Saturday 23 July marked the 100th anniversary of former Redwood Park local John Leak being awarded the Victoria Cross.
Private Leak received the highest award for gallantry for his action during the battle of Pozières in France.
He was born in Portsmouth, England in 1892 and came to Australia as a young boy. In January 1915, Leak enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and served on Gallipoli.
He next accompanied his unit to France, in time to be thrown into bloody fighting at an intense battle at Pozières. Leak’s solo attack with bombs and a bayonet on a German post stood out.
His citation reads:
No. 2053 Pte. John Leak, Aus. Infy.
‘For most conspicuous bravery. He was one of a party which finally captured an enemy strong point. At one assault, when the enemy’s bombs were outranging ours, Private Leak jumped out of the trench, ran forward under heavy machine-gun fire at close range, and threw three bombs into the enemy’s bombing post. He then jumped into the post and bayonetted three unwounded enemy bombers.
Later, when the enemy in overwhelming numbers was driving his party back, he was always the last to withdraw at each stage, and kept on throwing bombs.
His courage and energy had such an effect on the enemy that, on the arrival of reinforcements, the whole trench was recaptured.’
Later in the war, after his heroic efforts at Pozières Private Leak was severly gassed, but managed to survive and returned to Australia.
After a few jobs, Leak became a garage proprietor in Western Australia, before retiring to Redwood Park South Australia, where he lived and later died.
Leak suffered greatly from his experiences during the war and tried to sell his Victoria Cross medal several times in his life.