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Leslie Eric (Les) Cook

Leslie Eric (Les) Cook

Les was born in England and before the war was employed as a messenger in Melbourne. He enlisted there in May 1940 soon after his 17th birthday. Having learnt telegraphy at night-school in civil life he was posted to the 1st Australian Corps as a signaller and sent to the Middle East in October of that year. He served in the campaigns in the Western Desert, Greece, Crete and Syria until March 1942 when he returned to Australia.

Now posted to 7th Australian Division he served in the Owen Stanley campaign in New Guinea, now Papua New Guinea (PNG). Les describes walking the Kokoda track as a process of climbing ‘never ending hills with a multitude of heartbreaking false crests. When we got to the top of each one, too tired to take off our equipment, we just collapsed on the ground as we were’.

After Kokoda Les served at Gona and Sanananda, returning to Australia at the end of January 1943. He went back to PNG in July of that year and served in the capture of Lae and the subsequent advance along the Ramu Valley to Shaggy Ridge in the Finisterre Ranges. Returning to Australia in 1944 he transferred to 2/14th Infantry Battalion. Les landed with the battalion at Balikpapan, Borneo, on 1 July 1945.

After the war ended Les joined the 65th Battalion on Morotai. The battalion went to Japan as a part of the Australian contingent of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. He served in Japan for a year and was discharged in Australia in February 1947.

After almost seven years of continuous military service Les began work as a clerk with the Victorian Railways and later joined the Commonwealth Public Service. With the Cold War at its height, and appearing likely at any moment to heat up, he joined the 5th Battalion, Victorian Scottish Regiment, Citizens Military Forces (CMF) as a part-time soldier.

Les now lives in Canberra where he is a member of the Woden Valley sub-branch of the RSL.