E. “Jimmy” Summerton, Richard L. “Dick” Due, Trevor R. Russell, Angus A “Gus” Haynes, Alexander H. “Tex” Morton, Thomas F. “Frank” Payne, Albert L. “Smoky” Lumley.
Seated: James E. “Jim” Milne, Bob Addision, Arthur J. “Nat” Gould, Lloyd L. “Danny” Boardman, Thomas H. “Tommy” Trimble, Alfred “Alf” Glendinning, Southwood C. “South” wwCreagh, Unknown, Adjutant, Alfred V. “Noel” Ede and L. Allen Leeming.
He was then posted to 452 Squadron, which was then based at Sattler Airfield in the Northern Territory. By that stage in the War, the protection of Darwin had been handed over to two Royal Air Force squadrons, allowing 452 Squadron to be employed in a ground attack role. Initially, the Squadron operated against targets in the Dutch East Indies from Sattler Airfield, but on the 11th December 1944, it joined the 1st Tactical Air Force and was relocated to Morotai in the Dutch East Indies, to support the Australian operations in Borneo (Kalimantan).
It was with 452 Squadron that Les was killed on the 18th January 1945, while flying a Spitfire VIII, A58-524. ADF Serials has the following report: Accident 2110 hrs 18:01.45 when returning from night patrol to Morotai, with Squadron CO, when the aircraft crashed on the western end of Pitoe Strip. Pilot, Flight Lieutenant L.A. Leeming was killed. OBU witnesses stated that the pilot was making a dead stick landing due to an engine failure on approach. (Web master: Pitoe Strip was actually Pitu Dome on Morotai, in prent day Indonesia. Pre-invasion plans for the Battle of Morotai, which began on the 15th September 1944, called for the construction of three large airstrips, incredibly within forty-five days of the start of the battle. Pitu Drome was one of them. They were constructed by American and Australian troops.)
Looking again at Les’ Half Yearly Return of Flying Hours, we can see that he only had 4 hours 10 minutes on the Spitfire. Though dated a bit over two weeks before he was killed, it wasn’t much experience to have in an unfamiliar aircraft at night in a war zone.
Flight Lieutenant Leslie Allen Leeming is buried in the Ambon War Cemetery on the island of Ambon. He was the husband of Zoe Bettina Leeming and father of Warwick Allen, born on the 16th July 1942.
Phil Listemann and Steve McGregor
Updated by Vince Conant
The Spitfire Assoociation