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Themistocles “Leo” FREELEAGUS

15th April 1920 - 17th January 2014

[Tribute by Jeff Latter, QLD Secretary.]


The child of a thriving Greek immigrant family, Leo travelled down from Gympie, where he’d worked in the family café, to Brisbane in June 1940 to enlist as an R.A.A.F. Mess Steward.  He sailed out of Sydney on the Queen Mary in April 1941, disembarking in Egypt, where he was then posted to 3 Squadron.  At that time the Squadron had been sent to Palestine in preparation for the Syrian campaign, where they converted to Curtiss Tomahawk fighters.  Their foe was the Vichy French. 

It was at about this time that Leo became acquainted with a new pilot that joined the Squadron – young Bobby Gibbes.  In the future, Leo was to become batman to Squadron Leaders Bobby Gibbes and Nicky Barr.  It was the two of them who gave Leo his Squadron nickname, “Bambino”.  One of the stories told in Nicky Barr’s biography is that Leo took Nicky’s “lucky scarf” away to be washed on the day that Nicky was shot down and made a POW!

Leo was repatriated back to Australia on the hospital ship Wanganella, having been invalided out of front-line service just after the Battle of Alam Halfa in August 1942.  Back in Australia, Leo served with the RAAF’s famous 200 Flight, a ‘special duties’ squadron supporting commandoes behind the Japanese lines.

Despite reaching the age of 93 years, Leo’s mind was still as sharp as a tack, although his legs had given up on him and he was wheelchair-bound.  He was graced with a great memory and a collection of photos and memorabilia that would be the envy of most collectors.  Probably his greatest regret was returning to Australia aboard a hospital ship and not a troop ship, alongside his fellow servicemen. 

Leo was a real ‘3 Squadron Man’ and would regularly be found wearing his 3SQN cap and reading the latest newsletter.  Our heartfelt condolences go out to Eunice, Leo’s widow.  (They were just one month short of their 70th wedding anniversary.)  Also to the rest of his family, who showed such love and care for him. 

Western Desert, Libya. 5 June 1942.  The bullet-riddled tail of a German Messerschmitt ME110 fighter aircraft resting on 44 gallon drums is used as a long bar for the Pilots' Mess of a Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk fighter aircraft squadron. 
A number of squadron members enjoy a drink of Blackhorse Ale beer at 'the bar'.
[AWM MED0453]

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