LEAH, Henry Lawson
(Service number 12209)

Aliases Lawson
First Rank Lance Corporal Last Rank Lance Corporal


Date 15 January 1894 Place of Birth Timaru

Enlistment Information

Date 12 January 1916 Age 21 years 11 months
Address at Enlistment 22 Le Cren Street, Timaru
Occupation Draper's assistant
Previous Military Experience 2nd South Canterbury Regiment (still serving)
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mr Jos. Andrew LEAH (father), 22 Le Cren Street, Timaru
Religion Wesleyan
Medical Information Height 5 feet 8½ inches. Weight 139 lbs. Chest measurement 34 inches. Complexion dark. Eyes brown. Hair black. Sight and hearing both good. Colour vision correct. Limbs well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart and lungs normal. Teeth - upper partly false, lower fair. No illnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No slight defects. No fits.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Rifle Brigade
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 3rd Reinforcements to 3rd Battalion, G Company
Date 6 May 1916
Transport Mokoia or Navua
Embarked From Wellington Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With New Zealand Rifle Brigade, 4th Battalion, A Company

Military Awards

Campaigns Western European
Service Medals British War Medal; Victory Medal
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


Date Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

14 October 1916 - admitted to 1st Canadian Casualty Clearing Station at Rouen - sick. 23 June 1917 - one day in hospital - sick. 15 December 1917 - admitted hospital, previously to Field Ambulance - injured accidentally on duty - enemy was shelling on 11th December, Lieut Leah was taking cover and fell down the shaft, the night was very dark and he missed the stairway, suffering bruising to his left side.

Post-war Occupations


Date 29 March 1918 Age 24 years
Place of Death Somme, France
Cause Killed in action
Memorial or Cemetery Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps, Somme, France. Memorial on parents headstone, Timaru Cemetery
Memorial Reference III. D. 1.. Timaru Cemetery - General Section, Row 48, Plot 201
New Zealand Memorials Timaru Memorial Wall; Chalmers Church Honour Roll; Timaru Lodge No. 11 Roll of Honour; Chalmers Church Memorial Plaque

Biographical Notes

Henry Lawson Leah, known as Lawson, was the youngest son of Joseph Andrew and Martha Jane (née Daniel) Leah, of Timaru. His parents married in July 1879 in Cornwall, England, and appear to have come to New Zealand soon after. Henry Lawson Leah was born on 15 January 1894 at Timaru. As a youngster he attended the Primitive Methodist Sunday School. There he gave a recitation at the January 1903 prize distribution. He and his sister Beryl gave recitations in February 1905 at a social to celebrate the Sunday School anniversary. Eva Leah’s wedding in November 1912 was the first celebrated in the new Timaru Primitive Methodist Church. Lawson was educated at Timaru Main School where, in December 1908, he was in a team which won tournament medals, grade B. He featured again in December 1909, in the A team which won football tournament trophies. In the same year he passed the examination for sixth standard. Lawson went on to play for the Star Football Club, a prominent member who played regularly in the Star III team throughout 1913 and 1914. For the match against Temuka in May 1913, the team travelled by the 1.30 express. On leaving school, Lawson joined the staff of Messrs J. Ballantyne and Co. as a draper's assistant, where he remained until he enlisted at the age of 21.

He also joined the Timaru Pigeon Flying Club, his pigeon Expect putting in a good performance in the first race of the 1914-1915 season. In the race from Ashburton in late November 1914, Mr L. Leah’s Sydney came home in 9th place out of 67 birds. The following week his Denosthenes finished in 6th place of 58 birds which raced from Christchurch. In another race from Christchurch, in January 1915, it was his Prince Charles which performed well in a very close competition. His Batswing often finished well up the rankings. The club flew a single-up-interval race from Christchurch in April 1915, when ten birds from ten lofts were released, Mr Leah’s Batswing proving the winner in a very fast race. Paisley was his pigeon which came home in 3rd place in a very closely contested race from Christchurch in May 1915, and again June. Later in May, yet another bird, Minoru, was second in a trophy race from Ashburton. In the club’s first race of the 1915-1916 season, his Wellington was among the best flying from Christchurch. The race at the beginning of October 1915 was from the Clarence River, L. Leah’s Bendigo coming home in third place, and it was Flyford which finished well in a race from Parnassus in December, and L. Battery later in the month. Not only did Lawson race pigeons, he also showed them, gaining first place in the Flying homers, cock (flown 150 miles) and second in the hen class at the Poultry Society’s exhibition held in July 1915. All in all he took a great interest in the Timaru Pigeon Club and served time as secretary. Lawson Leah and three fellow members of the Timaru Pigeon Club, who had offered their services at the front, were unanimously elected honorary members at the club’s annual meeting held in August 1916.

