Leslie Andrew VC

A Railways Department clerk and the son of the headmaster of Wanganui East School, Leslie Andrew lied about his age so that he could serve overseas. He arrived in France in September 1916 and fought with the 2nd Wellington Battalion on the Somme before being wounded.

Following the successful Allied attack at Messines in June 1917, the Germans launched a number of counter-attacks, only to lose more ground. On 27 July the New Zealand 1st Brigade captured the tiny village of La Basseville, a few kilometres south-east of Messines, but were driven out soon after. The New Zealanders suffered serious casualties during these actions, many from a German machine-gun post in a two-storey inn.

On 31 July the New Zealanders attacked La Basseville once again. The 1st Auckland Battalion was to hit the German defences while 2nd Wellington was to take the village and establish positions there. Shortly before 4 a.m. the New Zealanders began advancing behind an artillery barrage. Leslie Andrew led two sections sent to destroy the machine-gun position in the inn. As they moved forward, they saw that another machine gun on the nearby railway line was holding up other New Zealand troops. They rushed the position, killed the crew and captured the gun before turning back to their original objective. Approaching the inn from the side, the New Zealanders crawled through thistles to within striking distance. They threw in grenades and then stormed the position, killing some of the Germans and capturing a second machine gun.

Other NZ Victoria Cross recipients in Belgium

While his men carried back the captured guns, Andrew and Private L.R. Ritchie scouted the area and found another machine gun in a trench. The two men rushed this position, throwing grenades and clearing it before returning to their company.

For his bravery and leadership during the attack, 20-year-old Leslie Andrew was awarded the Victoria Cross. The citation reported that 'Corporal Andrew's conduct throughout was un-exampled for cool daring, initiative and fine leadership, and his magnificent example was a great stimulant to his comrades.'

Leslie Andrew died in 1969 and is buried at the Levin RSA Cemetery. All his military medals from both World Wars, including his Victoria Cross, are on display at the National Army Museum in Waiōuru.

See also: Letter about Andrew's Victoria Cross

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