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Harty  L J  Pte  449

Page history last edited by Lenore Frost 1 year, 10 months ago

Volunteers of Essendon and Flemington, 1914-1918


Harty L J    Pte    449    Leo James                7 Inf Bn    19    Labourer    Single    R C        

Address:    Moonee Ponds, Normanby St, 18    

Next of Kin:    Harty, James, 18 Normanby St, Moonee Ponds    

Enlisted:    17 Aug 1914       

Embarked:  A20 Hororata 19 Oct 1914    

Prior Service:  58 Inf Regt; four years Senior Cadets

Awards:  Military Medal


Relatives on Active Service:

Lane-A-J-Pte-2443  brother in law, KIA

Lane J H Pte 4453 `brother in law, KIA


Date of Death: 29/06/1916  Sergeant

CWGC: "Son of J. C. and Caroline Harty. Born Victoria".




Sergeant Leo James Harty MM


Rod Martin


August 1914 saw a rush of young men to the recruiting offices in every city of Australia.  War had broken out in Europe and many wanted to play a part in it.  After all, the conflict would be over by Christmas – or so they were told.  They had to get in quick or they would miss out on the excitement, the chance to see the world, and the opportunity to defend king and empire. 


Among the hordes that besieged those offices was a nineteen year-old man named Leo Harty.  A labourer at the recently built Maribyrnong cordite factory, Leo fitted the bill as a recruit. 170 centimetres in height and weighing sixty-five kilos, he had brown eyes and hair and complied with the minimum chest measurement of eighty-five centimetres.  What is more, he had been a member of the local 58 Infantry Regiment (militia) and, before that, had spent four years in senior cadets.  He was very ready to fight.


58 Regiment provided many volunteers for the 7 Battalion AIF once war broke out and it was led by its peacetime commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Harold ‘Pompey’ Elliott.  It became part of 2 Brigade, seen below marching past Parliament House and the governor-general in Melbourne in September 1914.


Australian War Memorial Collection J00352


After training at Broadmeadows, Leo embarked with his comrades on A20 HMAT Hororata on 18 October and sailed away, ostensibly heading for the Western Front in France.  While at sea, however, the convoy received the order to disembark the men in Egypt.  Plans for an attack on the Dardanelles, hopefully knocking Turkey out of the war, had been passed by the British government.


Once in Egypt, the men transferred to a training camp at Mena, just outside Cairo.  During their time there, a number of the men misbehaved rather badly in the city, and some were even sent home in disgrace.  However, Leo’s record gives no indication of misdemeanors on his part.  Along with the others, he sailed for the Dardanelles in early April and went ashore on the morning of the twenty-fifth as part of the second wave.


7 Battalion boats land at Anzac Cove, 25 April 1915    (AWM P00229.001)


The troops of 7 Battalion were scattered to the four winds on landing. The unit’s target was supposed to be Hill 971, a vital spot of high land on the main ridge of the peninsula, whence moves further east towards the Dardanelles Straits could be planned and carried out.  However, the Anzac forces were put ashore in the wrong place.  Instead of finding an open plain in front of them, they met very different country, described by Ross McMullin as rugged ridges and ravines covered by obstructive, waist-high undergrowth.  While under constant fire, the soldiers had to scramble for cover and attempt to make their way up those ridges and ravines towards the first line of Turkish trenches.  Casualties were very high and the men were scattered over a large area. ‘Pompey’ Elliott then struggled to establish what he called a rendezvous and gather the men together.  It took several days before the survivors were able to regroup.  By 30 April, Elliott’s command had lost more men than any other battalion.


Despite this decimation, Leo and the remainder of the battalion were sent south as part of 2 Brigade to Cape Helles on 5 May to assist the British in their attempts to capture the village of Krythia. As a result of several incompetently planned and executed attacks, the brigade lost one-third of its men.  No significant territory was captured.  On the eighth, Leo was reported missing.  He was found later, however, suffering from a gunshot wound, and was probably evacuated to the hospital on the island of Lemnos.  On 17 May, as 7 Battalion returned to Anzac Cove licking copious wounds, Leo was shipped to St George’s Hospital in Malta for treatment.


In early July, 7 Battalion relieved 8 Battalion in the front-line trenches up on the ridges and moved into a new position at Steele’s Post, above Monash Valley, on the eighth of the month. The men were engaged in constant sniping with Turks on the opposite ridge and then subjected to a massive bombardment that killed or wounded many of them.  At Elliott’s request, they were withdrawn, exhausted, on 19 July, the day Leo rejoined them.


The men were placed in reserve to recover.  However, there was little or no shelter at Anzac Cove and, like all others, they were subjected to constant bombardment and sniping by the Turks.  On 23 July, Leo did something that was possibly out of character.  He used insubordinate language to a superior officer and was punished with fourteen days’ forfeiture of pay.  We do not know the details of this incident.  It is possible, of course, that he was responding to a foolish order from an incompetent superior.  It did happen. What is known, however, is that it may well have incited him to overcome the shame by becoming a really good soldier.  He received no more demerits and, later, was lauded for his display of conspicuous bravery several times, especially at the Battle of Lone Pine, in which the battalion fought on the eighth and ninth of  August 1915.  That battle was a tactical victory but, again, many of Leo’s comrades were lost or severely wounded.  Australia suffered more than 2000 casualties to win a small area of territory that was of little or no strategic significance.  The attack at Lone Pine was only a diversion.


