b. 02/04/1847 Derry, Ireland. d. 27/04/1913 Cadenabbia, Lake Como, Italy.
Sir Edward Pemberton Leach (1847-1913) was born on 2nd April 1847 in Londonderry, Ireland, the 2nd son of Lieutenant-Colonel Sir George Archibald Leach (formerly of the Royal Engineers and later in the Civil Service and Secretary for Agriculture), and of Emily Leigh, eldest daughter of Edward Leigh Pemberton from Sittingbourne, Kent. Edward was educated at Highgate School and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He was gazetted to the Royal Engineers on 17th April 1866, and served at Chatham until October 1868, sailing for India in the following November.
From March 1869 to February 1870, he commanded a detachment of the Bengal Sappers and Miners at Rawalpindi, and subsequently joined the Public Works Department in Central India. In October 1871, he was appointed to the Indian Survey, and served in his new capacity with the Cachar Column of the Lushai Expeditionary Force. In November 1877, he went on leave to England, but returned in 1878 as Private Secretary to Sir James Caird, Famine Commissioner. On the outbreak of the Afghan War, he joined the Khyber Survey Party and, while making a survey reconnaissance in the Shinwari country with detachments of the Guides Cavalry and the 45th Sikhs, was attacked by the enemy. It was during this action, that he would be awarded the VC (London Gazette, 6th December 1879).
On 17th March 1879, near Maidanah, Afghanistan, when covering the retirement of the Survey Escort who were carrying Lieutenant Barclay, 45th Sikhs who was mortally wounded, behaved with utmost gallantry in charging a much larger enemy force. In this encounter Captain Leach killed two or three of the enemy himself, and he received a severe wound from an Afghan knife in the left arm. Leach helped saved the party from annihilation from the enemy.
Leach actually received his medal just three days after it was gazetted, on 9th December 1879 at Windsor Castle from Queen Victoria. He was back in England because his arm wound had forced him to be invalided home. He recuperated and returned to India in March 1880, and joined the Kandahar Field Force, under Major-General Primrose, for survey work. He was later appointed Brigade Major, Royal Engineers, and was present at the final defeat of the enemy by Sir Frederick Roberts VC. He was mentioned in despatches four times, and given brevets of Major and Lieutenant-Colonel.
In 1885, he took part in the operations at Suakim, was twice mentioned in despatches and received the CB for his gallantry at Tofrek Zareba, then commanding a brigade at Korosko and afterwards at Assouan (1885-1886). After a short time back in England, he was given command of the 9th Division, 3rd Army Corps in Belfast, before becoming Commander in Chief in Scotland, a post he held for 4 years. In 1906 he was made a KCVO, and in 1909 was knighted by King Edward VII. He had been married since 1883 to Elizabeth Mary Bazley, and they had a son and two daughters. He was promoted to Lieutenant-General in 1905, and General in 1910, before he retired in 1912. He chose to live his retirement in Italy on the banks of Lake Como. He died on 27th April 1913 at Cadenabbia, Italy, and was buried in Cimitero di Griante, near Cadenabbia. The grave was recently renovated through the excellent work of the Victoria Cross Trust earlier this year. His medals are held and displayed by the Royal Engineers Museum, Chatham, Kent.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL ENGINEERS MUSEUM, CHATHAM, KENT.
BURIAL PLACE: GRIENZA CHURCHYARD, LAKE COMO, ITALY.
Victoria Cross Trust – Image of Leach VC’s grave following renovation in 2017.