Soldier profile – Pte Leopold Meek

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Leopold William Meek was born in Palmerston North, New Zealand on 23 June 1893.  At some stage he and his family moved to Sydney, New South Wales, where in September 1912 he signed on with the Royal Australian Navy for seven years.  During part of this time he served on HMAS Australia.  Gaining a discharge in mid 1914, he apparently became a carpenter; something he’d probably had experience with during his time in the navy, as his service card records an injury from a circular saw.  In 1914, now 22 years old, he was residing in East Zetland, Sydney.  Upon the outbreak of war in August 1914, he immediately joined the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, and took part in the seizure and occupation of German New Guinea between September and January 1915.

Upon his return to Australia, he re-enlisted in the AIF in Sydney on 10 February 1915. First allotted to the 4th Reinforcements for the 4th Battalion, he was somewhat ‘in the wars’ for much of the first half of the year, although of the medical kind, suffering from venereal disease, pneumonia and malaria.  He most likely contracted syphilis in Egypt prior to landing on Gallipoli, and this and his subsequent ailments constantly interrupted his time spent on the peninsula.

Upon the creation of the 5th Division in Egypt in early 1916, Meek transferred to this division’s 56th Battalion in February.  With the move to France and the Western Front, Meek saw front line action, being wounded badly in the eye at Fromelles in July 1916.  At the end of the year he went to England for a stint as an instructor at the 14th Training Battalion, training new reinforcements who would fill units such has his battalion. 

Whilst in the UK for nearly all of 1917, Meek kept busy; he was promoted to sergeant, presumably did a lot of sight-seeing in the UK, and then met and married one Ethel D’Anson, a Yorkshire lass that August.  To round off the year a court martial reduced him to the ranks as a private again, due to some fraudulent activities. In late October 1917 he rejoined his battalion in Flanders near Ypres.

During the battalion’s next big battle in April 1918 near Villers-Bretonneux, Meek was gassed.  After a long recovery, plus more disciplinary problems, he finally rejoined his unit in France again in on 8 November 1918.  Three days later the war ended.  Meek returned to Australia in August 1919.

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