Military History

The Highest Honour #28 | John Leak | Alby Lowerson

By The Cove July 26, 2021


Private John Leak VC (1892 - 1972, 80yo)

John Leak was born in 1892 in England. After migrating to Australia prior to World War 1 he became a teamster (person who drives teams of animals) in Rockhampton, Queensland.

Leak enlisted into the Australian Imperial Force on 28 January 1915 and embarked with the 5th Reinforcements for the 9th Battalion finally joining his unit at Gallipoli on 22 June 1915. In 1916 the battalion moved to the Western Front and then moved to Northern France to join the Somme offensive in July. 

The 1st Australian Division, flanked by British divisions, and with the 9th Battalion spearheading its attack, moved towards Pozières on 22 July. The next day, Leak was one of a party ordered to capture a German strong-point which was holding up the battalion's advance. His party became pinned down in an old German trench by heavy machine-gun fire. Their grenades were outranged by the Germans' superior 'egg' bombs. Leak dashed from cover and, under heavy fire, ran towards the enemy post, hurling three grenades to great effect. On reaching the enemy trench he leapt in and bayoneted the three remaining Germans. Later in this engagement his party was driven back. Leak was the last to withdraw at each stage, hurling bombs to cover his companions' retreat. By the time reinforcements arrived his courage and energy had done much to weaken the enemy's defence and the post was taken again. For 'conspicuous bravery' he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Leak was wounded on 21 August 1916 at Mouquet Farm and rejoined the 9th Battalion on 15 October 1917. On 07 March 1918 he was severely gassed at Hollebeke, Belgium, and did not return to duty until 26 June 1918. On 09 February 1919 he returned to Australia and was discharged from the A.I.F. in Queensland on 31 May 1919. Upon discharge Leak moved all around Australia including Esperence, Western Australia for a significant period of time followed by retiring in Crafers, South Australia where he died on 20 October 1972.

Sergeant Albert 'Alby' David Lowerson VC (1896 - 1945, 49yo)

Alby Lowerson was born on 02 August 1896 at Myrtleford, Victoria. Lowerson was mining for gold at Adelong, New South Wales prior to enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force in Melbourne on 16 July 1915.

Lowerson joined the 21st Battalion on 07 January 1916 and in March moved to France. Lowerson and his unit entered the battle of the Somme, seeing heavy fighting for Pozières Heights from 25 July to 7 August 1916. Two weeks later he was back in the front lines near Mouquet Farm where he was wounded on 26 August 1916. He rejoined the battalion a month later and was promoted Corporal on 01 November 1916. Promoted to temporary Sergeant on 11 April 1917, he was again wounded during the 2nd battle of Bullecourt. Six months later he rejoined his unit as a Sergeant on 01 November 1917. In the final allied advance in 1918 he distinguished himself on 27 August at Virgin Wood and on 28 August 1918 at Herbécourt.

Lowerson won the Victoria Cross on 01 September during the capture of Mont St Quentin. He was cited for his leadership and courage during the battle, particularly for his effective bombing of the strong point which was the centre of stern resistance: a huge crater from which machine-guns fired and stick-bombs were hurled. He inflicted heavy casualties on the Germans and captured twelve machine-guns and thirty prisoners. Although wounded in the thigh, he refused to withdraw until the prisoners had been sent to the rear and the posts of his men had been organised and consolidated. He then refused to leave the battalion for two days until evacuated because of his wound. He resumed duty on 17 September 1916 in time to participate in the last Australian infantry action of the war, at Montbrehain on 5 October 1918 where he was wounded for the fourth time.

Lowerson received the Victoria Cross from King George V at Buckingham Palace on 01 March 1919; a month later he embarked for Australia and was discharged on 08 July 1919. Between the wars he was a dairy and tobacco farmer until re-enlisting on 05 July 1940 and served in numerous training establishments around Australia until he discharged in 1944. He died of leukaemia on 15 December 1945.

 

 


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The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



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