BORN: November 28, 1923 DIED: April 26, 2011, aged 87
“WE can recover the islands – and we must” were the memorable words used by Sir Henry Leach, the then Chief of Naval Staff, to convince Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to recapture the Falkland Islands in 1982.
Sir Woodward was the one who materially took back the islands leading the Task Force south, but Henry Leach made the operation possible and ensured political support for it.
If the Falklands have been retaken from Argentina, it is first of all his very merit.
His intervention proved to be the turning point of the entire Falklands crisis, and saved the RN from devastating, absurd cuts which arguably were the cause of the war in the South Atlantic.
Henry Conyers Leach was born in Devon and educated at St Peter’s Court School in Broadstairs, Kent.
He joined the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, Devon, as a cadet at 13, two years before the outbreak of the Second World War. From 1941 to 1943 he served as a midshipman on cruisers in the south Atlantic and Indian Oceans before moving on to the battleship HMS Duke of York where he took part in the Battle of the North Cape.
Four years later he became a gunnery specialist and after a series of junior staff posts Leach got his first command, the destroyer HMS Dunkirk, from 1959 to 1961. In 1971 he became Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff and by 1977 had risen sufficiently through the ranks to become Commander-in-Chief Fleet.
Leach was appointed First Sea Lord in 1979 and the year before the Falklands crisis he had clashed with the Government over major cuts to the Navy, including the planned sale of the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible.
He considered resigning but in the aftermath of the Falklands, many of the cuts were reversed, including Invincible. Leach was appointed Knight Commander (KCB) in 1977 and Knight Grand Cross (GCB) the following year.
On his retirement in 1982 he was promoted to Admiral of the Fleet and the Royal Navy’s Fleet Headquarters in Portsmouth was named the Sir Henry Leach Building in his honour.
His wife Mary, the daughter of Admiral Sir Henry McCall, died in 1991. He is survived by their two daughters.
He is another hero i say farewell to. May his soul find peace and eternal happiness.