Veteran Stories:
Robert Leckie

Air Force

  • Sub-Lieutenant Robert Leckie flew Flying Boats during World War I. Collection courtesy of Mr. Leckie's Robert Leckie.

    Sub-Lieutenant Robert Leckie flew Flying Boats during World War I. Collection courtesy of Mr. Leckie's Robert Leckie.
  • An example of the kind of plane that Robert Leckie flew during WWI.

    An example of the kind of plane that Robert Leckie flew during WWI.
  • Lieutenant Robert Leckie piloted the big H-12 through the waves to rescue the downed crew of the DH-4.

    Lieutenant Robert Leckie piloted the big H-12 through the waves to rescue the downed crew of the DH-4.
  • Many worked to save the crew of this downed plane.

    Many worked to save the crew of this downed plane.
  • It took the ship Halcyon three days to find the downed plane. The rescued crew had been without food for three days.

    It took the ship Halcyon three days to find the downed plane. The rescued crew had been without food for three days.
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Transcript

Air Marshall Robert Leckie, Companion of the Order of the Bath, Distinguished Service Order and Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross, Canadian Forces Decoration, Honourary Doctor of Laws, RCAF, retired.

He was born the 16th of April 1890 in Glasgow, the son and grandson of Weavers. He immigrated to Canada and worked for his uncle John, the founder of John Leckie Ltd., in 1908. In 1915, he was accepted for flying training at the Curtis Wright Flying School, Toronto Island. After he had completed three hours of training, the school declared bankruptcy. A delegation from his class went to Ottawa to find out whether the military would complete their training. At the urging of Sir Charles Kingsmill, the Chief of the Canadian Naval staff, the Royal Navy agreed to accept half of the class.

In 1915, on the 6th of December, he was commissioned as a Probationary Flight Sub-Lieutenant, Temporary, in the Royal Navy Air Service. Shortly after that, he was posted to Royal Navy Air Station, Chingford, for flying training. On the 10th of May 1916, he was issued aviator's certificate no. 2923 by the Royal Aeroclub. His was discharged, Chingford, to Royal Naval Air Service, Felixtowe for training in 'flying boats'. Total flying time, not necessarily at controls, at that point was thirty-three hours and three minutes.

Three months later, he was discharged Felixtowe to the Royal Naval Air Station at Great Yarmouth, and shortly after that he had his first patrol over the North Sea. On the 14th of May 1917, on patrol over the North Sea, he sighted destroyed Zeppelin L22, and subsequently awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. On the 5th of September 1917, while on patrol with a DH-4 – a land aircraft – they traced two Zeppelins, but came under fire from German warships. Both aircraft were damaged, and the DH-4 had to ditch. Leckie landed and picked up the crew, but was unable to take off. They spent three days on the water until rescued. On the 20th of February 1918, he sighted a surfaced submarine and attacked with bombs. One was seen to strike abaft the conning tower. The submarine stirred and rose up, and the boat disappeared below the surface, leaving a large oil slick. The submarine was deemed sunk, and on the 17th of May 1918, Leckie was appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, and subsequently learned that the submarine had not been sunk.

August 1918 – in the early evening, a Zeppelin force was seen approaching England. In a last minute decision, Leckie ordered the DH-4, piloted by Egbert Cadbury, later Sir Egbert of Fry Cadbury as his observer/gunner. They took off at 2105, and at 2220, they passed under the bow of the leading Zeppelin. Leckie fired eighty rounds of incendiary bullets into the ship. A fire burst out and rapidly consumed the whole aircraft, sending the unfortunate crew to a fiery death. Included in the crew was Cpt. Peter Strasser, the Commander in Chief of the Zeppelin fleet. The Zeppelins never attacked England again. Leckie and Cadbury were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

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