Indigenous Australian, Leslie MASON, 4th Pioneer Battalion
Leslie MASON was just 23 years old when he volunteered to serve for his country in August 1915, one of three Mason brothers to serve during the First World War. Born to Thomas Mason and Rosanna ‘Rosa’ Owens in Walcha, NSW, his grandmother Maria Matthews was a Kamilaroi woman.
Leslie’s skills as a boilermaker with the Queensland railways would have been highly sought after, and although he was initially assigned to an infantry battalion, he eventually served with the 4th Australian Pioneer Battalion, infantrymen who also performed engineering functions.
Leslie trained at the barracks at Enoggera, just outside of Brisbane. It was here that Leslie would have paid to have his photograph taken by one of the ‘tent studios’ setup outside the camp. It was published in the Queenslander Pictorial in June 1916 prior to his expected embarkation for England.
Leslie finally left Sydney on board HMAT Beltana, 25 November 1916, leaving his wife Marion and their baby son Leslie Vincent at home in Ipswich. His journey was not uneventful, he mislaid some of his kit, for which he was later fined, and he failed to re-board the ship while they were in port at Cape Town, however he continued his journey on board HT Briton the next day, finally arriving in camp late January 1917.
Leslie was fortunate to spend the next few months training with the Pioneer Training Battalion at Fovant as the winter of 1916/1917 was fierce in Europe and would have been hellish on the front lines.
In April 1917 he injured his left knee and was unable to continue in his role with the 4th Pioneers, instead he was attached to the Anzac Provost Corps [AIF Police], at Parkhouse Camp before finally leaving England in August 1917 to be returned to Australia ‘for home service’.
It would be two months before he finally arrived in Brisbane, where the authorities decided that he should be medically discharged from the army. Fortunately for Leslie and his young family he was offered re-employment with the Queensland railways, at the workshops in Ipswich.
Leslie and Marion had two more children, Kathleen Mary 1918-1951 and Allan Thomas, 1922-1982. Sadly Leslie Mason, died in May 1924 of an infectious disease at the Ipswich General Hospital.
For several years after his death, notices were placed in the Ipswich newspapers “In loving memory” of Leslie Mason by his family, and on Anzac Day 1926 & 1927 in an annual pilgrimage to the graves of ex-soldiers including Leslie’s, flags and floral gifts were laid in remembrance.
Leslie’s brother Allan was killed in action, July 1916, and is commemorated at the Australian Memorial Villers Bretonneu, Northern France. Their son Allan Thomas Mason who was just 4 years old when his father died, also served for his country, with the 2/7th Advanced Workshop Unit, during the Second World War.
Read more …
- SERVICE RECORD: MASON, Leslie
- EMBARKATION ROLL: 8th Reinf. 4th Pioneer Battalion
- Queensland Times 4 May 1925, p2
- One of the soldiers featured in SLQ’s HistoryPin Collection
- View the whole Collection: Indigenous enlistment
- Queensland’s Indigenous Servicemen Digital Story and Oral History
Marg Powell & Des Crump | QANZAC100, State Library of Queensland