b. 26/05/1826 Glenkindie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. d. 13/05/1869 Paddington, London.
James Leith (1826-1869) was born on 26th May 1826 at Glenkindle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the son of General Sir Alexander Leith. Educated at Blackheath, London, he went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he gained a blue in cricket. Through his father’s military connections, he joined the 14th Light Dragoons as a cornet on 4th May 1849. He took part in the Persian War and was with the Malwa and Central India Field Forces during all their battles. He was slightly wounded at Mundisore on 22nd November 1857.
On 1st April 1858, during a pursuit of the rebels at Betwa, Captain Arthur Need of the 14th Light Dragoons became separated and found himself on difficult and rocky ground. He was quickly surrounded by a large number of rebel infantry and mounted men, fighting for his life. Despite putting up a determined defence, his saddle, reins and clothing were slashed to ribbons by the enemy’s tulwars, and he would have certainly been killed had not Lieutenant James Leith spotted his predicament and intervened. Leith charged in and saved the Captain.
He was recommended by General Rose for the Victoria Cross, which was published on 24th December 1858. He returned to England at the end of the Mutiny and received his VC at Buckingham Palace from Queen Victoria on 8th June 1859. He was promoted to Major and transferred to the 2nd (Royal North British) Dragoons but failing health forced his retirement from the Army in 1864. He died at his home near Hyde Park, London on 13th May 1869. His body was returned to his native Scotland and he was buried in Towie Churchyard, Grampian. His medals are held by the Kings Royal Hussars Museum, Winchester.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: KING’S ROYAL HUSSARS MUSEUM, WINCHESTER
BURIAL PLACE: TOWIE CHURCHYARD, GRAMPIAN, SCOTLAND.
Terry Cooling – Image of Leith VC Grave in Towie Churchyard, Grampian, Scotland.
14th/20th Hussars Museum – Image of a replica VC medal.