Honour in stone for town’s VC war hero

James Leach.
James Leach.

A special paving stone will be laid in North Shields to honour a war hero as part of 2014’s First World War centenary events.

Commemorative paving stones will be laid in the hometown of all those in the UK awarded the Victoria Cross for valour “in the face of the enemy” as part of efforts to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1914-1918 conflict next year.

Plans to restore war memorials around the country have also been announced a part of the four-year programme.

Among those to be honoured will be Second Lieutenant James Leach.

2nd Lieut Leach was born on July 27, 1892, in North Shields.

He was 22-years-old and in the 2nd Battalion, the Manchester Regiment, of the British Army during the First World War.

On October 29, 1914, near Festubert, France, after their trench had been taken by the enemy and two attempts to recapture it had failed, Leach and Sergeant John Hogan, with a party of ten volunteers, went to recover it themselves.

They took the Germans by surprise with a sudden bayonet attack and then working from traverse to traverse they gradually succeeded in regaining the territory, killing eight of the enemy, wounding two and taking 16 prisoners.

He was awarded the Victoria Cross and later achieved the ranks of Captain.

After the war he served in the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary.

He died aged 66 at his home in Shepherd’s Bush, London, on August 15, 1958.

His Victoria Cross is on display in the city’s Lord Ashcroft Gallery at the Imperial War Museum.