Note Written on Battle Eve Reaches Winnipeg Home 12 Years After Gallant Death
Twelve years after the death of a Winnipeg lad in action in France there has come into the hands of his father a letter written to the young soldier's mother a day or two before - perhaps the night before - the First Canadian Mounted Rifles went over the top at Mouquet Farm, in the battle of Courcelette, in which the Canadians suffered heavy casualties. Lieut. Hart Leech, eldest son of J. Hillyard Leech, K.C. of Winnipeg had just finished his law course at the University of Manitoba and was about to go into practice with his father when he enlisted for overseas service.
Knowing that they were going into action on the Somme within a few hours, many members of Lieut. Leech's company wrote notes to parents or friends in mid-September, 1916. Lieut Leech wrote to his mother - a brief, cheery note, in which he made light of what might be ahead of them, although one reads between the lines that there were no illusions as to what awaited them. The letter was never mailed. It may have been that the young soldier, on second thought, came to the conclusion that the matter was too sentimental, and that there would be "joshing" abut the letters if the writers came safely through the battle. The note to Mrs. Leech was folded and placed in the soldier's small notebook. After Lieut. Leech's death in action the book was picked up and placed in the kit of an English officer, who was later wounded and given a new kit on returning to France. The result was that it was only a few weeks ago that the English officer, Edgar King, late captain in the Dorsetshire regiment, discovered that it was in his possession. Capt. King returned it, without delay, to Capt. Leech's father at Winnipeg.
In the battle in which Lieut. Leech fel there were nearly 500 casualties affecting Winnipeg families. Among others to fall was Lieut. Leech's chum, "Bobby" Rice, grandson of Rev. S.D. Rice, one of the pioneer pastors of Grace church.
The two letters are appended, the first being that of Capt. King to Mr. Leech, of Winnipeg, and the second that of Lieut. Hart Leech, written on the eve of battle in September, 1916, and hidden away in an English cupboard until a few weeks ago: