Sir John Leslie, Ireland’s Oldest World War II Veteran Passed Away at 99

Sir John Leslie, one of Ireland’s oldest surviving World War II veterans, passed away at age 99. He was the owner of the famous Castle Leslie.

Affectionately known as Uncle Jack, Leslie had previously received the prestigious Legion d’Honneur in the French Ambassador’s residence on Ailesbury Road in Dublin. He was known for hosting Paul McCartney’s wedding to Heather Mills at his family seat, Castle Leslie in County Monaghan. The Leslie family were part of the old Anglo-Irish aristocracy. They were popular landlords in Monaghan.

Sir Jack’s father was a baronet and eventually he inherited his title. Sir Jack, known locally as simply Jack Leslie became a baronet in 1971.

Sir Jack enlisted in the Second Battalion of the Irish Guards in August 1937, at the age of 21. At the time, it was very common for Irishmen to enlist in the British army for excitement and travel. Sir Jack was eventually commissioned as an officer.

Three years later, he landed in France as part of the British Expeditionary Corp. He commanded a section of the Irish Guards that defended Boulogne Sur Mer against the Germans. He was captured and spent 5 years as a prisoner of war.

For a while, it was believed that he had been killed in action. It was widely believed for some time that he had fallen in France. It was only in 1942, that it was discovered that he was actually alive and was in a German POW camp.

During captivity, he risked his life to smuggle a postcard out to Winston Churchill (his cousin). The card asked for Churchill to arrange a prisoner swap so that some of his ill friends could be freed. That postcard is hanging in the Imperial War Museum in London.

Sir Jack was actually a first cousin once removed of Winston Churchill.

After being released in 1945, he travelled the world and eventually settled in Rome, where he bought a 1,500-year-old monastery.

In 1994, he returned to Castle Leslie. He turned his ancestral home into a luxurious resort for the world’s rich and famous. Through the years many wealthy and famous people have stayed in the Castle. It is regarded as one of the finest stately homes in the British Isles.

He was known for his appreciation of rave music, which led to him celebrating his 85th birthday in Ibiza at Privilege, the biggest nightclub in the world. he lived life to the full. In 2012, Irish television made a documentary about him and his family.




Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE