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Legg, Frank Hooper (1906–1966)

by Marion Consandine

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Frank Hooper Legg (1906-1966), journalist and broadcaster, was born on 26 June 1906 at Walmer, Kent, England, son of Francis Ellis Legg, schoolmaster, and his wife Ethel Annie, née Hooper. Frank was educated (1916-24) at Sir Roger Manwood's School, Sandwich; he passed the London General Schools' honours certificate in 1922 and gained full colours for soccer, hockey, Rugby and cricket. Employed by the Bank of England, he 'was a banker by day and writer by night'. He reached Brisbane on 28 June 1927 in the Largs Bay, having earned his passage as a supervisor for the Big Brother Movement. Arriving penniless, he worked in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide as a freelance writer and insurance officer. On 4 July 1929 he married with Anglican rites Evelyn Amy Bragg at Christ Church, St Kilda, Melbourne; they were later divorced and he was estranged from his only child Richard. In 1937 Legg joined the Adelaide News. As 'The Prattler' he began giving talks for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and, with Horace Miller, conducted the 'Early Morning Session' and 'Hospital Half-Hour' which were relayed nationally.

On 26 July 1940 Legg enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He served as a sergeant in the 2nd/48th Battalion, saw action at Tobruk, Libya, and Tel El Eisa, Egypt, and by September 1942 was regimental sergeant major. His series of articles, 'Tales of Tobruk', appeared in the A.B.C. Weekly. In a broadcast, 'The Worst Day', made in Australia in April 1943, he related his experiences on 31 October 1942 in the battle of El Alamein: with shells screaming overhead, blasting his eardrums and wrenching his teeth, he had prayed for courage to meet his end decently. In this, and in future reports, he revealed his admiration for and understanding of fighting men as he described their tears, death, desertion and bravery. At El Alamein his battalion had sustained 346 casualties, yet he said he 'couldn't hate' the Germans.

Commissioned lieutenant in September 1943, Legg was training in Queensland when he was asked to be the A.B.C.'s war correspondent in the Pacific. His A.I.F. appointment terminated on 15 December. He was happily surprised to receive a good salary and reached New Guinea on 6 January 1944. 'The bulky equipment and hot humid conditions made recording extremely difficult as Legg and his radio operator, Bill MacFarlane, joined the 9th Division on the Huon Campaign'. Recording at the front and reporting hand-to-hand fighting with the Japanese, Legg praised the footsloggers' courage, tenacity and humour in the jungle conditions. He especially admired the heroism and dedication of the stretcher-bearers. On 1 May 1945 he recorded material for a documentary on the invasion of Tarakan, Borneo: it included soldiers in the troopship, Manoora, singing to the tune, Lili Marlene, and interviews with General Sir Thomas Blamey and the Victoria Cross winner Tom Derrick. On 15 August Legg left Manila for Tokyo where he witnessed the Japanese surrender aboard the U.S.S. Missouri on 2 September.

After the war Legg built up a reputation from Sydney as a radio and television panel chairman and compere—his voice became one of the best known on A.B.C. radio. His popular programmes included 'Week-End Magazine' (1946-59), 'Film Review' (1949-66) and 'Any Questions' (1955-64). He also made documentary and feature programmes, particularly on wartime subjects. In 1961 he was co-editor and associate-producer of the television series, 'Anzac', shown on ATN-7 to mixed reviews. He published several books, among them The Eyes of Damien Parer (Adelaide, 1963), War Correspondent (Adelaide, 1964), The Gordon Bennett Story (1965) and Cats on Velvet (1966). Legg posthumously shared the 1964-65 Journalists' Club award for his biography of Frank Hurley, Once More on My Adventure, written with Hurley's daughter Toni.

Elegant, warm and self-effacing, with a strong sense of mateship, Legg was closely associated with the Spastic Centre, Mosman. His reports of the human face of war showed compassion for man's vulnerability. Legg had married 33-year-old Elva Henrietta Gregory on 8 October 1949 at St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Macquarie Street. He died on 30 March 1966 at Hornsby hospital from injuries received as a passenger in a motorcar accident and was cremated with Methodist forms; his wife survived him, as did the son of his first marriage.

Select Bibliography

  • B. Maughan, Tobruk and El Alamein (Canb, 1966)
  • K. S. Inglis, This is the ABC (Melb, 1983)
  • ABC Weekly, 1940
  • ABC Radio Guide, 12 Apr 1966
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 31 Mar, 1, 6 Apr, 14 June 1966
  • ABC Document and Radio Archives, Sydney
  • F. Legg papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

Marion Consandine, 'Legg, Frank Hooper (1906–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/legg-frank-hooper-10807/text19169, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 24 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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