7 Battalion men at Gallipoli, August 1915                (AWM C01929)  


After Lone Pine, 7 Battalion remained on Gallipoli until it was withdrawn along with all other units in December. While there, Leo’s leadership qualities were recognized when he was appointed lance-corporal on 30 October, temporary corporal on 13 November, and corporal on 11 December.  Once back in Egypt, he was appointed acting sergeant on 19 February 1916 and sergeant on 18 March.


On 26 March, as part of 1 Anzac Corps, the reformed 7 Battalion left Alexandria, headed for Marseilles in France.  The troops arrived on 31 March and were transported north in covered goods wagons, their destination the ‘nursery’ sector near Amentières in the northern part of the country.  This sector was a relatively quiet area of the front, and the men were given a chance to acclimatize themselves to the new conditions.  They had experienced trench warfare at Gallipoli, but this was a very different kind of conflict.  The intensity of bombardments and the scale of attacks were things new and very frightening to them.


In late April, the battalion moved closer to the active front, being based at Fleurbaix, a village located near Fromelles in northern France – a name that would soon become infamous in Australian military history.  The men were in fairly constant danger from enemy bombardments and air attack and a number were killed or wounded as a result.  They occupied the forward trenches from 14 to 28 May.  At this time, Leo was in charge of a support platoon placed behind a wall known as Convent Wall.  This wall was bombarded several times during the fortnight the men were in the front line.  Leo was reported as handling his men with skill and judgement during the bombardments, especially on 27 May when his section of the wall was pounded with high explosive shells.  As the citation for his Military Medal stated,


Had it not been for [his] coolness his Platoon must inevitably have suffered severe losses.


He controlled and directed his men with judgement and they were able to obtain secure cover without any serious casualties, other than those caused by the first shell.


He had come a long way from the insubordinate private at Gallipoli.


  Front line trenches at Fleurbaix, 1916     (AWM P00437.017)


7 Battalion stayed in reserve at Fleurbaix until 9 June, and then moved north towards the Belgian border.  By the nineteenth, the men were at Neuve Eglise in Belgium, and were finally based at Ploegstreet in the area of Messines, Belgian Flanders.  This area, centred upon the town of Ypres, had been a ‘hot spot’ since soon after the war broke out in 1914.  By 1916, two unsuccessful attacks had been mounted in the area by the Allies.  When 7 Battalion arrived, regular sniping, aerial attacks, small-scale assaults and bombardments were the order of the day.


Ruins of Messines, 1917    (AWM E01291)


On 29 June, bombardments continued on both sides, the Australian artillery continuing until eleven o’clock at night.  The enemy was reported as responding ‘vigourously’ [sic] with seventy-seven millimetre high explosive shells and trench mortars.   At some time during that day, Leo was killed, probably as a result of one of the explosions.  No more details are available.  He was only twenty-one years old.


Leo was buried in the nearby newly opened Berks Extension Cemetery.  His Military Medal was awarded posthumously in October of that year.  The reason for the delay in making the award is not known.


 Berks Cemetery Extension.  Courtesy of John Philpott.





Australian War Memorial (Collection)

Bean, C. E. W.: The official history of Australia in the war of 1914-1918: Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 12 volumes, 1941

Carlyon, Les: Gallipoli, Sydney, Macmillan, 2001

Carlyon, Les: The Great War, Sydney, Macmillan, 2006

McMullin, Ross: Pompey Elliott, Melbourne, Scribe, 2008

National Archives Australia

Philpott, John

Travers, Richard: Diggers in France: Australian soldiers on the Western Front, Sydney, ABC Books, 2008



Mr. J. Harty, of Normanby street, Moonee Ponds, has received the Military Medal won by his son, Sergeant L. J. Harty, for conspicuous bravery on the field. Sergeant Harty was 18 years of age when he left Australia with the first contingent. He fought in every battle with the Anzacs at Gallipoli, and went to France with the first batch of Australians. His promotion was rapid. Sgt. Harty was killed in action on June 29th, 1916. 


ROLL OF HONOR. (1917, June 14). The Essendon Gazette and Keilor, Bulla and Broadmeadows Reporter (Moonee Ponds, Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 3 Edition: Morning. Retrieved May 15, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74602800


Recommendation for Military Medal 9 June 1916


Sergeant Harty during the period 15.5.16 to 28.5.16 when 7th Battalion was on duty in the firing line was in charge of a support platoon to B Coy 7th Btn.  This platoon was distributed immediately in rear of a wall known as CONVENT WALL.  The wall was severely bombarded by the enemy on a number of occasions between the above dates.  Sgt Harty displayed skill and judgement in handling his men during the bombardment a particularly on the 27th May 1916 when his section of the wall was severely bombarded with high explosive shells.  Had it not been for Sgt Harty's coolness his platoon must inevitably have suffered severe losses.  He controlled and directed his men with judgement and they were able to obtain secure cover without any serious casualties.  These casualties were caused by the first shell.  When on Gallipoli Sgt Harty on several occasions in the trenches, particularly at Lone Pine on 8/9th August 1915 displayed conspicuous bravery.

Recommended by A/Coy Comdr 2nd Lieut S V Burrow       Lieut J B Harris.


Mentioned in this publication:



War Service Commemorated

Essendon Town Hall

Patriotic Concert 1914

Anzac Honoured Dead 29 Jun 1916

Essendon Gazette Roll of Honour killed 

“Send off to the Essendon Boys”


In Memoriam

Mentioned in brother in law Arthur Lane's In Memoriam notice.

No In Memoriam notices in The Argus


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