Profile

LEECE, Charles
(Service number 46195)

Aliases
First Rank Private Last Rank Private

Birth

Date abt 1900 Place of Birth New Zealand

Enlistment Information

Date Age
Address at Enlistment
Occupation Hotel Porter
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status
Next of Kin Mrs W.J.Staines (mother), Waimangarca Hotel, Westport, New Zealand
Religion
Medical Information

Military Service

Served with New Zealand Armed Forces (?) Served in
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 25th Reinforcements Canterbury Infantry Regiment, C Company
Date 6 April 1917
Transport Turakina
Embarked From Wellington, New Zealand Destination Plymouth, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Canterbury Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion

Military Awards

Campaigns
Service Medals
Military Awards

Award Circumstances and Date

No information

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date

Discharge

Date Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

Post-war Occupations

Death

Date 12 October 1917 Age 16
Place of Death Ypres, Belgium
Cause Killed in action
Notices
Memorial or Cemetery Tyne Cot Memorial, Tyne Cot Cemetery,Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Memorial Reference N.Z. Apse, Panel 2
New Zealand Memorials On Memorial wall, Timaru; Timaru South School WW1 Memorial plaque

Biographical Notes

Charles Leece was born at Waihi on 6 October 1900 to John Alfred and Emily Leece (nee Sullivan). Mother Emily was born at Halswell Canterbury and father John in the Isle of Man England. On Friday the 7th of June 1907, Charles’ father John (afather of 10) was killed in a mining accident at the Westport Coal Companies, Mine Creek colliery, which was at the township of Millerton in the hills above Granity. According to newspaper reports the accident occurred when a derailed coal truck struck some timber [supports] bringing down a large quantity of coal, which struck the unfortunate man. He died that day after being admitted to the Westport hospital. It was further reported that the deceased, prior to coming to New Zealand, had been a newspaper proprietor in New South Wales.

Charles was the youngest son and the second youngest of the ten children, and was only six when his father died. At some point Charles was sent to Timaru South School. Later, on 26 February 1915 Charles, then aged 14 years and 4 months appeared in the Nelson Magistrates Court before Mr J.S. Evans (Stipendiary Magistrates) charged with failing to register as required by the defence Act. He pleaded guilty. No doubt this related to the Territorial Act of 1910, which required all boys to serve with cadet units before joining the Territorial forces until aged 21. Sergeant Major Sharland, who appeared for the Defence Department, explained that boys attaining the age of 14 had to register. He told the court that once Charles had been informed by a Constable that he had not registered he had forthwith done so. The Magistrate commented (jocularly) “Are you frightened to go to the front? Are you going to be a good soldier?” Charles replied “Yes”.

On the 9th of January 1917, aged 16 years 3 months, Charles presented himself at the army recruiting office in Nelson, claiming to be 20 years old. There he was required to fill an application to join up, and had to swear that his answers were true. Charles gave his occupation as a hotel porter at the local Nelson Masonic Hotel, where his employer was a Mr Scott. To cloud his background further, he claimed to have been born at Brisbane Australia, his mother in Adelaide, and that the family had shifted to New Zealand four years earlier. Charles was described as being 5 foot tall with fair hair with blue eyes, weighing 9 ½ stone (60kg).

Charles joined C Company of the Canterbury Infantry Regiment of the 25th Reinforcements and was sent to Trentham for his training. He departed New Zealand from Wellington on the Troopship Turakina on 26 April 1917, arriving in Plymouth England on 20 July 1917. After training at Sling Camp in Wiltshire England he was transferred to France on 5 September 1917. Ten days later he was at the front.

On 12 October 1917 Charles was reported missing. His unit, the Canterbury Infantry Regiment and other troops of the NZ Division had been involved in the attack at Passchendaele, resulting in 45 officers and 800 New Zealand men killed with more than 2700 men wounded. A preliminary artillery barrage was supposed to destroy German barbed wire, but following an advance bogged down in mud, and horrified New Zealand Infantry discovered the wire was still intact. Trapped in the open ground and stuck in mud, they were cut down by withering German machine-gun and artillery fire. The attack of 12 October 1917 has gone down in history as New Zealand’s blackest day.

Charles was initially reported as missing, but a Court of enquiry seven months later determined he had been killed in action on the date of his disappearance. He had been 17 years old for only six days. The local newspaper, the Timaru Herald later reported on 2 May 1918: “Private Charles Leece, previously reported missing in October last at the Passchendaele fight, and now reported killed in action, was the youngest son of the late John Leece and Mrs. W. Staines of Westport. Private Leece was a very keen young soldier, he enlisted at Westport at the age of sixteen, sailed with the 25th Reinforcements and was killed in action … He was for some time a pupil of the Timaru South School.”

Charles’s body was never been found, but he is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Tyne Cot Cemetery, at Zonnebeke in Belgium.

Sources

Cenataph database (October 2014); NZ Historical BDM records (bdmhistoricalrecords,dai.govt.nz); Timaru Herald 2 May 1918 (http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/); SCRoll web submission by G Middlemiss, 10 October 1917

External Links

Related Documents

Researched and Written by

Ann Munro, SC branch NZSG; Tony Rippin, South Canterbury Museum

Currently Assigned to

Not assigned.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 Logo. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License unless otherwise stated.

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