William Knox Leet VC CB
10 November, 2014 20:36
|William Knox Leet,
The churchyard of St.Mary the Virgin, Great Chart is the final resting place of one of Britain's earliest holders of the Victoria Cross, William Knox Leet VC CB. (1833-1898).
Leet was born on the 3rd November 1833, in Dalkey, Co.Dublin. Ireland.
He rose to the rank of Major-General in the 1st Battalion of 13th Foot Regiment (later Prince Albert's Somerset Light Infantry).He saw action in the Indian Mutiny (1857-58) and as a Lieutenant was mentioned in despatches twice.
But it was for his actions as a Major in South Africa on the 28th March 1879 that he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
The citation from the London Gazette on 17 June 1879 reads as follows:
"For his gallant conduct, on the 28th March 1879, in rescuing from the Zulus Lieutenant A.M.Smith, of the Frontier Light Horse, during the retreat from the Inhlobana.
Lieutenant Smith whilst on foot, his horse having been shot, was closely pursued by the Zulus , and would have been killed had not Major Leet taken him upon his horse and rode with him, under the fire of the enemy, to a place of safety."
Unusually, Leet nominated himself for the award.
He also received the Indian Mutiny Medal and the South African campaign medal.He retired from the Army in 1887 at the age of 54.
In the 1891 census he was at "Springmere" Ailsa Road, Isleworth, Middlesex - aged 57, a widow living with a housekeeper and servant. [RG12/1023]
He died on 29th June 1898 at the age of 65 and is buried in the churchyard at Great Chart. I have yet to find out when or why he came to the village (if you know, please contact me and I'll add this in).
His grave has a very simple headstone for one so gallant.
His medals can be found on display in the Somerset Military Museum, Taunton
His medal card is available to view on-line at the National Archives Website.
The Victoria Cross is Britain's highest award for gallantry.
It was introduced by Queen Victoria in 1856 and awarded retrospectively to soldiers in the Crimean War.
It is awarded for "most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy."
He was a
The Indian Mutiny Medal
The South African Medal