Mr Kerry Stokes AC – Chairman of the Council of the Australian War Memorial

06 March 2019

Les Carlyon (1942-2019)

Les Carlyon was the exquisite storyteller every journalist wanted to be and the historian of our age.

His prose was spare, beautiful in its simplicity and brimming with meaning.

He was curious about his country, egalitarian with his choice of subject matter, and walked easily on both sides of the track in a relentless quest for detail and authenticity.

His two great tomes Gallipoli and The Great War help Australians understand who we are and are a priceless gift to current generations and all those to come.

Les has been described as having the "sweetest pen", and writing  with gritty elegance; and he brought that economy of words to the table at the Australian War Memorial Council. He was truly thoughtful, with an ability to consider and summarise the many difficult and emotional issues we dealt with. His laconic Australian humour would often help crystallise the matter at hand and find a resolution. As Chairman of the Council, I treasured his insight, wisdom, passion and friendship.

Les was the sort of person you wanted to be around: he was interesting and interested. He had a zest for life but lived it with old fashioned decency, courtesy and respect for others. He painted vivid word pictures of so many great Australian characters, but Les was one himself. He disliked political correctness because, as he said, it made you see life through a keyhole not a bay window. He was famed for his weakness for the 'journalists' other pencil', the cigarette, and loved for his generosity and mentorship to both aspiring and senior wordsmiths.

Les Carlyon won two Walkley Awards, was the only person to receive Life Memberships from both the Walkley Foundation and the Melbourne Press Club, was an esteemed historian, served for 11 years on the Australian War Memorial Council and in 2014 was made a Companion of the Order of Australia.

Above all, he was a husband and father and our hearts go out to Denise and the Carlyon family.