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Australia bids last farewell to World War I sailor.

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Media Release The Hon Danna Vale MP   Minister for Veterans' Affairs Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence Federal Member for Hughes

VA090 Thursday 25 July 2002


The Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Danna Vale, today expressed her sorrow at the passing of World War I veteran of the Royal Australian Navy, Leslie Sykes.

Mr Sykes passed away on Friday, 19 July 2002 at his home in Western Australia. He was 103 years old.

"The RAN played a vital role in World War I including assisting the British in the blockade of Germany in the North Sea, searching for enemy submarines in the Adriatic, guarding the sea lanes of the Pacific and providing coast line security in Australia.

"He was one of more than 4000 young men who served in the Navy in World War I to do his bit for Australia. For that we pay tribute to him.

"His contribution, along with those of his peers, to shaping this nation in war time, cannot be underestimated.

"Their courage and good humour have become an integral part of what it means to be Australian," Minister Vale said.

Mr Sykes, a brass finisher, joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1917 as a mechanic at 19 years of age. He remained in the Navy for ten years, attaining the rank of Ordnance Artificer (gunnery mechanic) 4th class.

He served on several different ships including HMAS Cerberus, HMAS Australia and HMAS Melbourne.

On his discharge from the Navy, he took up farming with his uncle near Moora in Western Australia before he was allotted land of his own at Bodallin. Following his retirement he spent much of his time sailing his yacht, the Suraya. He gave up sailing in 1985 but remained a member of the South Perth Yacht Club.

In 1999, he was presented with the 80th Anniversary Armistice Remembrance Medal by Prime Minister, John Howard. The medal was Australia's first commemorative honour, marking the 80th anniversary of the end of World War I.

A private funeral was held for Mr Sykes in Perth this morning.

With the passing of Leslie Sykes, only 13 known Australian World War I veterans remain, including the last surviving World War I RAN veteran, Victorian William Allan.

Media Contact: Rachael Thompson (02) 6277 7820 or 0417 265 289


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