submitted by Neos Kosmos, Melbourne on 15.04.2013
Happy Birthday Les!
Leslie Manning as a young Digger in 1940 and today
Neos Kosmos 15 Apr 2013
On April 19, Mr Leslie Manning, one of the few remaining veterans who fought in the Battle of Crete, celebrates his one hundredth birthday.
Born and raised in Richmond, the son of a Flinders Lane rag trader, Les joined the Victorian 2/7th Battalion in October 1939 and left Port Melbourne for the Middle East in April 1940. A year later he was in Greece.
After the Allied evacuation of the mainland in April 1941, Les and his fellow Diggers found themselves in Crete just before the German invasion.
The 2/7th were held back as reinforcements during the first days of the battle, but on May 27 1941 the battalion took part in what became known as the charge at 42nd Street, when Australian and Maori troops forced back an elite division of Austrian mountain troops, buying time for the Allies to make it to the evacuation beaches on the south coast.
Les, pinned down by mortar fire at the 42nd Street action near Souda Bay, made it to Sfakia days later, but like thousands of other troops, was left behind.
After the Allied surrender he evaded capture briefly before becoming a prisoner of war. Shipped eventually to Stalag 13 in Bavaria, he spent the rest of the war in Germany.
On his return to Australia Les worked for the state savings bank on Melbourne's Collins Street as a security guard. A father of four, he celebrated his sixtieth wedding anniversary with his wife Alma at their Wantirna home in January.
John Nikolakakis, president of the Pancretan Association of Melbourne told Neos Kosmos that the duty and sacrifice shown by Les and his fellow Diggers should and would never be forgotten.
"I have met many Crete campaign veterans, and I feel so honoured to know Les and his family," said Mr Nikolakakis.
"Les is one of our oldest living veterans and it's amazing how he recollects so much of his time in Crete.
"It's important for us as second and third generation Greeks living in Australia to acknowledge, remember and spend as much time with these people as possible, to hear their stories and respect their struggles to try and protect our island 70 years ago.
"Happy Birthday Les. God bless you."
Neos Kosmos adds its warmest congratulations to Les on achieving 100 years not out.
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