British Pattern 1897 Infantry Officer's Sword and Scabbard : Lieutenant H A Letch, MC, Australian Flying Corps

Accession Number REL/18100
Collection type Technology
Object type Edged weapon or club
Place made United Kingdom: England
Date made c 1914
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

British Pattern 1897 Infantry Officer sword and scabbard. The hilt has a nickel plated three quarter 'scroll' pattern pierced sheet steel guard with the GVR royal cypher and has a leather sword knot attached to the slot near the pommel. The inner front edge of the guard is stamped 1MD over 297. The grip is wire bound fishskin. The straight blade is etched half way on both sides with a foliage design having the royal coat of arms on the centre right and the royal cypher of George V on the centre left. There is a single fuller on each side for half of the length. The ricasso is etched on the right with the interlocking triangle symbol and the royal coat of arms over By Warrant in a scroll banner and the Prince of Wales three feathers over a scroll with By Appointment and HENRY WILKINSON PALL MALL LONDON on the left. A leather washer is attached to the blade where it meets the hilt and the back edge has an arrow within a D. The leather covered wooden scabbard is missing some of the leather towards the chape and has a nickel plated throat.

History / Summary

Acquired in Egypt by Harold Alexander Letch, born Donnybrook, Victoria on 3 May 1894; a clerk with the Electrical Engineers Branch of the Victorian Railways, who enlisted on 19 August 1914 at Melbourne. Letch had 2 years previous experience as a sergeant with the Signals Section of 19th Engineers, Victorian Militia. Assigned service number 6, Letch embarked for overseas service with 1 Signal Troop, (1 Light Horse Brigade) from Melbourne aboard Transport A10 Karroo on 20 October 1914; he was promoted to Corporal the same day. This unit had a good percentage of men with previous militia signals experience and served on Gallipoli from the landing with Letch maintaining one of the wireless sets landed. Letch was appointed a temporary sergeant on 21 July (confirmed on 12 November), one day later he was withdrawn to the Rest Camp at Mudros. Once Gallipoli was evacuated and his unit transferred to Egypt, Letch was promoted to Second Lieutenant (9 May) and transferred to 1 Signal Squadron, 2 Light Horse Regiment, Anzac Mounted Division, at Romani on 25 May 1916 as Regimental Signalling Officer.
He was promoted to Lieutenant on 3 December 1916 and was mentioned in despatches for 'conspicuous services rendered' on 1 March 1917, recommended by General Sir Archibald Murray, CiC , Egyptian Expeditionary Forces. During Second Battle of Gaza on 19 April he was recommended for a Military Cross, for displaying 'great coolness and pluck in supervising and assisting in laying telephone lines under heavy shell and machine gun fire, and also maintaining communications which were repeatedly broken by shell fire. His devotion to duty and courage in this and previous engagements have been conspicuous.'
On 10 May 1917, at Shellal, Letch was detached to 1 Signal Troop Brigade Headquarters for a week. At the end of June until 12 August he attended 21st Signalling Course at the Imperial School of Instruction (Fukhari). After his return, he was shot in the left leg on 3 November 1917 during the assault on Tel-el-Khuweilfe and transferred to hospital at Cairo. After recovery and a week's leave to Luxor in late December, he was seconded, on 15 January 1918, to 67 Squadron Australian Flying Corps and underwent a month's training at No 3 School of Military Aeronautics at Heliopolis from 22 February to 24 March. Letch was graded as a qualified Observer and on 1 June, officially transferred to the AFC and taken on strength of 1 Squadron.
On 22 August, whilst 1 Squadron was based at Ramleh, Letch was an observer in a Bristol Fighter with Lieutenant J M Walker as pilot. They, with another fighter, piloted by Captain AR Brown with Lieut G. Finlay as observer flew a standing patrol over the Ramleh aerodrome from 12:15. At about 13:10, at a height of about 16,000 feet, the War Diary Appendix notes: 'Patrol ... saw an EA two seater flying SE from Sameil. The EA on seeing the Bristols turned and made for his lines. Capt Brown got between the EA and the line and attacked from the front. Lieut Walker attacked from behind. The EA Observer managed to get Lieut Walker through the petrol tank setting him on fire.' Brown added in his Combat Report 'a few seconds later I saw Lieutenant Walker's machine go into a vertical dive and burst into flames.' The Appendix continues: 'Capt Brown maintained his position in front and above EA thus enabling Lieut Finlay to get off 400 rounds; at this point Lt Finlay's guns slipped out of the mounting. Capt Brown then dived on EA forcing him down. When within 1500 feet of the ground the propeller of EA stopped. EA landed at approx O85 R66. Both occupants were taken prisoner'. They were identified as members of 300 Fliegerabteilung (Flying Detachment 300), based at Jenin, part of Pasha 1 Army group. The action concluded at 13:20. Harold Letch was buried the following day by the Reverend CF Edwards, Ramleh Military Cemetary Grave no 87 ; this was moved postwar to plot AA. 21.