b. 01/03/1894 Streatham, Surrey. d. 03/09/1916 Morlancourt, France.
DATE OF AM ACTION: 03/09/1916 Morlancourt, France.
Grey De Lèche Leach was born in Streatham, London in 1894. He was one of four children (one died as an infant) of Charles Frederick and Jessie Leach (nee Peto). He was a member of the Church Lads Brigade in Leatherhead. In 1911, aged 17 he was at Uppingham School, with his brother Claude, aged 15. He enlisted in the 1/5 East Surrey Regiment, the local Territorial unit, on 10 August 1914 six days after the outbreak of war with Germany. He remained in the UK until 29 October 1914. With his unit he proceeded to India where the Territorial Force was relieving the peacetime Regulars.
From 4 December 1914 until 20 August 1915 he was stationed in Cawnpore in Central India; and from 22 August 1915 until 20 October 1915 at Nowshera on the North-West Frontier. It took two days to reach the frontier from Cawnpore. On 4 December 1915 he transferred to the Scots Guards Special Reserve of Officers on probation and from that date until 31 March 1916 he was attached the the Regiment’s 3rd (Reserve) Battalion.
On 1 April 1916 he proceeded to France to join the 1st Battalion Scots Guards which had formed part of the British Expeditionary Force since the commencement of hostilities. He served with them until the fatal events of 3 September 1916, having been confirmed in his rank on 5 June 1916. What took place on 3 September 1916 is best described by the entry in his unit’s war diary, made within hours of his death. It gives the date of the entry and states that unit was at Morlancourt. After observing that church parade had been held it goes on to say:-
“A very sad accident attended by fatal results occurred this morning. 2nd Lt G de L Leach, the Battalion Bombing Officer, was detonating [inserting detonators in] bombs in the Orderly Room when the fuze of one accidentally ignited. Realising the great danger in which this placed the other two occupants of the Orderly Room, Lt Leach after shouting a warning to them rushed to the door evidently with the intention of throwing the bomb into some bushes.
On reaching the door however, he observed a number of people in the vicinity and before he could throw the bomb clear it exploded, blowing off both his hands and wounding him in the stomach and legs. He was conveyed to hospital at Corbie with all possible speed, but died before it was reached. By his unselfish action he saved the lives of several others, but lost his own. A Court of Enquiry was held in the evening and a suitable notice was recorded.”
The diary records his burial the next day with the C.O., second in command, the majority of the officers, 24 other ranks and the pipes and drums present. Grey De Lèche Leach was interred in the Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension, situated at the junction of the Somme/Ancre, nine miles from Amiens. His grave is Plot 2, Row B, Grave1
In France, on the 3rd September, 1916, Lieutenant Leach was examining bombs in a building in which two non-commissioned officers were also at work, when the fuse of one of the bombs ignited. Shouting a warning, he made for the door, carrying the bomb pressed close to his body, but on reaching the door he found other men outside, so that he could not throw the bomb away without exposing others to grave danger. He continued, therefore, to press the bomb to his body until it exploded, mortally wounding him. Lieutenant Leach might easily have saved his life by throwing the bomb away or dropping it on the ground and seeking shelter, but either course would have endangered the lives of those in or around the building. He sacrificed his own life to save the lives of others.
BURIAL LOCATION: CORBIE COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION, FRANCE
PLOT II, ROW B, GRAVE 1.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: PRIVATELY HELD.