5th October 1941
Dear Mrs. Harte,
Just the other day a follow officer who used to be in our unit found my pocket book in his greatcoat pocket and sent it to me. I had lost it during the first week in May and this photograph was along with it. It is probably the last photograph that was taken of Leslie so I thought you might like it. It was taken on the Acropolis in Athens about the 18th of March. Johnnie Bain is the central figure. I thought a photographer might be able to make something of it for you.
I have already written to you twice but unfortunately they seem to have gone astray as I addressed them to 34, Manor Hall Avenue, London N.W.4. I found that address on the back of one of his letters. I couldn't get your proper address at the time as we lost everything in Greece.
None of us even yet have got over the loss of our fellow officer. I can appreciate how the bottom must have fallen out of your life am I send you my sincerest sympathy. I was with Leslie in No.27 General and then I followed him to the 2nd/5th C.C.S. we became great friends. Later on Johnnie Bain joined us and the three of us were always together.
In Greece we had a happy holiday until the fighting started and then things began to happen. It was then that we appreciated Leslie’s real worth. His constant cheerfulness was a great stimulant to us at all times but more especially when we were almost overcome with fatigue. I shal1 never forget his consideration for others. At all hours of the day or night he was in and out amongst the wounded giving them tea or a cigarette and he had a cheerful word for all which probably did them more good than anything I could do. He was always doing little services that most people would never have thought of. For example he would walk into the theatre about 3.0 a.m. bringing a cup of hot bovril and say "You chaps must be a bit tired". Little things like that just kept us going. The men worshipped him and would have followed him anywhere. His behaviour under fire was an example to all. This is not just idle praise or flattery. Every word is perfectly true. As a Regular soldier I say that he was an outstanding example of what an Officer in the British Army should be. Not only have you lost a fine husband but our country has lost a very fine Officer.
At one time looked as if our unit was going to be captured so a proportion of them were evacuated ahead of the rest. Leslie was amongst these. The majority of these embarked on a Greek ship which was attacked by dive bombers and sunk. Two destroyers went to the rescue and both of these were sunk. There were only eight survivors from the three ships. That was about the 26th of April.
On 12th July I heard that Leslie’s body was recovered from the sea at Alexandria where he was buried with military honours in the. British Military Cemetery. Two of our Nursing Sisters were there at the time and were present at the funeral. Unfortunately none of us could get there.
Such is war. I am afraid my letter is a very bald statement of fact but I thought that you would. like to know what happened. We lost a third of our Officers and a fifth of our men. The cruel thing is that almost without exception they were the pick of the unit.
I know that no words of mine can ease your grief but I should like you to know that every one of the unit sends to you their heartfelt sympathy.
Yours very sincerely,
(sgd) ROBERT A. STEPHEN.