Neil and Robyn Phelan, Tom Bryant, Ron Siebenhausen, Ken Ashton, Harry Gwynne and Tom McVeigh celebrate unveiling the plaques for Private John Leak.
Neil and Robyn Phelan, Tom Bryant, Ron Siebenhausen, Ken Ashton, Harry Gwynne and Tom McVeigh celebrate unveiling the plaques for Private John Leak.

Remembering a war hero

TWO significant and solemn ceremonies were conducted last week prior to Anzac Day to honour Private John Leak, Queensland’s first Victoria Cross winner, who was a soldier settler at the Commonage, Berat, via Allora.

Pte Leak was honoured last Remembrance Day with a plaque at the Allora War Memorial, and this year Ron Siebenhausen and Tom McVeigh arranged for two more plaques to be put in place where his house had been, and at the site of the sawmill he operated.

Pte Leak was awarded his Victoria Cross following gallantry at Pozieres France on July 27, 1916, and the medal was presented to him by the King, at Buckingham Palace, London, on November 4, 1916.

The sawmill was situated on a property now owned by Neil and Robyn Phelan, and the house on a property owned by Chris Hood, of Brisbane. The present owners were happy to have the plaques erected.

Research into where the sawmill and house were situated was assisted by State Archives and Ian Smith, whose father owned the house property after Pte Leak left the district, and Norm Tranberg whose property adjoins the site of the sawmill.

Mr Tranberg supplied information about the site of the sawmill. Having previously come across old fuel tins, scrap metal and kitchen utensils, he led the organisers to the site.

The stands and plaques were donated and manufactured by Bob Denny, Denny’s Engineering, Allora, and the Western District RSL Toowoomba, and were unveiled by Allora Sub-branch RSL secretary Ken Ashton and long-time resident Harry Gwynne.

Pte Leak had served at Gallipoli, and on return to the Western Front he was wounded and gassed at Hollebake, Belgium on March 7, 1918. For the remainder of his life he suffered the ill-effects of the gassing, living quietly and taking no part in public affairs.

Two of his family of seven children live in South Australia and have their father’s VC and his other medals.

They are proud of his accomplishments, and are enthusiastically co-operating with Mr Siebenhausen and Mr McVeigh in the writing of a book recording his life..

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