“the infantry have all the fun and I’m going to join them”………21 Leonard Gatty
21 Leonard James Gatty was an enthusiastic and fearless young Australian who had a healthy image of himself, he was strong and capable and embodied the image of the young ANZAC, a young fellow who couldn’t wait to enlist and show the world what Australian’s were made of.
Len’s father James Gatty explained how “Len was an adult in physique and mental outlook. As he was strong enough and able to ride and shoot, he said it was his duty to offer his services to fight for his country in the most critical struggle in which the British Empire had ever been engaged”
Leonard’s family had a soldiering pedigree. His grandmother Priscilla Gatty ( nee Cannon) came to be in Tasmania because her father Joseph Cannon had – “fought at the Battle of Waterloo and because of this Joseph was given free passage to Van Diemans Land and a grant of land. Joseph’s regiment was the 3rd Battalion, 14th Regiment of Foot and he was in the 5th Company, and right in the thick of it.” – Source: Joseph Knight -Smith (Gatty Family descendant)
Leonard was born in Zeehan, then a prosperous mining township in Tasmania. He was an engineers fitter aged 19. His father James later declared that Len was actually only 16 years and 10 months old when he enlisted.
Len enjoyed soldiering and was happy being surrounded by fellow sappers and his mates from his home state of Tasmania. He saw the war as exciting and felt he was one of the “Lucky Ones”…. he was detailed to accompany the landing parties at Gallipoli on the morning of the 25th April 1915 and after a short spell with diarrhoea, he couldn’t wait to get back among the action at Gallipoli.
A LUCKY SAPPER.
Published in the “Critic” – Hobart, Friday 27 August 1915.
The following letter from Lemnos, dated June 11, has been received from Sapper L. J. Gatty, 1st Field Company Engineers (New South Wales), by his father, Major J . Gatty, of Zeehan:—
“ I am here just for a day or so’s spell from the Peninsula. As you will know, I was there from the start, being one of the lucky ones detailed to accompany the landing parties, and six weeks of tinned beef and hard biscuit had made me rather tender inside, but I ’m as right as rain now, and am going back tomorrow. My company has had bad luck in the way of casualties. Neville Richard and I spent an afternoon together, trying to pick off a few Turks as they ran along a communication trench. We got one each, which makes eight for me altogether. I like the life, except for the poor fellows who are hit. I was with Ken Anderson when he was killed. Dave Downie, who was in the 3rd Field Company Engineers, was killed a few days ago. Roy Richard was shot through both arms – a nasty wound. Ken Terry, from Glenorchy, was wounded. Victor Jacques, also from Glenorchy, is a sergeant and a fine soldier. He is all right, and asks to be remembered to you. The archdeacon (Rev. R. H. Richard) is well. Major Young is wounded in the arm rather badly. Pat Lonergan is dead. My writing is somewhat “ off, ” but I am writing this in a little Greek cafe, and their pen is no good. We expect a mail from Australia any day now. We are all anxious to see what the papers had to say about us.”
I’m not quite sure if Len was ever in that ” little Greek cafe “ writing this letter from Lemnos. His war record does not show any evidence of him having been transferred sick or wounded to Lemnos. Perhaps like so many letters from Anzacs, Len’s letter was contrary to real Anzac life and intended to help comfort loved ones back home and ease their concerns.
As well as letting them know in his own words that he was “as right as rain’, Len couldn’t hide his enthusiasm for trying to pick off a few Turks and letting his people know what a good shot he was.
During July and leading up to August the men of the 1st FCE had been making trouble for the Turk’s for weeks leading up to the major assault on the German Officers trench and had been staging attacks, blowing in tunnels and trenches and preparing for another major assault in early August. This major assault was to become the most significant battle in the Gallipoli campaign known as the “August offensive” or the “Battle of Lone Pine”.
Gallipoli war correspondent Phillip Schuler describes the mood of the Anzacs prior to the 6th August. “The men had been in the trenches since April. They were ripe for a fight; they were tired of the monotony of sniping at a few Turks and digging and tunnelling”.
