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Gillon, Leslie Miles (1916–1981)

by Peter Dennis

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Leslie Miles Gillon (1916-1981), army officer and stockbroker, was born on 17 May 1916 at Aspendale, Melbourne, third child of Joseph Leslie Gillon, builder and contractor, and his wife Annie May, née I’Anson, both Melbourne born. Educated at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, Miles worked with the stockbroking firm of J. B. Were & Son. After serving as a gunner in the 2nd Field Brigade, Militia, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 20 June 1940.

Commissioned as a lieutenant on 1 January 1941, Gillon was posted to the 2/10th Field Regiment. His regiment arrived in Singapore next month and, with other units of the 8th Division, was engaged in a series of training exercises in Malaya. In December Japanese forces landed on the beaches of northern Malaya and began their push to the south. Allied forces were unable to offer effective resistance, the last Australian troops crossing the causeway to Singapore on 31 January 1942, with the entire garrison surrendering on 15 February.

In March 1943 Gillon was part of the 1000strong `E’ Force that was shipped by the Japanese to Berhala Island, off Sandakan, British North Borneo. He made contact with a number of fellow Australians who were determined to escape, among them Robert McLaren and Charles Wagner. They befriended a guard, who helped them to get away, arranging for a boat to take them to the island of Tawitawi. There Gillon and his seven compatriots were formally commissioned into the United States Forces in the Philippines on 30 June, Gillon becoming second-in-command of the 1st Battalion, 125th Regiment. After engaging the Japanese in several operations, the Australians were ordered in late October to report to the guerrilla headquarters at Liangan on Mindanao, a dangerous journey of some 500 miles (805 km) that took them until December to complete.

Promoted to temporary captain in January 1944 and temporary major in December that year, Gillon served as deputy chief of staff, 108th Division, Tenth Military District, directing operations in the Liangan area of Lanao province and personally leading combat patrols. On 14 and 15 December he commanded a motor whaleboat as part of a larger force that attacked Polloc Harbour and Malabang respectively. For these actions, and for his leadership of the guerrilla forces, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and mentioned in despatches. He arrived back in Australia in April 1945 and his AIF appointment was terminated on 23 July.

Gillon bought a seat on the Stock Exchange of Melbourne on 29 August 1945 and formed L. M. Gillon & Co., a private-client broking house which became Gillon Derham & Co. in 1960. He served as the stock exchange’s odd-lot specialist from 1954 and on its committee in 1958-64. On 8 November 1945 he had married Gweneth Alice Dadswell in the chapel of his old school. A champion athlete in his youth, he was a member of the Royal Melbourne Golf Club and the Royal South Yarra Lawn Tennis Club. He died of hypertensive heart failure on 19 November 1981 at Richmond and was cremated; his wife and their son and two daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • S. Ross, And Tomorrow Freedom (1989)
  • series B883, item VX34838 (National Archvies of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Peter Dennis, 'Gillon, Leslie Miles (1916–1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/gillon-leslie-miles-12541/text22573, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 14 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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