Henry Lawson Leah enlisted on 12 January 1916, aged 21 years 11 months. A draper’s assistant, single, of Wesleyan allegiance, and living at home, he nominated his father, Mr Jos Andrew Leah, of 22 Le Cren Street, Timaru, as his next-of-kin. He was 5 feet 8½ inches tall, weighed 139 pounds, and had a chest measurement of 34 inches. He had a dark complexion, brown eyes and black hair. His sight, hearing and colour vision were all good, his limbs and chest well formed, his heart and lungs normal. As regards his teeth, the upper were partly false, the lower fair. He was in good bodily and mental health, free of diseases and defects, and vaccinated. He had served with the 2nd South Canterbury Regiment, and was still serving.

A representative gathering of Messrs Ballantyne and Co.’s employees assembled in the cutter’s room in early January 1916, to bid farewell to Private Lawson Leah, another member of the staff, who was shortly leaving for the training camp. The manager, Mr F. Martin, presented Private Leah with a radium-dialed wristlet watch and wished him the best of luck, good health, and a safe return to Timaru. Private Leah expressed his appreciation of the gift. He was to leave for Trentham a few days later, taking with him the good wishes of all his fellow employees. In fact, South Canterbury’s quota of the 12th Reinforcements left Timaru for Trentham by the second express north on 12 January. The troops were farewelled in the Drill Shed at 3 pm, the public being admitted but not allowed to mix with the men. After his Worship the Mayor, the Rev. Dean Tubman, and Mr J. Craigie, M.P., addressed the troops, they processed to the station, headed by the 2nd (South Canterbury) Regimental Band, and acknowledged by a guard of honour formed by the cadets. While at Trentham in April, L. Leah was appointed temporary lance corporal.

Lance Corporal H. L. Leah embarked with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, 3rd Reinforcements on 6 May 1916, leaving from Wellington for Suez, Egypt. Disembarking at Egypt on 22 June, he was stationed there until 25 July 1916, when he embarked for Southampton. Having been posted to Sling in early August, he proceeded overseas to France from there on 20 August. Leah was admitted to the 1st Canadian Casualty Clearing Station at Rouen on 14 October 1916, sick. On 24 June 1917 he rejoined his unit after a day in hospital, sick. He had a short period of leave in the UK in August-September 1917. Rifleman Leah was appointed Lance Corporal on 17 October 1917. On 15 December 1917 he was admitted to hospital, injured. He had been accidentally injured on duty and was not to blame. The enemy was shelling in the vicinity of Halfway House on 11th December. Lieut Leah was taking cover and fell down the shaft injuring his left side. The night was very dark and he missed the stairway. Suffering bruising to his left side, he was admitted to the Field Ambulance. He again rejoined his unit on 19 December 1917, this time from the Field Ambulance. He was detached to the Lewis Gun School for two weeks in February 1918. Just seven weeks after rejoining his unit he was killed.

It was in April 1918 that Mr J. A. Leah, Le Cren Street, received advice that his son Lance Corporal Henry Lawson Leah, 12209, had been killed in action on 29 March (Good Friday) 1918 at the Somme, France. He was 24 years old. “Of bright disposition and straightforward manner, he won the esteem of all who came in contact with him.” He was buried in the Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps, Somme, France. Mr and Mrs Leah and family expressed their thanks for all kind messages of sympathy received in the loss of their son and brother at the Front. His medals – British War Medal and Victory Medal – were sent to his father, as were the scroll and Plaque. His brother William Frederick Leah (Fred) was called up and enlisted.

Lawson Leah was remembered at the Timaru Main School, when the chairman at the annual meeting on 22 April 1918 proposed a vote of sympathy with the parents and relatives of ex-pupils who had fallen in the war. This was carried by silent vote, all present standing in honour of the 25 ex-pupils who had died in the past year. At the first annual meeting of the Timaru Homing Society, held in June 1918, the president said that he had great pleasure in presenting to Mr and Mrs Leah an enlarged photograph of a bird bred by the late Corporal Lawson Leah, and which had been the champion for the season. The presentation was met with applause. A vote of sympathy was passed with Mr and Mrs Leah on the death of their son at the Front. In 1920 Mrs Leah presented a trophy to be awarded in a race run by the Timaru Homing Society. At the regular meeting of the U.A.O. Druids in September 1916, the secretary had reported that 33 members were serving with His Majesty’s Forces in different parts of the world. A very nice letter had been received from Bro. Leah, in Egypt, stating that he hoped to meet some of the Timaru Druids out there. At the half-yearly meeting of Timaru Lodge No. 11, held in June 1920, a Roll of Honour was unveiled by the Grand President. It had been erected in the Lodge Room in memory of brethren who made the supreme sacrifice during the war. Sympathetic reference was made “to the brothers who had left home and comfort and gone to fight and die that we who could not go could live in freedom and comfort”. The deepest sympathy of the Druidic Order was conveyed to the relatives of those who had “gone west”. The Roll of Honour consisted of a neat oak cabinet bearing the emblems of the Order and inscribed: “Erected to the memory of our Brothers: J. T. Milburn, G. G. Porter, A. R. Moyle, J. A. Cochrane, L. J. Tonkin, H. L. Leah, L. C. Warner, W. J. Armstrong, who died in the Great War. 1914-1918.” The brethren remained standing with bowed heads as a token of respect to the memory of those who had “gone west”.