Leonard Gatty’s close mate was Corporal 209 William Cridlanda 24 year old mechanic from Marrickville, Sydney. William Cridland was with Len and was witness to Len’s final moments.
The following is the transcript from a letter to Leonard’s mother, which gives a full account of the circumstances of Len’s death. The original details provided by 209 William Cridland (later MBE) and recorded by Pte. C Gordon AMC………
“ I made enquiries about Len Gatty – he died bravely. “On the 6th August a large number of Infantry and about 20 Engineers were told off to charge the Turkish position at “Lonesome Pine” and a few Engineers and twenty men to take a snipers post at the German officer’s trench. Len was in the big crowd, but thought that the other job would be more exciting and exchanged with another engineer. They set out at dark to crawl to the snipers post about 70 yards away. It took them three hours as machine guns were shooting at them the whole time, and when they got near their objective there were only 5 engineers left. They did not know what to do for a while, but decided to go into the trench, which they found to be a communications trench leading back into the Turkish reserve. They could not do anything , so they started to crawl back. The machine guns were still going , and the Turks were throwing flare lights, so they had to lie still for a good while. When the Corporal got back to the trenches Len was missing. Next morning when they looked over the parapet we could see his body about thirty yards away, so that’s how poor young Len Gatty finished. He was as game as they could make them. Once before he offered to go out at night and blow up a machine gun. Everyone who knew him liked him, and all the engineers speak well of him.”
Source NAA – statements made by 209 William Cridland recorded by Pte. C Gordon AMC.
Corporal William Cridland had lost a good mate, he and Len Gatty were always together and had became very good friends. In the morning after the charge, they could see Len’s body lying near “Snipers “ trench and the purple patch that identified him as one of their own, “he was only a lad” said Cridland.
“Sapper Gatty was one of the party working in “union” trench on the night of the 6th August 1915. He was not detailed to take part in the attack. On his being withdrawn from work and return to camp he remarked “the infantry have all the fun and I’m going to join them” Next morning he was reported missing I am of the opinion that Sapper Gatty took part in the attack on the night of the 6th August 1915.”- 29 Bob Lundy
2nd Corporal 66 Norman Masters also knew Len Gatty well and said that Len wanted some of the fun and went out with the infantry and was going to have a go himself.
Norman Masters helped to make the famous memorial cross which was being put up to commemorate their fallen mates, and wanted to have Leonard’s name included but was not allowed to include his name pending the official authority of his death.
It wasn’t until June 1916 that a court inquiry in France determined and confirmed the accounts of Len’s death, and in August 1916 a full year after his death, administrators then formally advised his family the full circumstances of his death.
They were unable to recover his Len’s body and he is honoured at The Lone Pine Memorial (Panel 12), Gallipoli, Turkey.
The Memorial stands over the centre of the Turkish trenches and tunnels which were the scene of heavy fighting during the August offensive. Most cemeteries on Gallipoli contain relatively few marked graves, and the majority of Australians killed on Gallipoli are commemorated here.
The Lone Pine Memorial, situated in the Lone Pine Cemetery at Anzac, is the main Australian Memorial on Gallipoli, and one of four memorials to men of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Designed by Sir John Burnet, the principal architect of the Gallipoli cemeteries, it is a thick tapering pylon 14.3 metres high on a square base 12.98 metres wide. It is constructed from limestone mined at Ilgardere in Turkey.
The Memorial commemorates the 3268 Australians and 456 New Zealanders who have no known grave and the 960 Australians and 252 New Zealanders who were buried at sea after evacuation through wounds or disease. The names of New Zealanders commemorated are inscribed on stone panels mounted on the south and north sides of the pylon, while those of the Australians are listed on a long wall of panels in front of the pylon and to either side. Names are arranged by unit and rank.
In the Roll of Honour for the 6th August Battle of Lone Pine, one name stands apart from the list of names from the 1st, 2nd 3rd and 4th Infantry and that is 1st Field Engineer 21 Leonard Gatty.
Like many of the original engineers of the 1st FCE, over time they have largely been forgotten. Len’s story has never been told before, and his memory is now revived and recorded and he will long be remembered for his bravery and his determination to be where the action was.