Private Leslie Nuttall of the 31st Infantry Battalion

 

Private Leslie Nuttall. John Oxley Library, Negative No. 198105.

Private Leslie Nuttall. John Oxley Library, Negative No. 198105.

The photograph above of World War I soldier, Leslie Nuttall, is part of the John Oxley Library's photographic portraits collection.  The only information which we held about the image was the inscription on the front, Yours Sincerely Les. Nuttall 30/6/16.  However with the help of the soldier service records held by the Australian National Archives, and other research sources, the full story of this Queensland soldier can finally be told. 

Private L. Nuttall. Photograph from "Discovering Anzacs": Image No. 79674.

Private L. Nuttall. Photograph from "Discovering Anzacs": Image No. 79674.

Leslie Nuttall was born at Urmston, Manchester, England, in 1895, being the son of John Henry and Annie Nuttall of St Anne's-on-Sea in Lancashire.  He attended the South Shore Council School in the sea-side town of Blackpool and at the age of 17 emigrated to Queensland on the ship S.S. Rippingham Grange.  His family stayed behind in England.  Les arrived in Brisbane on the 14th March 1912.  His occupation on the immigration records is that of labourer.

S.S. Rippingham Grange. John Oxley Library, Negative No. 12130.

S.S. Rippingham Grange. John Oxley Library, Negative No. 12130.

He enlisted in Brisbane on the 30th April 1916 and joined the 10th reinforcements, 31st Australian Infantry Battalion.  He gave his occupation as "bushman" and his next of kin was his mother, Annie Nuttall of St. Annes-on-Sea, Lancashire, England.  His address on the enlistment papers is the Brisbane suburb of Chermside.

Les embarked from Brisbane on the 21st October 1916 on the troopship H.T. Boonah A36.  He was hospitalised on the ship suffering from V.D.  The ship arrived in Plymouth, England, on the 10th January 1917 and Leslie was sent for training to the Hurdcott Military Camp in Wiltshire, and also spent time in the Fovant Military Hospital with various complaints.

While at Hurdcott he was also in trouble twice for being absent without leave.  The first time he was admonished by an officer and lost one days' pay.  For the second offence he lost 14 days' pay and was sentenced to 10 days F.P.  No. 2.  According to the Rules for Field Punishment made under s. 44 of the Army Act, an offender sentenced under F.P. No. 2 could be "kept in irons i.e., in fetters or handcuffs, or both fetters and handcuffs; and may be secured so as to prevent his escape".

On the 25th April 1917 he proceeded overseas to France to join his unit.  Les was hospitalised in France with both scabies and influenza.  The only major battle in 1917 which involved the 31st Battalion was that of Polygon Wood which began on the 26th September.  The battle involved both British and dominion troops and was successful for the allied forces, inflicting severe losses on the German 4th Army and leading to the capture of a significant portion of land which threatened the German hold on Broodseinde Ridge.  Overall there were 5770 Australian casualties, of which Les Nuttall was one.

The Battle of Polygon Wood from an original drawing by A. Pearse, War Artist. Australian War Memorial, ID No. H00563.

The Battle of Polygon Wood from an original drawing by A. Pearse, War Artist. Australian War Memorial, ID No. H00563.

Les was killed in action on the 26th September 1917 at the age of 22 and was buried in the vicinity of the wood.  The exact location of his grave is not known, however his name appears on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres, Belgium.

Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium, ca. 1917. Australian War Memorial, ID No. A02862.

Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium, ca. 1917. Australian War Memorial, ID No. A02862.

Les' personal effects were returned to his family in England and he is commemorated on the St Annes Parish Church War Memorial in Lancashire.

Lynn Meyers, QANZAC 100 Content Curator

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Guess he served in the 31st with my great uncle Leonard Harold Stubbin who was on same ship from Brisbane, arrived in France on the same day, so probably fought alongside him in the battle of Polygon Wood, and was later killed on the Somme on 18 April 1918.