Pitman, Leslie Colin


He was the only son of Lieutenant-Colonel Lancelot Coulson Pitman RE and Sybil Maud Pitman (daughter of John Charles Stewart JP, of Kinlochmoidart).  He was the half-brother of Kenneth Matthew Meiklejohn (Coll.1928-1933), the child of his mother’s first marriage.

He came to Winchester from Summerfields, and had a most notable career at the school in every way: two years in Sixth Book, two years as a School Prefect, five terms as Head of House, one year as Senior Commoner Prefect.  His sporting and athletic successes were many, including two years (1934-1935) in OTH VI, two years (1935-1936) in the soccer XI, two narrow defeats in the final of Watney Cup in 1934 and 1935, and, as a cricketer, three years in 2nd XI. Injuries in his last year prevented success in both Fives competitions, of leading the successful House platoon which he had trained, and finally of a possible Lords Cap.   He also found time to edit The Wykehamist. He was a good friend of another Toyeite, A.D. ‘Donnie’ Mackenzie (B1928-1933), who, like Pitman, went on to join the Cameron Highlanders, was captured at Tobruk, and was killed in action whilst serving with the Italian partisans in October 1944 (see individual entry).

At Magdalen College, Oxford, from 1936, Pitman took a Second in PPE in 1939, took a commission in the STC, and represented Oxford for three years (1937-1939) at Fives. He was president of his college JCR in his last year. On November 4th 1939 he married Sheila Cameron Ballingal, of 163b Pavilion Road, Knightsbridge, London, the daughter of Alexander Cameron Ballingal.

In 1939 he took a University Commission in the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. Thereafter he was mainly employed as an instructor – first at an OCTU in Aldershot, and then in Oxford with the Intelligence Corps from 1940. In August 1942, by now a Captain, he arrived with 5th Battalion in Egypt, as part of 152 Brigade in the famous 51st (Highland) Division. He appears to have missed the Battle of El Alamein whilst on a course, from which he had returned by November 16th, joining the battalion at Daba conducting clearance operations (which netted only a camel).

By February he was in command of “A” Company.   He fell in action on 23rd March 1943 at Wadi Zigzaou, a particularly brutal action.   In front of the enemy lines was a long anti-tank ditch, screened by minefields.   The 5th Seaforths had been ordered through a gap in the minefield and into the ditch, which they had partially occupied on 22nd March.   5th Camerons were then ordered to join them.   As Pitman’s “A” Company were moving up, flares were fired and shelling began, causing heavy casualties.  By dawn on 23rd March all 5th Camerons’ radios were out of action and the German shells were still raining down, an onslaught which lasted twenty hours.  5th Camerons suffered 121 casualties, eight officers among them.  Pitman had been caught out in the open, still moving through the minefield gap, and killed, either by British or German artillery.

He was twenty-five years old and was buried in grave I.F.26 of the Enfidaville War Cemetery.

 

War: World War 2

  • Surname: Pitman
  • Forenames or initials: Leslie Colin
  • House: B
  • Years in School: 1930-1936
  • Rank: Captain
  • Regiment: Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders
  • Date of Birth: 6th April 1917
  • Date of Death: 23rd March 1943
  • How Died: Killed in Action
  • Location in War Cloister: Inner G1
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: Enfidaville War Cemetery: Grave I.F.26