The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (VX38513) Gunner Leslie Clifton Wilkin, 3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, AIF, Second World War.

Place Africa: North Africa, Libya, Cyrenaica, Benghazi
Accession Number AWM2016.2.119
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 28 April 2016
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Meredith Duncan, the story for this day was on (VX38513) Gunner Leslie Clifton Wilkin, 3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, AIF, Second World War.

Speech transcript

VX38513 Gunner Leslie Clifton Wilkin, 3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, AIF
KIA 7 April 1941
Photograph: P05535.001

Story delivered 28 April 2016

Today we remember Gunner Leslie Clifton Wilkin, who was killed in action during the Second World War.

Leslie “Les” Wilkin was born on 27 February 1920 in Geelong, Victoria, the only son of Percy and Wilhelmina Wilkin. The headmaster of Wonthaggi Technical School, Percy Wilkin was a returned man from the Great War and in 1918 was awarded a Military Medal for his service in the 8th Battalion.

Leslie Wilkin attended Box Hill High School, and for a time was prefect at Melbourne High School. Following the outbreak of war, the 20 year old was studying at Teachers’ Training College when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in August 1940 together with his childhood friend Alexander Barnett. Both were posted to the 3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment’s 9th Battery. Wilkin became the battery’s motorcycle despatch rider.

On 23 November Wilkin married Jean Laurie Cawood at the Collins Street Baptist Church in Melbourne. They had met at the church when they were just 11, and Cawood’s father was also a returned man from the Great War. Barnett acted as best man.

The newlyweds had little time together, as Wilkin left in late December for overseas service. Arriving in the Middle East in early 1941, his regiment soon went into action in the Western Desert of Libya. During this time Jean Wilkin received six letters from her husband before receiving a military telegram informing her he was missing and thought to be a prisoner of war.

In early April 1941 Major General Erin Rommel’s German Afrikakorps had arrived in Tripoli to reinforce their Italian allies, and advanced rapidly towards Egypt. The 3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment was caught up in the withdrawal from Benghazi towards Tobruk and the Egyptian frontier, during which many British Commonwealth forces were captured.

On the night of 6 April gunners of the 3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment were encircled and captured along with the headquarters company of the 2/15th Battalion. At some point during or immediately after this Wilkin had seen British forces in the distance. He rode towards them on his motorcycle but was hit by German fire, dying a few hours later. Alex Barnett, now a prisoner of the Germans, witnessed his friend’s battlefield burial.

Writing later from a prisoner-of-war camp in Europe, Barnett wrote of the incident to the minister who had married Wilkin and his wife. The minister performed the sober task of telling Jean of her husband’s death.

Gunner Leslie Wilkin was 21 years old. He was buried in the Knightsbridge War Cemetery at Acroma, Libya.

His name is also listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 40,000 others from the Second World War. His photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Gunner Leslie Clifton Wilkin, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Dr Karl James
Historian, Military History Section

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