Leslie Alfred Orchard was born in 1891 at Balmain.
His parents were George David (d 1908) & Elizabeth Sarah (nee Reed). George was born in Balmain, Elizabeth in Sydney city. They were married in 1881 in Balmain.
Leslie was the 5th of 6 children. He had 3 sisters & 2 brothers.
He married Elizabeth Girvan Marshall Atkins in 1915 in Balmain South. They had 1 child, Mary Elizabeth (Maisie) in 1916.
Leslie enlisted on 8 May 1916.
He stated occupation as ferry master and address as Evans Street, Rozelle.
He was short and slight being 5ft 5½in (166cm) tall; weighed 132lb (60kg); chest 31-34in (79-86cm). He had no distinguishing marks; a fresh complexion, blue eyes, light brown hair; and was Church of England.
Leslie named his wife Elizabeth as his next of kin.
He was assigned Service Number 29329 and attached to a number of artillery units but on embarkation was in 117th Field Artillery (Howitzer) Battery which was part of the 22nd Field Artillery Brigade of the 2nd Division.
War Service: Western Front
Leslie and a number of Artillery units & Reinforcements departed Sydney on HMAT Aeneas on 30 Sep 1916 for England, disembarking at Plymouth on 19 Nov.
After 6 weeks training Leslie proceeded to France on 9 Jan 1917. His original unit 117th FAB had been disbanded and he was attached to 2nd Division Artillery on 7 Feb; and on 8 Feb to 2nd Division Ammunition Column (DAC) at Lavieville 5km west of Albert in the Somme area.
Feb was spent in routine resupply and fatigue duties. With the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line commencing 23 Feb, the unit workload increased. On 19 Mar they moved 10km east beyond Albert to La Boisselle and their work extended to Bapaume a further 15km. On 8 Apr they moved their base to Bapaume.
On 18 Apr Leslie was transferred to 104th Field Artillery (Howitzer) Battery of the 4th Field Artillery Brigade which was in the Noreuil Valley 4 km from Bullecourt which 4th Division had attacked on 10 Apr. This was a busy area with daily shelling in preparation for the upcoming 2nd Battle of Bullecourt on 3 May.
May was a busy month supporting the attacks on Bullecourt from 3 to 17 May. They remained in the area in a supporting role until they started moving on 29 Apr to Aveluy north of Albert where they remained until 7 Jul resting and training.
On 9 Jul the Brigade commenced moving north to Flanders arriving at Dickebusch near Ypres on 18 Jul. Here the majority of the Brigade was assigned to support British troops during the opening of the Battle of Passchendaele on 31 Jul. They provided continuous firing support until relieved on 9 Sep.
After moving position the Brigade supported the 2nd Division in the attack at Menin Road. After that successful attack they were kept in the line to support 4th Division with their attack at Polygon Wood. During their time supporting attacks in Aug & Sep the Brigade suffered casualties of 25 killed & 104 wounded.
The next part of the Passchendaele battle was the attack at Broodseinde Ridge which commenced on 4 Oct. Leslie’s unit was again heavily involved for that attack and subsequent ones. The Brigade suffered more casualties in Oct caused by gas and shellfire with 24 killed & 127 wounded.
Leslie was one of those wounded in a gas attack on 16 Oct. He was severely affected by mustard gas and was evacuated to England & admitted to the Middlesex War Hospital at Napsbury on 20 Oct.
After 2 months on 19 Dec he was transferred to the 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Dartford in Kent. Though no condition was stated in his records, this hospital was normally for the treatment of war-related nerves and neuroses.
After 2 months recuperation Leslie was transferred to the Overseas Training Brigade and on 8 Mar 1918 to the Reserve Brigade Australian Artillery at Heytesbury in Wiltshire.
On 27 Mar he proceeded to France joining the 2nd Division Ammunition Column (DAC) on 2 Apr at Steenwerck west of Armentieres. On 7 Apr the unit moved south with the rest of the 2nd Division to try to halt the major German advance at the Somme. On 9 Apr they arrived at Behencourt 15km north east of Amiens.
The next day Lelsie was transferred back to 104th Battery of the 4th Field Artillery Brigade who were at Baizieux a further 5km to the east. The remainder of Apr was spent supporting the troops stopping the German advance. In May this deployment in a forward area continued with a short withdrawal for 4 days when a German attack was expected.
With the German advance stopped, June was spent supporting raids on the enemy lines and allowed some time for Leslie’s unit to engage in some recreation activities. This also allowed for some recovery time from “Spanish fever” which had affected the unit.
July saw the unit supporting the successful Australian attack at Le Hamel and they moved south closer to Villers-Bretonneux. There was still a problem with sickness.
Aug was a month of advance for Leslie’s unit. They supported the infantry at the Battle of Amiens from 8th (called a “Black Day” by the Germans) and were in continuous action until 28th. In that time they moved forward 25km to Bayonvillers and Harbonieres. On 28 Aug they moved north to Mericourt on the Somme River for a day’s rest and “opportunity for men to bathe”.
