644 Private Gordon Leslie WHITE – died of wounds on 14 October 1918
Gordon Leslie White was born at Broken Hill in 1898, the fourth child of Thomas Reid White and Amelia Sarah White (nee Ticklie). His parents later moved to Hectorville, a suburb of Adelaide; he was educated at Payneham Public School. After leaving school he worked at Victor Harbor as a labourer before moving back to Adelaide.
Although a gardener, Gordon was not a physically strong man when, at age 18 years 2 months when he enlisted on 5 July 1915. As he was under 21, he required parental consent to join; his mother penned her consent that day. At Mitcham Camp, he was allocated to ‘B’ Company of the newly formed 32nd Infantry Battalion. The Battalion formed with ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies from South Australia and came to full strength when ‘C’ and ‘D’ Companies joined from Western Australia in late September 1915.
The Battalion sailed from Adelaide on HMAT Geelong on 8 November 1915, landing at Suez in Egypt on 18 December 1915. In Egypt, Gordon was admitted to hospital several times and thus was unable to sail with his Battalion to France. Later he was shipped to Britain, arriving there in mid-June 1916. Following further training, he reached France on 11 September 1916 and joined his Battalion 15 days later. On 26 October he was admitted to hospital and did not rejoin his unit until 4 April 1917. During the second Battle of Bullecourt the 32nd Battalion was deployed on 7 May to protect the right flank of the main Australian force.
In September 1917, he enjoyed two weeks leave in Britain, returning to fight with the Battalion at Polygon Wood near Ypres (Belgium) on 26 September during the great Allied offensive. He had a further week in hospital during December 1917 before rejoining his unit.
During the German Spring Offensive of 1918, the Battalion had a relatively quite time as the 5th Division was held in reserve. Commencing on 8 August 1918, the Allied Armies commenced their war-changing offensive, which successfully broke through German defences, forcing them to retreat.
The 32nd fought its last major action of the war between 29 September and 1 October 1918 when the 5th and 3rd Australian Divisions and two American divisions attacked the Hindenburg Line across the top of the six kilometre-long St Quentin Canal tunnel; the canal was a major obstacle in the German defensive scheme. On 29 September 1918, at 0900 hours, the 32nd Battalion began an easterly advance from Bellicourt, however 15 minutes later fog descended and reduced visibility and slowed the advance. Now supported by seven tanks, the advance continued, capturing Etricourt together with prisoners and weapons. On 29 September, Gordon was wounded in the groin (testicles). He was one of the Battalion’s 104 men wounded over two days. Evacuated to the 3rd Australian General Hospital at Abbeville, he died there on 14 October 1918. Gordon is buried in the Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension.
Gordon is commemorated on the Victor Harbor and Magill War Memorials. One of Gordon’s uncles from Victor Harbor, 4347 LCPL Albert Thomas TICKLIE MM, 48th Infantry Battalion, was killed in action on 11 April 1917.
Service file of 644 Gordon Leslie WHITE downloaded from the National Archives of Australia ( www.naa.gov.au ).
Australian War Memorial database ( www.awm.gov.au ).