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Community & Business

19 January, 2022

Remembering Les Wilson

Clifton resident and World War II veteran Leslie Gordon Wilson passed away in December last year at the age of 97.

Les and his wife Sheila.

Les Wilson was born on 1st November, 1924, in Glen Innes, New South Wales.

He was the seventh of ten children to Percival and Rosalie Wilson.

As a sign of the times when he grew up, Les along with his father, brothers and Uncle Frank journeyed from Glen Innes to Elphinstone in July 1932, during the Great Depression, by foot.

The trip, which takes three hours to cover the 250 kilometres by car in the present day, took them nine days and covered approximately 157 miles.

Les’ father had purchased a box wagon to be pulled by eight draught horses upon which all their furniture had been loaded, including a piano.

During the midst of World War II, Les joined the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in 1943 at the age of 18, departing for Lae in modern day Papua New Guinea in December that year.

His application lists him as a process worker (foundry).

During the war, he was stationed at different places in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

He had the rank Leading Aircraftman (LAC).

He was discharged on 7th May 1946.

Les married his wife of 70 years, Sheila, on 31st March 1951 at St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Toowoomba.

They had three children, Gordon, Janice and Neil, 10 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and 4 great-great-grandchildren.

The couple lived at Back Plains before moving to Allora to share farm dairy and grain with Barry and Ross Wagland.

Les and Sheila moved to Toowoomba in 1973 where they remained until moving to Clifton where they built their final home on Gannan Street.

He moved into Nirvana Hostel in 2018.

Speaking at Mr Wilson’s funeral, Alan Hoey shared some details and anecdotes about his life and times.

Alan recalled Les was always busy fixing some piece of machinery or helping Gordon, Neil and son-in-law Gordon do work on their places.

“He loved working in his shed and was a great help when a shed or set of yards were to be built or a paddock needed ploughing,” Mr Hoey said.

Mr Hoey also thanked the staff at Nirvana Hostel and Clifton Nursing Home for caringly looking after Les and allowing Les and Sheila to spend as much time together as possible.

“You are all wonderful,” he said.

Les’ son Neil said earlier in his life, Mr Wilson did not talk about the war but shared the following story at his 90th birthday:

Hand grenade - Les’ first encounter with live grenades. 

The instructor had two men at a time in a trench.

The soil from the trench made a bank which gave a bit more protection from the exploding grenade.

I was a young chap and my turn.

You had to pull the safety pin out, let a lever go, count to three seconds then bowl
it as far as you could.

The grenades we were using had seven second fuses.

When we got as far as releasing the lever the young chap’s nerves went on him and he dropped his grenade in the trench.

The instructor picked up the grenade, tossed it over the bank and yelled “DOWN.”

Only for the bank I think my days in the RAAF would have been over.

Petrol cap left off the plane - 

As the plane was going down the runway to take off to Port Moresby, I looked out of the little window in the DC3 horrified to see fuel flowing over the wing.

I yelled out to a fellow sitting near the door the cockpit to alert the crew. 

He nearly wrecked the door.

The pilot told us after he parked the plane that the plane would have only cleared the end of the runway when all the fuel in the wing tank would have been sucked out by the wind of the propeller.

He was pleased we had noticed it and so were we.

The refuelers had failed to replace the cap.

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