My grandfather, Leonard Hunter, was 17 when he joined up with the 2/15th Battalion in 1939. He had doctored his birth certificate to say he was 18, much against his father and mother’s wishes and went off to fight with the shine of victory in his eyes. The shine soon turned tarnished as he sat huddled in makeshift trenches in Toobruk, fighting Rommel’s Panzer’s.
On the 2nd of April, 1941 my grandfather, a Bren gunner, was traveling with C-coy at Benghazi and were ambushed by a Panzer squad who cut them off from Allied lines. After a bloody battle the order was given to surrender and my grandfather, along with 150 other men, became a Prisoner of War.
Lenny was a Jockey, loved horses and had originally intended to join up with the Light Horse Brigade at the start of the war. WW2 saw the abolition of that troupe and so Lenny was placed as a Bren gunner and sent off to fight in the desert.
He spent the next four years in Stalag 344 in Poland. My grandfather is in the middle of the front row of this photo, he’s being propped up by his mates due to illness. If you take a good look at his hand you can see it’s bandaged up. He’d lost his left ring finger during a failed escape attempt, a German guard shot it off as he ran along a railway line to safety. He was captured shortly after and subjected to brutality as a result.
My grandfather was one of millions of men and women who answered the call to protect and defend an ideal of freedom. On Anzac Day we remember them and their sacrifices big and small.
Text Publishing send me an anthology of The World’s Greatest War Diaries called “Those Who Marched Away”, edited by Irene and Alan Taylor. I couldn’t read it without emotions surging, in fact I was in tears at times. The words of each diary entry tugged at my heartstrings, I know I’m a sook at the best of times, but I could imagine my grandfather writing these words and well a box of tissues was not enough. Really good read.
Another YA book I’ve read recently is “Zero Hour” by Leon Davidson, again by Text Publishing. Here’s the blurb:
The First World War was only meant to last six months. When the Australians and New Zealanders arrived at the Western Front in 1916, the fighting had been going for a year and a half and there was no end in sight. The men took their place in a line of trenches that spread through Belgium and France from the North Sea to the Swiss Alps. Beyond the trenches was no-man’s-land, an eerie wasteland where rats lived in the ribs of the dead and the wounded cried for help. Beyond that was the German Army.
The Anzacs had sailed for France to fight a war the whole world was talking about. Few who came home ever spoke about it again.
Zero Hour is the third book by Leon Davidson, author of the best-selling and multi-award-winning Scarecrow Army: the Anzacs at Gallipoli and Red Haze: Australians & New Zealanders in Vietnam.
Leon paints an intimate picture of life on the war front and the heroism of the young boys as they searched for glory in a pit of despair. It is worth reading and I highly recommend it.
My grandfather died when my mother was little, I never knew him, but through research I have found his war record and read the accounts of others who were with him in the war. I would like to thank him for what he did, he is my hero.
Lest We Forget.