SERVICE NO: 115
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1885
PLACE OF BIRTH: Coleraine
DATE OF ENLISTMENT: 7 November 1914
PLACE OF ENLISTMENT: Broadmeadows
AGE AT ENLISTMENT: 29
UNIT: 8th Light Horse Regiment, A Squadron
EMBARKED: 25 February 1915
TROOPSHIP: A16 Star of Victoria
FATE: Killed in Action – 7 August 1915 – The Nek, Gallipoli
John Leslie Connor was born in Coleraine in 1885, a son of Dr Samuel Connor and Florence Arden of Fintona Coleraine. He was commonly known as Les. He went to the Coleraine State School then on to Hamilton College as a border.
Les was the Hamilton College School Captain, his final year, He was also the recipient of the Form 6 Award. On speech day 1903, the warden of the College, Arthur Workman closed his speech with,
I have to commend Connor, the captain of the college, for his steady efforts, in which he has, I believe, met with no little success to maintain a good healthy tone in the school. Few of you I suppose realise as I do the tremendous influence that the senior boys, and especially the captain must have for good or bad. A captain need not be a blustering autocrat, and such a role would be ill-suited to our captain of this year, but in a quiet way and unostentatiously he has I know on several occasions by his tact and good nature, averted trouble, and has also I believe, consistently held in view a proper ideal schoolboy honour and manliness.
Les went on to Melbourne University to study a Bachelor of Mining Engineering and took up residence at Ormond College. He graduated in 1910 and left to get some practical experience at mines at Mount Lyall in Tasmania and Mount Morgan in Queensland. By 1912, Les was living at Boulder just to the south of Kalgoorlie and working as a mining surveyor at the Golden Horseshoe Mine.
During February 1913, Les was promoted to Captain with the 84th Infantry Goldfields Battalion. He was active in the community as secretary of the Bolder branch of the Australian Institute of Mining engineers, a member of the St John’s Ambulance society, and a tennis player.
In 1914, Les decided to return to Victoria and as he was making his way east, war broke. He applied for a commission given his past service but there were no available. He was so keen, he decided not to wait and enlisted with the 8th Light Horse Regiment (8th LHR) which Ted Henty, a former old boy from Hamilton College was part of. The men from the 8th LHR were recruited from Victoria and many hailed from the Western District. Many knew each other from the same town others were from neighbouring towns and others had been at school together like Hamilton College. Within weeks Les was promoted to corporal. They embarked on 25 February 1915.
After the regiment reached Egypt on 14 March 1915, Les was promoted to Sergeant.
The infantry had gone off to Gallipoli but after the large loses at the landing, reinforcements were required. The 8th LHR was summoned to go but their horses would have to stay behind. The terrain was better suited to donkeys. They arrived at Gallipoli in late May 1915.
An attack was planned for the early hours of 7 August 1915. At 4.30am, the 3rd Light Horse Brigade including the 8th LHR were to attack the enemy trenches. In the minutes before, allied ships shelled the Turkish trenches with little effect. That shelling was to finish at 4.30am signalling the ground troops to charge at the trenches. However, the offshore attack concluded earlier than expected and there was a period of over five minutes for the Turks to gather their troops in preparation for what was to come.
When the signal to go was finally given, the first line to go over the top was to the B Squadron and two troops from A Squadron, of which Les was a part. The second was the C Squadron and the other two troops from A Squadron. As they went over the top, it was tragic. The men were cut down by enemy fire before they could even move away from the trench. Les had no hope.
On 27 August 1915, Samuel and Florence Connor received a telegram stating Les was reported missing on 7 August. By the end of the week, another telegram arrived. Les was dead.
“…was killed in action…Gallipolli…7 August 15. So little information leaving Samuel with so many questions, questions perhaps only a doctor would dare to ask.
No answers were forthcoming but a list of names of members of the 8th LHR who had survived, and they were few, was passed on to Samuel. Later Florence wrote to the Defence Department. They had received some of their son’s possessions but not those which would have been with him at Gallipoli such as his identity disc.
She was advised that it was unlikely any more of his possessions would be recovered.
The news of the death of Les was announced to the people Kalgoorlie district via the Reverend E.G. Peverick at St George’s Presbyterian Church. The Reverend and Les had been in residence together at Ormond College.
In 1917, memorial tablets were unveiled at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church for Les and other district soldiers.
Time passed but the questions still remained for Samuel Connor. In 1924, he wrote again to the Defence Department because a friend intended to travel to Gallipoli to view her son’s grave but after preliminary enquires, found there was no grave. Her son’s body was never recovered. Was that the same for my son, Samuel asked.
It’s doubtful Samuel’s questions were ever answered. He died in 1927 at Coleraine aged sixty-six. Florence died in 1942.
John Leslie Connor is remembered on the Hamilton College WW1 Roll of Honour and the Coleraine War Memorial.