They were back in action 10km further east at Frise on the 29th and provided support for the capture of Mont St Quentin and Peronne the following days.
On 6 Sep they were moved back to a rest area for a well-deserved respite. On 9 Sep Leslie was detached to the 2nd Division Signals Company. This unit was responsible for telephony and wireless communications for the Division including the 4th Field Artillery Brigade.
The unit was re-engaged supporting the Artllery from 12 Sep until after the final Australian attack at Montbrehain on 5 Oct. After this all Australian troops were withdrawn to the Amiens area for rest.
On 16 Oct Leslie proceeded to England on leave.
Whilst on leave, the Armistice was declared on 11 Nov.
After being ill for a week, on 6 Dec Leslie was admitted to the 3rd Scottish General Hospital in Glasgow suffering influenza. After 4 days his condition deteriorated and he developed signs of bronchial pneumonia.
According to the matron “he gradually became weaker and never regained consciousness … in his delirium he called repeatedly for his wife and child. He passed away on 12 Dec at 10am”. Cause of death was certified as “broncho-pneumonia following influenza, the incidence of which was predisposed to by conditions of active service.” His lungs were weakened by his mustard gas exposure.
His body was claimed by his (wife’s) uncle John Marshall and he was buried at Kilbirnie, Ayrshire 30km west of Glasgow.
On 25 Dec SMH Roll of Honour notice stated:
“ORCHARD.-Died December 12. 1918. at 1st General Scottish hospital, of broncho-pneumonia, Gunner Leslie Alfred Orchard. 104th Howitzer Battery, 4th- F.A. Brigade dearly loved husband and daddie of Mrs. L. A. Orchard and little daughter, Maisie. 103 Evans-street, Roselle. Loved by all who knew him.
ORCHARD.-Died December 12. 1918. at 1st General Scottish Hospital, of broncho-pneumonia. Gunner Leslie Alfred Orchard, dearly loved son of Mrs. E. Orchard.
ORCHARD.-Died December 12. 1918. at 1st General Scottish Hospital, of broncho-pneumonia, Gunner Leslie Alfred Orchard, dearly beloved son-in-law and brother-in law of Mrs. M. Atkins, Barbara, 103 Evans-street Rozelle, Thomas, Lance-corporal John, and Corporal James Atkins (O.A.S.).”
On 18 Jan SMH Return Thanks notice stated:
“Mrs. L. A. ORCHARD, 103 Evans-street. Rozelle, desires to THANK all kind friends for letters, cards, and kind expressions of sympathy in the loss of her dear husband, Gunner Leslie Alfred Orchard.”
On the anniversary of his death, notices appeared for many years. On 12 Dec 19 SMH On Active Service notice stated:
“ORCHARD.-In loving memory of my dearly loved husband and daddy, Gunner Leslie A. Orchard. 104th Howitzer Battery, died of illness, Glasgow, Scotland, December 12, 1918. Loved by all who knew him. Inserted by his loving wife, E. Orchard, and Maisie.”
On 11 Dec 20:
“ORCHARD.-In loving memory of my dear husband and my daddie, Gunner Leslie A. Orchard, who died December 12, 1918, of illness, in Scotland. Inserted by his loving wife, L. Orchard, and little daughter, Massie (sic).”
On 12 Dec 21:
“ORCHARD.—In loving memory of my dear husband and my daddie, Gunner Leslie A. Orchard, who died December 12, 1918. at Glasgow, Scotland. To memory ever dear. Inserted by his loving wife, L. Orchard, and daughter, Maisie.”
On 12 Dec 22:
“ORCHARD.-In loving memory of my dear husband and daddie, Gunner Leslie A. Orchard, 104 Howitzer Battery, died December 12, 1918, in Scotland. Inserted by his loving wife, L. Orchard, and Maisie.”
Finally on 12 Dec 23:
“ORCHARD -In loving memory of my dearly beloved husband and daddy, Gunner Leslie A. Orchard, 104 Howitzer Battery, died December 12, 1918, in Glasgow, Scotland. Inserted by his loving wife and daughter.”
Alfred named his wife Elizabeth as the sole beneficiary in his will.
There is no file mention but it should be assumed Elizabeth and Mary received a pension.
In Jul 1919 his wife received his personal effects including 3 pocket books, letters, cards, fountain pen, wristwatch & strap, devotional book, 1 coin, handkerchief, gold ring, badges, collar, tie, unit colours, & 1 pair of scissors..
Elizabeth did not remarry and died in 1970 in RGH Concord.
His mother Elizabeth died in 1933.
His daughter Mary Elizabeth (Maisie) married Alfred Noel Laurie in 1937. They had 2 daughters. Alfred served in the AIF in WW2 and died in 1955. Maisie died in 1998.