During the chaos of World War II, countless heroes emerged. Among them was Australian stretcher bearer Leslie “Bull” Allen, an extraordinary individual whose courage and determination set him apart from his comrades. Allen’s unwavering commitment and resolve in the face of danger made him a military legend when he risked his life to perform a daring rescue under enemy fire at Mount Tambu.
Leslie ‘Bull’ Allen
Leslie “Bull” Allen was born in Victoria, Australia and raised an orphan alongside his sister. He had a hard childhood and began working as a laborer on farms when he was only 12 years old.
When WWII began, Allen quickly volunteered for the Second Australian Imperial Force. He was assigned to the 2/5th Battalion, 17th Brigade, 6th Division and sent to Palestine for training. While there, he was made a stretcher bearer for Don Company.
Palestine was also where he earned his famous nickname. When playing rugby, Allen had a habit of charging toward opposing players like a bull. It helped that he was well above average height for the time. One of his comrades later recalled, “You could hear him a mile off! Bull was thus one of the battalion’s most recognizable…and one of its most popular characters.”
Exceptional service during World War II
Bull Allen saw service throughout the Second World War, including during the Western Desert and Syria-Lebanon Campaigns, although he was admitted to hospital in 1941 for” anxiety neurosis.” Despite this, he was regarded by many as calm and steady in combat.
In one instance, Allen looked after his wounded throughout the night, only to walk 6.2 miles the following day after no sleep to get them transportation. In another, while serving in Papua New Guinea, he was awarded the Military Medal for his “untiring efforts in tending the wounded and helping with rations and stores.” For this, he was also promoted to the rank of acting corporal.
This was but one of the battles Allen would experience in Papua New Guinea, another of which was the Battle of Mount Tambu in July-August 1943. His unit fought alongside American soldiers during this stage of the Salamaua-Lae Campaign.
Leslie ‘Bull’ Allen’s selfless actions under enemy fire
Bull Allen’s most memorable actions came on July 30, 1943, in the midst of the Battle of Mount Tambu. Despite being injured during the fighting, the stretcher bearer didn’t waver in his duties. Under heavy enemy fire and with no assistance, he rescued 12 American casualties by carrying them over his shoulders, despite two other medics having already been killed attempting this.
Supposedly, each time he appeared with another man, his comrades would make bets over if he’d return. He did without fail. After returning with the last one, he collapsed from exhaustion.
Allen was awarded the Silver Star for efforts that earned him “the unstinted praise of all who witnessed his action.” Unfortunately, his bravery wasn’t without consequence. He’d always challenged authority, and following Mount Tambu assaulted an officer. He was demoted and eventually discharged for being medically unfit on September 10, 1944.
During this time, Allen also lost his ability to speak, and was sent to live with an uncle while he dealt with the trauma of his service. He eventually recovered, married a former nurse and went on to have a career as a medical orderly.