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VC paving stone honours Jewish First World War hero

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A memorial service to celebrate the achievements of a London-born Jewish soldier who was awarded the Victoria Cross has been held at Victoria Embankment Gardens, in Westminster.

Lance Corporal (later Lieutenant) Leonard Keysor of the 1st Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, has been honoured with a VC commemorative paving stone beside the Ministry of Defence Main Building, which was unveiled by The Lord Mayor of Westminster, Councillor Christabel Flight.

Also in attendance to signify the past, present and future were representatives from the Royal British Legion, HQ London District and Army Cadets. A bugler from the Household Division played the Last Post.

Leonard Keysor

Leonard Keysor was awarded the Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery at Lone Pine, Gallipolli on the 6th August 1915.

Leonard Maurice Keysor was born Leonard Maurice Kyezor on 3 November 1885 in Maida Vale, London. After completing his studies, Keysor travelled to Canada in 1904 where he remained for a period of ten years before emigrating to Australia in 1914 where his brother Stanley and sister Madge were living. He undertook clerical work in Sydney, New South Wales.

Keysor had only been in Australia for about three months when the First World War broke out and he immediately enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. On the 25 April 1915, he landed at Gallipoli and on 20 June 1915 he was promoted to Lance Corporal.

Handling enemy grenades

It was during Battle of Lone Pine that Lance Corporal Keysor performed the actions that led to him receive the Victoria Cross. Early in the morning on 6 August 1915 the 1st Battalion carried out a diversionary attack at Lone Pine and after heavy fighting that lasted almost the entire day they managed to capture the Turkish trenches. Fighting continued for the next three days as the Turks attempted to regain the position.

The fighting was carried out at close range, using bayonets and improvised grenades and bombs. Over the course of about 50 hours on 7th August, Keysor continually risked his life to pick up the Turkish grenades as they were thrown into the trenches and throw them back. Later, despite being wounded and ordered to seek medical attention, Keysor continued to remain in the line, volunteering to throw bombs for another company.

He subsequently served on the Western Front, where he was commissioned, before returning to Australia to help with recruiting.

At the service, words of remembrance and prayers were said by the London District Rabbi, Major Reuben Livingstone. Attending the ceremony along with the Lord Mayor were Councillor Rachael Robathan, the council’s Armed Forces, Champion, members of Lance Corporal Keysor’s family, including his grandson Nick Hamilton, and Colonel John Grinstead and Garrison Sergeant Major Vern Stokes from HQ London District.

After the ceremony a reception was held in the Westminster City Council Mayor’s Parlour in Victoria Street.

The Victoria Cross was instituted by Royal Warrant on 29 January 1856 and was the first British gallantry medal that could be awarded to any serviceman irrespective of rank. It was and has remained the highest and most prestigious recognition of exceptional valour in the face of the enemy.

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