Military Cross: Lieutenant Harold Alexander Letch, 2nd Light Horse Regiment, AIF

Place Middle East: British Mandate of Palestine, Palestine, Gaza
Accession Number REL/18096
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Award
Physical description Silver
Maker Unknown
Place made United Kingdom
Date made c. 1917
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Military Cross (Geo V). Engraved reverse with recipients details. In original case of issue.

History / Summary

Harold Alexander Letch, a clerk with the Victorian Railways, was born at Donnybrook, Victoria on 3 May 1894. He had 2 years’ experience as a sergeant with the Signals Section of 19th Engineers, Victorian Militia before enlisting in the AIF on 19 August 1914. Assigned service number 6, Letch was posted to 1 Signal Troop (later squadron), part of 1 Light Horse Brigade and embarked from Melbourne on 20 October; he had been promoted to corporal the previous day. He arrived on Gallipoli on 9 May 1915 and was appointed a temporary sergeant on 21 July 1915. The rank was confirmed on 12 November, soon after being withdrawn from the peninsula to Mudros. He was promoted to 2nd lieutenant on 9 May 1916 and appointed Regimental Signalling Officer attached 2nd Light Horse Brigade at Romani later that month.

Letch was promoted lieutenant on 3 December 1916 and was mentioned in despatches for 'conspicuous services rendered' on 1 March 1917. He was later awarded a Military Cross, “For conspicuous gallantry in action during the second battle of GAZA on 19th April, 1917. As Regimental Signalling Officer, he displayed 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 3 November 1917 during the assault on Tel-el-Khuweilfe he was shot in the left leg and evacuated to hospital at Cairo. After recovery, he was seconded, on 15 January 1918, to 67 Squadron Australian Flying Corps (AFC). He qualified as an observer and on 1 June was officially transferred to the AFC and posted to 1 Squadron.

At Ramleh on 22 August 1918, Letch was an observer in a Bristol Fighter with Lieutenant J M Walker as pilot. They, with another fighter, piloted by Captain A. R. Brown with Lieutenant G. Finlay as observer flew a patrol over the Ramleh aerodrome. 1 Squadron War Diary notes: “Patrol ... saw an EA [Enemy Aircraft] 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.” Both Walker and Letch were killed. They were buried in the nearby Ramleh Military Cemetery.