Nigel Leakey

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Nigel Leakey
Born (1913-01-01)1 January 1913
Kiganjo, Kenya
Died 19 May 1941(1941-05-19) (aged 28)
Kolito, Abyssinia
Allegiance United Kingdom
Rank Sergeant
Unit King's African Rifles
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Victoria Cross
Relations Joshua Leakey VC (distant cousin)

Nigel Gray Leakey VC (1 January 1913 – 19 May 1941) was a Kenya born English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Early life[edit]

Leakey was born in Kiganjo, Kenya to English parents. Leakey's mother Elizabeth died in 1926. His father, Arundell Gray Leakey, was the son of Reverend John Arundell Leakey, clergyman in England. He was a cousin of Louis Leakey, and so also related to Richard Leakey. Leakey's younger brother Rea Leakey served in the Royal Tank Regiment in the Second World War, and became a Major General. His sister Agnes Leakey (1917-2007) (later Agnes Hofmeyr) worked for reconciliation in Kenya.[1]

After serving in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry in the early 1900s,[2] Leakey's father became a farmer at Nyeri Station, west of Mount Kenya in Central Province, Kenya, about 4 miles (6.4 km) north of Kiganjo and about 100 miles (160 km) north of Nairobi. His father was an honorary Kikuyu tribeman known as "Morungaru" ("tall and straight"); he was kidnapped and brutally murdered by the Mau Mau in October 1954, and his second wife Mary was also killed.[3]

Leakey was educated in Keyna, and then attended Bromsgrove School in England.[4]

Victoria Cross[edit]

A Victoria Cross

Leakey was 28 years old, and a sergeant in the 1/6th Battalion, King's African Rifles during the Second World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC. Leakey's 1/6th Battalion was part of the 22nd (East African) Brigade (12th African Division).

On 19 May 1941, in World War II, 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.[5] Captain David Hines witnessed the event through binoculars, as did other soldiers.[6][7]

Leakey has no known grave but he is commemorated on the East Africa Memorial, near Nairobi, Kenya.[8]

His second cousin twice removed, Joshua Leakey, was also awarded the Victoria Cross in 2015 for service in Afghanistan in 2013.[9]

Leakey's medal is kept by a member of the Leakey family in England.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Obituary: Agnes Hofmeyr, The Independent, 26 January 2007
  2. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27839. p. 6475. 26 September 1905. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  3. ^ 6 Myths about the ‘Mau Mau’ War; The Charging Buffalo: A History of the Kenya Regiment 1937-1963, Guy Campbell, p.78; Time Magazine for Monday 1 November 1954, under Blood Brother.
  4. ^ The Five Victoria Crosses of Bromsgrove School
  5. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37349. p. 5571. 13 November 1945. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
  6. ^ [Two-hour interview by WD Ogilvie of David Hines in 1999]
  7. ^ Obituary by WD Ogilvie in the London Daily Telegraph 8 April 2000.
  8. ^ CWGC entry
  9. ^ Victoria Cross: L/Cpl Josh Leakey recognised for valour, BBC News, 26 February 2015
  • C. S. Nicholls, Red Strangers: The White Tribe of Kenya, Timewell Press, 2005, ISBN 1-85725-206-3. Online preview available at [1] in Google Books.