(Service number 77016)
|First Rank||Rifleman||Last Rank||Rifleman|
|Date||12 February 1898||Place of Birth||Timaru, New Zealand|
|Date||22 March 1918 (WWI); 27 June 1940 (WWII)||Age||20 (WWI); 42 (WWII)|
|Address at Enlistment||Evans Street Timaru (WWI); 10 Sefton St Timaru (WWII)|
|Occupation||Clerk (WWI); Accountant (WWII)|
|Previous Military Experience||Senior School Cadet 44th Company Timaru|
|Marital Status||Single (WWI); Married (WWII)|
|Next of Kin||Mrs S. FARROW (mother), Evans Street, Timaru|
|Religion||Anglican (WWI); Baptist (WWII)|
|Medical Information||5 foot 3 inches tall, weight 106 pounds (48kgs), chest 29 1/2 - 32 1/2 inches, fresh complexion, grey eyes, dark brown hair, scarlet fever at 15 years|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||New Zealand Rifle Brigade|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||42nd Reinforcements, D Company (WWI); 23rd Battalion (WWII)|
|Date||1 August 1918 (WWI); April 1941 (WWII)|
|Transport||HMNZT 109 Tofua (WWI)|
|Embarked From||Wellington, N.Z.||Destination||London, England (WWI); Egypt (WWII)|
|Other Units Served With||33rd Battalion. Egypt (WWII)|
|Last Unit Served With||Reserve Battalion, NZRB, England (WWI); 23rd Battalion (WWII)|
|Service Medals||British War Medal (WWI); 1939-45 Star, Africa Star, War Medal 1939-45, NZ War Service Medal (WWII)|
Award Circumstances and Date
Prisoner of War Information
|Date of Capture|
|Where Captured and by Whom||Libya - Italy|
|Actions Prior to Capture||Libya Campaign|
|PoW Serial Number|
|Date||10 February 1920 (WWI); 7 November 1945 (WWII)||Reason||No longer physicall fit for war service|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
4 April 1919 - admitted to 3 NZ General Hospital, VD Section; transferred to Military Hospital Chiseldon 9 August - 6 November 1919
Clerk (WWI); Canister Maker (WWII)
|Date||18 December 1953||Age||55 years|
|Place of Death||Auckland, New Zealand|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Waikumete Cemetery|
|Memorial Reference||Service Persons Area K, Row 3, Plot 1 (ashes)|
|New Zealand Memorials|
Leslie was born at Timaru on 12 February 1898, the third child of Samuel and Mary Ellen (nee Coleman) Farrow. Samuel (1858-1942) was working as an electrician in Timaru when he died. In 1893 he had married Mary Ellen Coleman (1869-1942). They are buried together in the Timaru Cemetery. Leslie was educated at the Timaru Main and Timaru Technical Schools where he was granted a senior free place by the Education Department in 1913, and passed his Secondary School Matriculation. Whilst at school Leslie had been a member of the senior school cadets Number 44 Company, and a keen member of the St Mary’s Sunday School.
On turning 20 he was medically boarded for military service at Timaru on 22 March 1918, and was at this time employed as a clerk for the Canterbury Farmers Coop. His enlistment papers described him as being single, Anglican, of a slight build being only 5 foot 3 inches tall, weighing 106 pounds (48kgs), with a chest measuring 29 ½ - 32 ½ inches, fresh complexion, grey eyes, dark brown hair. It was also noted he had suffered scarlet fever at age 15 years. His mother Mrs S. Farrow of Evans St Timaru was nominated as his next of kin. Leslie left Timaru on 5 April with the 40th Reinforcements after the usual Mayoral send off at the Drill Hall, and marched to the Timaru Railway Station headed by the 2nd SC Regiment Band. Men from Geraldine and Temuka also boarded the train at Temuka and from there they proceeded to camp at Trentham via the interisland ferry. On arrival they were issued with their basic kit and completed their administration before transferring to the Featherston Training Camp.
Prior to Leslie’s arrival at Featherston Camp a letter had been received by the Principal Medical Officer Lt Col Graham Robertson from Leslie’s Cadet Company Officer informing him of his poor physique. It read:
“Please permit me to place before you the following facts concerning this youth. He was for a considerable time in my Cadet Company and found it difficult at times to carry on owing to his poor physique and under size. When he attained the age for transfer to the Territorial’s and on being examined by Major G.E. Gabities he was without hesitation classed as unfit owing to his under size and very poor development. My personal opinion of this youth is that he will never be of use as a soldier.”
Leslie was graded as “C1” which indicated he was likely to become fit for active service after special training. He was been posted to B Company, then on 24 May was transferred to the 41st Reinforcements. Due to his physical situation he was transferred to D Company for intensive remedial training in an attempt to bring him up to the required level. After this extra training was complete he was finally transferred to the 42nd Reinforcements as finally fit for overseas service.
