Hugh Leitch – 101 years of Armistice

‘My grandfather Hugh enlisted into the AIF as a Lewis Machine Gunner on 14th November 1916. Sadly, this date is significant to our family as his cousin, Peter Leitch, was killed on the Western Front the very same day.’

7 November 2019

In honour of Remembrance Day, we are doing something a little different this week for Our Veterans. We bring you the story of Hugh Argyle Leitch, as told by his granddaughter Carina Leitch. Hugh served in the First World War on the Western Front in very challenging conditions, and after being demobbed at the end of the war he transitioned back into civilian life, married and had five children. Carina tells his story below.

Carina Leitch proudly holding a photo of her grandfather, Hugh Argyle Leitch

Serving in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF)

‘My grandfather Hugh enlisted into the AIF as a Lewis Machine Gunner on 14th November 1916. Sadly, this date is significant to our family as his cousin, Peter Leitch, was killed on the Western Front the very same day.’

‘He soon left Australia aboard HMAS Ballarat. He was aboard HMAS Ballarat when it was struck by a torpedo in the English Channel. Thankfully, all 1,972 personnel on the troopship were saved. ’

‘Hugh served on the Western Front at Villers-Bretonneux, and then under the command of General Sir John Monash at Hamel and in the Somme area, including at Amiens.’

‘He was very proud to have served, but rarely talked about his time in the war.’

Life after The Great War

‘Hugh was demobbed in January 1920 from Melbourne, Victoria. After studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Melbourne, Hugh purchased a motor garage in Armadale, Victoria where he repaired and sold cars.’

‘After marrying my Grandmother in 1928, they moved to Leitchville (a town in Northern Victoria named after Hugh’s father), taking over an existing Motor Garage in Leitchville and going on to have five children.’

‘Living in a small country town my Grandfather turned his hand to many jobs, in addition to managing the motor garage, he was also the mail contractor and milkman. He also ran the local picture theatre with his children (my Dad being one of them) helping out selling tickets. He continued to do most of these jobs out of love well into his 70’s, even 80’s in the case of the mail contractor. He passed away in 1974, at the age 91, nearly blind but still sharp of mind.’

‘My Grandfather was a very strong man and was able to get back on his feet fairly easily after returning from the First World War. The support network he had, which included his mother and brother, were invaluable during his return, and his education and skills allowed him to transition to the workforce quickly and successfully.’

Carina said she was honoured to be able to attend the Centenary of Armistice commemorations at the Western Front in France in 2018, to remember all of her family members who served in the war, particularly her Grandfather Hugh.

If this story has raised any issues for you, please contact Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling, on 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 4546). This free and confidential service provides support to current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For information about Open Arms and the services they provide visit www.OpenArms.gov.au.

For tips on transitioning successfully, see the Leaving the ADF page on the Defence Community Organisation website.