Leslie (Les, Bull) Allen
The exploits of Corporal Leslie 'Bull' Allen, of the 2/5th Australian Infantry Battalion, produced one of the most remarkable photographs of the Wau-Salamaua campaign.
On 30 July 1943, during an attack by American troops on Japanese positions up Mount Tambu, Allen carried to safety 12 wounded Americans. The man he was photographed carrying had been knocked unconscious by a mortar bomb.
Like many men in the veteran 17th Australian Infantry Brigade, of which the 2/5th Battalion was part, Allen had earlier served in the Middle East. He had been recognised for his determination and bravery as a stretcher-bearer, recovering wounded men during battles in Libya and Syria.
Later, after being sent to New Guinea, during the defence of Wau in January 1943, he had rescued men under intense fire and was awarded the Military Medal.
Born in Ballarat, Victoria, in 1918, Allen had a tough childhood. He and his sister were raised in an orphanage, and at about 12, he had to start earning a living as a farm labourer.
By the outbreak of war in September 1939, Allen had been in the workforce, mostly farm labouring, for almost 10 years.
In April 1940, aged 21, Allen enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). He was deployed to reinforce the 2/5th Infantry Battalion, which was training in Palestine. He was made a stretcher-bearer in 'D' Company.
A keen sportsman, with an imposing physical stature – 5 feet 11 inches (180 cm) tall, solid and strong – he would charge down the opposition while playing Australian Rules football. Hence the nickname 'Bull' that he was given in Palestine.
Allen had a good sense of humour and a booming voice and laugh. One of his mates recalled, 'You could hear him a mile off!' Allen was one of the 2/5th Battalion's most recognisable characters.
He was said to be one of the very few who never showed fear. The citation for his Military Medal pointed to 'courage and untiring efforts'. Bill Carty, a cameraman who later witnessed Allen's rescue of the Americans, recalled a 'gigantic man striding up Mount Tambu like he was on a Sunday jaunt'. He described Allen as 'a huge man with obvious physical and emotional strength, perhaps borne of a difficult childhood'.
But this was an incomplete picture of Allen. While he did not display his fears, Allen was inclined to bottle up his emotions.
Shortly after his first campaign, in Libya in early 1941, Allen was admitted to hospital suffering from 'anxiety neurosis'. After treatment and rest, he returned to his battalion.
Allen's record shows that he performed admirably in Syria, at Wau, and throughout the Wau-Salamaua campaign that followed. Time and again, he helped collect wounded men just as he had at Mount Tambu.
The strain of wartime service began to show only when Allen was out of the battle area.
In late 1943, at the conclusion of the Wau-Salamaua campaign, the survivors of the 17th Infantry Brigade were withdrawn to Australia for recuperation, much-needed leave, and the rebuilding of their units.
Allen's war service records show that he had often challenged authority. But while training in Queensland, his behaviour became more erratic, and he hit an officer. After facing a court martial for this incident, Allen was medically discharged from the AIF in September 1944.
After the war
To decompress after 3 campaigns of war service, Allen stayed with an uncle who had a farm. It was during this time that the Army posted Allen's second medal, the US Silver Star, awarded for his actions on that day on Mount Tambu.
In 1949, Allen and former Australian Army nurse Jean Elizabeth Floyd married in Melbourne. He passed away on 11 May 1982 at Sovereign Hill, survived by his wife and 4 children.