Nigel Gray Leakey VC

b. 01/01/1913 Kiganjo, Kenya. d. 19/05/1941 Kolito, Abyssinia.

Nigel Gray Leakey (1913-1941) was born in Kiganjo, Kenya on the 1st January 1913, the son of a missionary, Arundel Gray Leakey. Nigel’s great uncle was Dr Louis Leakey who gained fame after the Great War for his discovery of fossilised bones of early man in the Great African Rift Valley. Nigel was educated at Nairobi High School, before in January 1926, just after his 13th birthday, he was sent to England to board at Bromsgrove School, Worcestershire. Part of the reason being that his uncle, A. G. Gillibrand, was a housemaster and his cousins also attended the school.

Nigel G Leakey VC

Leakey spent four and a half years at Bromsgrove, as a member of Wendron House, leaving at the age of 17 in November 1930. He was not a great academic, but was noted as a very good shot. He represented his House at rugby and gymnastics and was part of the School shooting team, winning his colours at Bisley in 1929 as well as participating in a string of matches against other schools and the territorial army.

After leaving school, he returned to Kenya to work on various coffee and sisal (rope making plant) estates before buying a place of his own at Londiani. At the outbreak of war in 1939, he joined the Kenya Regiment and by 1941 had risen to the rank of Sergeant attached to the famous King’s African Rifles.

On 19th May 1941, at Kolito, Abyssinia (now Ethiopia), when the Allied forces had made a bridgehead against the strong Italian opposition, the enemy made a sudden counterattack with both light and medium tanks. In the face of withering fire, Sergeant Leakey leaped on top of one of the tanks, wrenched open the turret and shot all the crew except the driver, whom he forced to drive the tank to cover. Along with three others, he tried to repeat this with another tank, but just as he opened the turret, he was killed. The confusion and loss of armour Leakey caused was critical to the Italian defeat in the battle. Leakey’s body was never recovered, and he is commemorated on the East Africa Memorial, Nairobi, Kenya.

Although Leakey was killed in May 1941, the VC was not awarded until after the war when pressure was brought to bear by the administration in Kenya. After considerable investigation, including a search for surviving witnesses to the action, news of the award of a posthumous VC was published in the London Gazette on 15th November 1945. Leakey’s brother and father were then flown from Kenya to London to attend the investiture from King George VI at Buckingham Palace. Remarkably, Leakey’s brother (a Lieutenant Colonel at the time) not only received his brother’s VC, but was also presented with his own medals – a DSO and MC and Bar! Nigel Leakey’s medals are still held within the Leakey family. In 2015, a distant relative of Nigel’s, Joshua Leakey was awarded the VC.





Terry Hissey – Image of Leakey’s name on the ATR Winchester Chapel Memorial.