Biography of Leon Gellert
Leon Maxwell Gellert was born in 1892 and educated in Adelaide, Australia.His Grandparents were Hungarian immigrants. Leon was regularly beaten by his Father James, so at the age of 17 he began a course of self-defence lessons, which were to prove useful when, one day his father attacked him with a heavy piece of timber, James Gellert was thrown on his back. Leon, after leaving school worked for a time as a pupil-teacher until he enlisted as a private in 10th AIF. On October 22 1914, Gellert and the 10th Battalion set off for Egypt. Corporal Gellert became drunk for the first time in his life, on Melbourne Bitter whilst sailing on the Indian Ocean.
Gellert resumed writing poetry after arriving in Cairo; his output grew once the 10th set off for the Dardanelles. For seven weeks, his battalion was kept in reserve on their troop ship before being ordered to land at Ari Burnu beach at dawn on April 25.
Gellert survived nine weeks on Gallipoli before coming down with dysentery. He had to be evacuated to Malta, where he contracted typhoid and was sent to England to convalesce. This is where most of his poems were written, including
The Last to Leave. After collapsing into a coma that doctors suspected was epileptic, Gellert was discharged as medically unfit on June 30, 1916. Amazingly, he re-enlisted in November, only to be discharged four days later when his medical record was uncovered.
After the death of his wife Kathleen in 1969 in Sydney he moved back to Adelaide where he died on 22nd August 1977.
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The Last to Leave
The guns were silent, and the silent hills
had bowed their grasses to a gentle breeze
I gazed upon the vales and on the rills,
And whispered, "What of these?' and "What of these?
These long forgotten dead with sunken graves,
Some crossless, with unwritten memories
Their only mourners are the moaning waves,
Their only minstrels are the singing trees
And thus I mused and sorrowed wistfully