10 November 2010

The Victoria Cross and campaign medals awarded to Captain James Leach, 2nd Bn, Manchester Regiment, have been acquired by the Michael Ashcroft Trust, the holding institution for Lord Ashcroft's VC Collection.

( select to enlarge )

Medal entitlement of Captain James Leach,
2nd Bn, Manchester Regiment

  • Victoria Cross
  • 1914 Star + clasp "5th Aug-22 Nov 1914"
  • British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
  • Victory Medal ( 1914-19 ) + MiD Oakleaf
  • Defence Medal ( 1939-45 )
  • King George VI Coronation Medal ( 1937 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 )

On the 29th October 1914 the 2nd Bn, Manchester Regiment, were heavily shelled from first light and then charged by the Germans under cover of a smoke screen. The advanced trench had room for about thirty-five men and was about 150 yards in front of the main trench. Leach looked up and saw 250 Germans moving in on his position of which the Manchesters managed to shoot down 150 of them, before the rest jumped into the advanced trench killing about twelve of his company.

The Germans then pushed their way down the communication trench and into the main trench, taking over three out of four traverses and eventually the fourth. At 14.00 hours Leach, Hogan and ten volunteers, had the idea of forcing the enemy back to their own trenches and shooting them as they retreated. In doing this Lieutenant Leach and Sergeant Hogan succeeded, releasing some of his own men who had been captured earlier in the day.

For the award of the Victoria Cross

[ London Gazette, 22 December 1914 ], Near Festubert, France, 29 October 1914, Second Lieutenant James Edgar Leach, 2nd Bn, Manchester Regiment, with Sergeant John Hogan, 2nd Bn, Manchester Regiment.

For conspicuous bravery near Festubert on 29th October, when, after their trench had been taken by the Germans, and after two attempts at recapture had failed, they voluntarily decided on the afternoon of the same day to recover the trench themselves, and, working from traverse to traverse at close quarters with great bravery, they gradually succeeded in regaining possession, killing eight of the enemy, wounding two, and making sixteen prisoners.

James Leach was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 13th February 1915.
John Hogan was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 20th February 1915.

It is not clear from the records where James Leach served between 1915 and 1918. He died at his home in Shepherd's Bush, West London, on the 15th August 1958, aged sixty-six. His funeral was held at St Matthew's Church, West Kensington, and his cremation took place at Mortlake.


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Iain Stewart, 10 November 2010