Reporter’s special Anzac Day story with her dear ‘gramps’
Posted On April 24, 2022
On Monday, the 99-year-old will be front and centre at the War Memorial in Canberra.
He served seven years with the Australian Imperial Force, and he also just happens to be the dearest gramps of 9News reporter Sophie Walsh.
In 1940 he enlisted at the age of just 17, alongside his dad, after they both tweaked their ages.
“He was four years too old and I was four years too young,” Les said.
He was spurred on by a sense of duty and strong will to stop Nazi Germany.
“It would have taken greater courage not to enlist. It was a responsibility,” he said.
From battles across northern Africa, Greece, Crete, Borneo and Syria, to trekking the impossible jungles of Kokoda, in moments of darkness, letters from Betty got him through.
In 1945 he was resting on a beach in Borneo when news broke — the war had ended.
“Soon after midnight there were loose shots fired and then heavy guns firing and we hastily reloaded everything,” he said.
“When the dawn came we found that that was just people who heard the war was over, celebrating.”
He returned to Papua New Guinea for the 50th anniversary of Kokoda, and again in 2012 with Prince Charles and Camilla.
He also met Princess Anne during the height of the pandemic
In another nine months he’ll get a letter from the Queen for his 100th birthday.
Until then, there’s Monday’s commemorations.
Each year it gets a little tougher, “your hearing gets worse and your eyesight gets worse but emotion gets stronger,” he said.
Walsh said it was an honour to walk in her grandfather’s shadow.
“Gramps is one of the last remaining survivors of World War II and tomorrow there will be many families whose loved ones are no longer here.
“But the Anzac legacy lives on in their children, their grandchildren, their great-grandchildren, sharing their stories of courage, of mateship, and sacrifice that ultimately shaped this country.”