Leslie Thomas Hannah
Service number 2125

In later years, Private Leslie Hannah may have thanked his lucky bunions for a medical discharge from the Army which spared him the horrors of trench warfare on the Western Front.

A timbergetter, Leslie came from northern New South Wales, where his family lived on the Clarence River, and was likely working in the Canungra district before enlisting on June 19, 1915, aged 23.

He was allotted to the 4th reinforcements of the 26th Battalion and embarked for overseas service on September 20, 1915.

After being hospitalised with mumps in November and influenza in January, Leslie finally joined his battalion at the Tel el Kabir training camp in Egypt in February. A month later he was in hospital again, this time suffering double hallux valgus.

This sinister sounding affliction was quite simply bunions – one on each foot – a painful, pre-existing condition which may have been aggravated by Army boots.

In March, Leslie’s father, Mr W Hannah of Lawrence on the Clarence River, received a telegram informing him that his son was in hospital with “hallux valgus mild”.

However, the doctor who examined Leslie in April 1916 pronounced the case not mild but “very bad”, adding “should never have been enlisted”.

Marked for discharge from the Army as medically unfit, Leslie boarded the Itonus in Suez on June 16 to return to Australia. As he headed home, the 26th Battalion was heading to France and the trenches of the Western Front.

During the next two-and-a-half-years, the battalion would fight in the Somme and in Flanders in many of the major battles of the war – Pozieres, Bullecourt, Ypres, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcappelle, Passchendaele and Amiens – often in horrendous conditions.

Leslie arrived in Melbourne in July 1916 and was officially discharged from the Army in Brisbane the next month.

Leslie’s medical discharge spared him the horrors of trtench warfare and he returned home on HMAT Itonus.

(Image: Public Domain.)

“His bunions were probably aggravated by Army boots.”

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