Leonard Ingram Mitchell, the eldest son of Reginald and Leticia Kate Mitchell (nee Bell) was born in the Hunter Valley in 1890. He worked with his father as a builder after he left school.
He was a young man of about 24 years of age when World War I broke out in 1914. By 1915 when further calls went out for volunteers, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces on 4 August 1915, at Newcastle. He was mustered into the 30th Battalion.
The 30th Battalion was raised as part of the 8th Brigade at Liverpool in New South Wales on 5 August 1915. Most of its recruits hailed from the Newcastle region and other parts of country New South Wales.
The 30th Battalion embarked on the troopship Nestor which sailed for Port Said on the Suez Canal.
There the 8th Brigade joined the newly raised 5th Australian Division in Egypt and proceeded to France, destined for the Western Front, in June 1916. Although being involved in the Battle of Amiens, the 30th Battalion’s first major battle was at Fromelles on 19 July 1916. It was tasked with providing carrying parties for supplies and ammunition but was soon drawn into the vicious fighting.
Len Mitchell was soon promoted to Corporal and later to Sargent.
Following the disaster at Fromelles, the battalion was rotated in and out of the front line along with others in the brigade but played no major offensive role for the rest of the year.
In early 1917, the German Army withdrew to the Hindenburg Line. During the general advance that followed, the 30th Battalion had the honour of occupying Bapaume, one of the original objectives for the Somme Offensive.
However, the 30th missed much of the heavy fighting of 1917, being employed in flank protection and reserve roles at the second battle of Bullecourt in May 1917.
For the Third Battle of Ypres which began in August 1917, they were brought forward again.
The preliminary bombardment before the battle lasted for 10 days, during which time 3,000 guns fired 4.25 million artillery shells. Along an 11 mile front the infantry attack comprised a corps of the French First Army on the left, the British Fifth Army in the centre and a corps of the British Second Army on the right of the attack. The German Fourth Army held off the attackers in most places.
Within hours of the start of the battle rain began to fall and crucially did not stop, carrying on into the following weeks. The constant rain produced conditions completely unsuitable for the continued movement of men, animals and heavy equipment, such as artillery and tanks.
The battle, however, continued to grind on in short phases for several weeks throughout the late summer and the autumn.
Success for the allies in late September with the Battle of Menin Road gave them hope to push on towards the Passchendaele Ridge. The Battle of Polygon Wood began on 26 September. The 30th Battalion were entrenched around Hooge Crater.
It was at the Battle of Polygon Wood on 29 September 1917 that Len Mitchell was seriously wounded in the right shoulder.
He was evacuated to England. After surgery and convalescence, he was returned to Australia on the Field Marshall in March 1918. He was discharged as medically unfit on 23 May 1918.
Australian War Diaries can be found at the Australian War Memorial at https://www.awm.gov.au/
Page for 29 September 1917, from the Australian Imperial Forces Unit Diaries 1914-18 War, 8th Infantry Brigade September 1917, AWM 4(Australian War Memorial), 23/8/22. (30th Battalion mentioned in daily plans.)
Leonard Ingram Mitchell’s full military records can be found at the National Australian Archives at https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/
He returned to working with his father in the building trade. He married Margaret Sylvia McInnes in 1926.
Len Mitchell had a brother and a number of first and second cousins who also served:- Roy Hamilton Mitchell, Phillip John Vincent, James Joseph Thomas Bell, Louis Augustus Bell, Arthur Campbell Bell, and William George Blanchard.
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