Loving parents, brothers and sisters remembered Lance-Corporal H. L. Leah, on 29 March 1919 -

‘He sleeps beside his comrades,

in a hallowed grave unknown,

But his name is writ in letters of gold,

In the hearts he left at home.’

And a second In Memoriam was inserted by Annie and Charlie (perhaps Amy and Charlie, Lawson’s sister and her husband) –

‘“Killed in Action” said the cables,

That is all the tale they tell

Of the brave young lad who loved us,

Of the lad we loved so well.

How the life was sped we know not

What the last word, look or thought,

Only that he did his duty

Died as bravely as he fought.’

His name is inscribed on the Timaru Memorial Wall and the Chalmers Church Honour Roll, and the Timaru Lodge No. 11 Roll of Honour. And there is a memorial on his parents’ headstone in the Timaru Cemetery. At the Timaru Main School, on Saturday, June 25, 1921, an important ceremony took place, when a very fine monument, standing in the school grounds at the corner of Arthur and Grey streets, was unveiled. A beautiful wreath was placed on behalf of the school and the “Last Post” feelingly played. The memorial is “a testimony to duty faithfully done, even unto death.” Nine days earlier the foundation stone for this memorial to the ex-pupils of the school who had lost their lives in the Great War, was laid. Scrolls bearing the names of the fallen ex-pupils (70) and of others who had served in the war (361) were inserted in the cavity of the stone.

On 6 September 1922 an impressive ceremony took place on the premises of Messrs J. Ballantyne and Co., Ltd., Timaru, which goes to prove that the patriotic services during the war of the firm’s employees is far from forgotten by principals or fellow workers. A most artistic memorial was unveiled by the Mayor, in the presence of relatives of the fallen and the men who saw service. The local manager explained that they had wished to pay tribute to the seven brave young men who left the staff to serve King and country, two of whom had made the supreme sacrifice. Though the tablet would not be exposed to the public gaze it would remain for many generations as silent witness to all who worked in the building of what they owed to the men who fought and died in defence of those principles of liberty and justice which were the basis of our civilisation. The central plate, bearing the names of the men who served, was of beaten copper, while surrounding the plate was a massive oak frame, beautifully carved, and surmounted by a carved laurel branch. It carried the following inscription: “To the memory of the men of this house who served in the Great War 1914-1918”, followed by seven names. The first two names appear below a simple cross, and are divided from the others by an ornamental border, being the two employees who made the supreme sacrifice – one of them being Henry Lawson Leah. The ceremony, which was a most impressive one, terminated with the sounding of the “Last Post” by Leslie Thompson.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [07 May 2014]; NZ Defence Force Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 18805 W5544 0067036) [17 August 2014, 04 November 2015]; CWGC [09 August 2014]; Timaru Cemetery headstone image (Timaru District Council) [09 August 2014]; Timaru Herald, 22 January 1903, 15 February 1905, 18 December 1908, 16 December 1909, 22 January 1910, 21 November 1912, 30 April1913, 7 & 21 May 1913, 10 & 30 July 1913, 6 May 1914, 13 October 1914, 1 & 7 December 1914, 16 January 1915, 11 February 1915, 10 & 21 April 1915, 8 & 28 May 1915, 5 June 1915, 18 September 1915, 5 October 1915, 16 December 1915, 8 & 11 January 1916, 18 August 1916, 7 September 1916, 18, 19 April 1918, 23 April 1918 [x 2], 7 May 1918, 12 June 1918, 29 March 1919, 25 June 1920, 16 October 1920, 7 September 1922, Evening Post, 13 April 1916, 18 April 1918, New Zealand Times, 19 April 1918, Press, 29 March 1919 (Papers Past) [09 August 2014, 10 November 2014; 18 October 2015; 20 & 24 September 2019; 09 February 2020]; School Admission records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [09 August 2014]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [18 October 2015]; England Marriage Index ( [18 October 2015]; Timaru Herald, June 1921 (Timaru District Library) [20 April 2018]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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