Almost four months after entering camp he boarded HMNZT109 “Tofua” at Wellington on 1 August 1918. He was travelling with 855 other troops embarking for London via short stops at Freemantle and South Africa, arriving in England on October 4. During the voyage the usual activities took place including drill, weapon training, sports, concerts and boxing matches. On arrival on 4 October he marched into the NZ Rifle Brigade (NZRB) Reserve Battalion at Brocton, a bleak and dreary upland surrounded by a charming countryside dotted with quaint old-time villages. Here the troops received further training including gas, trench construction, and fighting skills. Having arrived too late in the war for active service in France, he was to remain here gainfully employed making preparations to receive troops and equipment from France at Sling Camp, and assist with the demobilisation processing preparations which was following the end of hostilities. During this time, on 4 April 1919 Leslie he was admitted to 3 NZ General Hospital (VD Section) at Codford then transferred to the Military Hospital at Chiseldon from 9 August to 6 November.
Finally, on 20 November 1919, Leslie embarked from Plymouth aboard SS “Kigoma” for his return to New Zealand, arriving home on 14 January 1920. After having served 143 days in New Zealand and 1 year and 309 days overseas he was discharged from the army on 10 February 1920. For his service he received the British War Medal on 19 April 1921. This was the only campaign medal he qualified for as his service was limited to England only.
Leslie returned to Timaru on his discharge and took up his old employment as a clerk. In 1933 he married Nellie Eveline Westcott (nee Wright). In 1935 they were living at 18 Butler Street, Timaru, and 1938 at 5 Nelson Terrace.
When war returned Leslie was obviously keen on furthering his military experience as on 27 June 1940 he volunteered for service during World War Two at Timaru, was attested and medically boarded and passed fit. At this time he was employed as an accountant for D.C. Turnbull & Co, Shipping Agents, Timaru, and residing at 10 Sefton Street, Timaru. His enlistment papers were falsified to the extent that he quoted his birth date as being 12 February 1905 – declaring his age as being 35 years when he was in fact 42. He also stated he had not had previously served in the military forces. He entered camp at Burnham on 3 October 1940, and was posted as 15310 Private L Farrow to the 23rd Battalion (known as the Canterbury/Otago Battalion).
Leslie embarked for Egypt in April 1941, arriving 25 March. Here he was transferred to the 33rd Battalion which was a holding and training unit at the NZ Division Base at Maadi Camp, until transfer back to the 23rd on 26 June. From May to December 1941 the 23rd was fighting in Libya and, on 26 November 1941, Private Farrow was posted as missing in action, later updated to being a prisoner of war. In January 1942 he was confirmed as being a POW through Genoa, but his whereabouts was not stated. He was to spend 20 months in Italian Campo 57, at Gruppignano near Udine in north-east Italy. The camp was commanded by Colonel Vittorio Calcaterra, described by one prisoner as “a sadist and a beast and an accessory to murder”. Thanks to Calcaterra, conditions in Campo 57 were extremely harsh. Food was poor, and housing was crowded and insanitary. The prisoners had to improvise their own medical treatment, coping with the “57 twins” - pneumonia and kidney disease. After the fall of Mussolini, Leslie was sent to Stalag 8/B Teschen, one of the biggest camps in the territory of the Reich, where up to 75 000 prisoners were placed in its subordinate units. Here he was known as prisoner number 33485. Most people were interned in labour Kommandoes which operated in mining and heavy industry. The number of prisoners in the camp in Cieszyn only was around 1500 men. But while there the diversity of military backgrounds of the prisoners changed as well. The largest group included Soviet soldiers, followed by Italians, British (including Canadians, South Africans, New Zealanders, Australians, etc.), French, Yugoslavs and Greeks. The approaching Eastern Front in the last year of the war forced the German administration to evacuate the Cieszyn prisoner-of-war camp to the interior of the Reich. The evacuation took place on 21 January 1945. Becoming known as a “death march”, prisoners headed to prisoner-of-war camps in Germany via a gruelling march through the territory of the protectorate in columns. In the majority of cases they were sent to the camp in Weiden in Bavaria where those who survived were liberated by the Allied troops at the beginning of May. It is not known if Leslie was on this march but if he was he would have been lucky to have survived.
By 8 May 1945 Leslie was safe back in England. On 3 July he embarked for New Zealand, arriving home on 4 August 1945. By now his wife Nellie was living at 59 Kupe Street, Tamaki, Auckland, to where Leslie was discharged on 7 November. Here in Auckland he took up employment as a canister maker and died there, aged 55 years on 18 December 1953. His ashes are buried in the Waikumete Cemetery, Service Persons Area. For his World War Two service he was awarded the 1939-45 Star, Africa Star, War Medal 1939-45 and NZ War Service Medal.
Leslie’s brother William also served in Western Europe during the First World War as 26/553 Rifleman W.J. Farrow NZ Rifle Brigade.
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [March 2021]; New Zealand ANZACs in the Great War 1914-1918 (University of New South Wales) at https://nzef.adfa.edu.au/search?type=search&name=®Num=77016&place=&pob=&fdwFateCode=all&fdwDate=; Timaru District Council cemetery records (Leslie's parents) at https://www.timaru.govt.nz/services/community-and-culture/cemeteries/cemetery-search ; Auckland Council cemetery records for Leslie Farrow at https://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/cemeteries/Pages/RecordDetails.aspx?recordId=377AEEE871E3D5B8B8DAFB419999EDE4 ; "Toewn & COuntry" note of Leslie's impending return home in the Timaru Herald 10 December 1919, courtesy of Papers Past at https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/
No documents available.
Researched and Written by
Ted Hansen, SC branch NZSG
Currently Assigned to
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License unless otherwise stated.
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