Monday, September 29, 2014

The Leeks family - Hunterville Memorial, Whanganui

At the start of World War One in August 1914 Minnie Ann Glastonbury nee Leeks was a wife, daughter and sister.   The only daughter of Edward and Minnie Leeks and sister to 8 brothers, she had been married to Alfred Glastonbury for 4 years at the outbreak of war and they had three small children (the eldest was from Alfred's first wife who had died shortly after childbirth).  By the time the war ended in November 1918 Minnie was widowed and had lost three brothers and a brother in law.  Such loss and grief is unimaginable for most of us in New Zealand today but for many during WW1 it was a factor of everyday life and tragically Minnie's loss was not unique.

I had initially come across Minnie when I was researching the Havelock memorial in Marlborough her husband Alfred Glastonbury is remembered on the memorial.

Alfred Glastonbury (known as Jack) enlisted in May 1916 he worked for the NZ Railways at Ohinigaiti as a surfaceman and was married to Minnie Leeks with three children.  He embarked from Wellington aboard the Devon on 25 September 1916 with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade; disembarking in the United Kingdom on the 21 November 1916 he was marched into Sling Camp on the same day.  Less than a month later on 3 December 1916 he was admitted to the NZ General hospital at Codford sick with gastritis, he died two days later without ever seeing any action.  He was buried at St Mary's Cemetery, Codford.

Jack's death was a second blow for his family back in New Zealand his brother Frank had been killed in action at the Somme on 14 July 1916.  Frank was a member of the Otago Infantry Battalion and  most likely one of two hundred men from the Otago's who on 13/14 July 1916 went on a raid of German lines.  Of the two hundred men only six returned unhurt, fifty four were killed and one hundred and four were wounded.  Frank's name is not recorded on the Havelock Memorial.
For Minnie the loss of her husband came on the back of the death of three of her brothers.  In total six of her eight brothers served in WW1: Cedric William (10/1882), Ivan Lewis (8/2441), Osric Harold (8/885), Frederick Edward (37831), Horace Robert (34098) and Ralph Lowry (22819).
Osric was 20 years old when he enlisted soon after war broke out on 15 August 1914 along with his friend Henry George Field who lived with the Leeks family in Ohingaiti (both men were employed by the W. Collard Box Co. at Utiku).  After enlisting the pair were separated, Osric was attached to  the Otago Infantry Battalion and Henry to the Wellington Infantry Battalion.  Both embarked with the Main Body on 16 October 1914 and fought at Gallipoli where Henry Field was killed in action on 8 August 1915 at Chunuk Bair.  Later in the month Osric was wounded and he died of his wounds at sea aboard the hospital ship Arcadia on 5 September 1915 he was buried at Gibraltar (North Front) Cemetery, Gibraltar.
Cedric Leeks a farm labourer in Ohingaiti was the youngest of the brothers to serve, he enlisted in January 1915.   He sailed with the 4th Reinforcements as part of the Wellington Infantry Battalion on 17 April 1915 and shortly after his arrival in Egypt he embarked for Gallipoli where he was most likely reunited with his brother Osric and Henry Field.   Sadly Cedric too was killed in action on Chunuk Bair on 8 August 1915.  He is remembered with Henry Field on the Chunuk Bair (New Zealand) Memorial, Chunuk Bair Cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey.

Ivan Lewis Leeks was the third brother to enlist at the beginning of May 1915.  Ivan was single and was employed as a painter in Marton when he enlisted.  He embarked with the 5th Reinforcements attached to the Otago Infantry Battalion.  Soon after arriving in Gallipoli Ivan was wounded on 13 August 1915 only days after his brother was killed in action and was sent to Hospital in Malta. After recovering from his wounds he rejoined his unit in October 1915 in Lemnos.  Ivan then embarked for France in April 1916 where he was killed in action on the Somme on 14 July 1916 aged 23 years.
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Minnie Leeks had lost four immediate family members in the space of 15 months the toll on her and her family must have been immeasurable and with three further brothers serving the fear of losing another family member would have surely added to that toll.
Ralph Lowry Leeks was the fourth brother to serve he embarked on 27 May 1916 aboard the Tofua with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade.   Whilst Ralph survived the war he was by no means left unscathed in August 1917 he suffered severe shell shock the result of being exposed to severe shell fire and being buried by earth resulting from the detonation of a high explosive nearby.  Once recovered he rejoined his unit in October 1917 and March 1918 received a shrapnel wound and was invalided back to New Zealand in August 1918.

Horace Robert Leeks was the next to embark leaving behind his wife and two children.  He left with the 21st Reinforcements on 19 January 1917.  He too despite surviving the war was not left unscathed.  Wounded twice firstly at Ypres on 22 November 1917 and then again on 23 October 1918.  He returned to New Zealand where tragically years later during WW2 he would lose one of his sons to war.  Cedric Russell Leeks was with the New Zealand Engineers and died whilst a prisoner of war on 28 January 1943 aged 27.  He is buried at Krakow Rakowicki Cemetery, Poland.
Frederick Edward Leeks was the last of the Leeks brothers to embark leaving with the 22nd Reinforcements on 13 February 1917.  Frederic a painter in Wellington and was married with two children.   He too was wounded twice being gassed on 13 August 1917 and wounded on 2 September 1918.  He was invalided back to NZ in December 1918.
Minnie Glastonbury eventually remarried Harold Bly in 1941 and she died in 1978 in the same year as her youngest brother Conrad Leeks.  They were the last of Edward & Minnie Leeks.


  1. thanx Helen,
    came across yr blog by coincidence..was googling Edward frederick leeks ..the grandfather of the leeks fam of ww1..He was a privileged
    London solicitor and wife's family were a line of royal Navy men.
    I have visited chunuk bahir nz memorial and also recently visited Armentieres grave site of Ivan..Horace Robert Leeks was my paternal
    grandfather..I will pass your blog around my family..I have a family bible..1715...that has entries for all family members highlighted in your I've also visited Russell's plot in Krakow.Thanks again for an accurate account.Nev leeks.Melbourne.

  2. The Leeks boys are on the Ohingaiti War Memorial and a Photograghic memorial of each of the family that went to WW1 is in the Ohingaiti Memorial Hall. None of the Leeks are on the Hunterville Memorial.