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Sergeant Nigel Gray Leakey, 1st/6th Battalion, the King’s African Rifles

May 19, 2019


Remembering the Fallen:  on this day in 1941, Sergeant Nigel Gray Leakey, 1st/6th Battalion, the King’s African Rifles, was killed in action at Colito, Abyssinia. 

The son of a missionary, he was educated in Kenya and at Bromsgrove School in Worcestershire.  His great-uncle was Dr. Louis Leakey, the famous paleoanthropologist and archaeologist, and his second cousin twice removed is Corporal Joshua Leakey V.C., who was awarded the Victoria Cross in 2015 for service in Afghanistan. 

After leaving school, Sergeant Leakey returned to Kenya to work on coffee and sisal estates, then at the outbreak of the second world war he joined the Kenya Regiment.  On the day of his death, his actions earned him the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross.  His battalion, facing strong opposition and without reinforcements, had established a bridgehead on the Billate river.  Sergeant Leakey had been covering them as they faced machine gun and rifle fire as well as newly-arrived tanks.  Completely disregarding his own safety, he leapt on top of one of the tanks, shooting all the crew except for the driver.  He attempted to use the tank against the enemy, but the cannon failed to fire.  He then charged across open ground, in spite of heavy fire, jumped onto another tank and shot the crew before he himself was hit by machine gun fire and killed.  

The citation continues:  “Sergeant Leakey throughout the action displayed valour of the highest order, his determination and his initiative were entirely responsible for breaking up the Italian tank attack; by his own individual action he saved what would have undoubtedly developed into a most critical situation, for had the Italian tanks succeeded the result would have been the loss of a most valuable bridgehead which would have had most far reaching results on the subsequent operations.  The superb courage and magnificent fighting spirit which Sergeant Leakey displayed, facing almost certain death, was an incentive to the troops who fought on with inspiration after witnessing the gallantry of this N.C.O.’s remarkable feat, and succeeded in retaining their positions in face of considerable odds.”  His body was not recovered, and he is commemorated on the East Africa Memorial in Nairobi, Kenya.

Nigel, born in Kijango, Kenya, was 27 years old.




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