From the Archives - Les Coleman - our D-Day hero
author: Catriona Banks
Leslie George Coleman (SPC 1931-1936) was a boarder at St Patrick’s and in 1936 was Head Prefect. He was a model student, attaining honours in his Matriculation, and was also an accomplished athlete, rower and footballer for the College. When he finished at St Patrick’s, he started a medical degree at the University of Melbourne.
In 1939, at the beginning of WWII, Les quit his degree to pursue a career in the army at the Royal Military College, Duntroon. By early 1942 he had been promoted to the rank of Captain. In February 1944, Les was sent to England as one of eight Australian army observers attached to the Allied Expeditionary Force for the D-Day landings in Normandy.
On D-Day, Tuesday 6 June, 1944, Les fought his way ashore on the Normandy beach as part of the City of London Yeomanry, 22nd Armoured Brigade. Within days of the landing he was wounded in action at the town of Villers Bocage as the British tried to break out of the Normandy bridgehead.
Les continued with the British army as it battled its way across France, Belgium and finally into Germany for the crossing into the Rhine.
In 1945, Les returned to Australia where his experience was put to good use at Balikpapan, Borneo, in early July.
After the war, Les was promoted to Major, and then Lieutenant-Colonel. He joined the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan where he rose to the rank of Adjutant-General. Les finished his army career in 1958 as a Colonel.
In 2005, Colonel Les Coleman received France’s highest honour for his role in the liberation of France during WWII, and was awarded the Legion of Honour by the French Ambassador to Australia, Patrick Henault.
Les died at the age of 91 years in November 2008.