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In honour of our soldiers: Thomas Lechow

By Matthew Cheung

Published 11:21 PDT, Fri May 24, 2024

In a series about Richmond’s poppy street signs, in memory of our fallen soldiers, we share the story of Lechow street. 

Thomas Lechow was born on Nov. 12, 1878, in Nicaragua, his life’s journey would take him to Steveston, where he worked as a longshoreman and served as a member of the 104th Regiment of the Active Militia. At the age of 38, Thomas enlisted in New Westminster on March 24, 1916, joining the 131st Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.). 

Aboard the SS Caronia, Lechow experienced sickness and reported to the doctor who diagnosed him with pneumonia. Upon arriving in Liverpool on Nov. 11, 1916, Lechow was admitted to a hospital to be treated, before travelling to Seaford to recover and train. On Nov. 17, 1917, Lechow arrived in France and was transferred to the 7th Battalion C.E.F. Private Lechow had been granted fourteen days leave in Paris, but upon his return to his unit, he was penalized five days pay for “losing his rations”. 

On Aug. 25, 1918, Lechow was arrested for being drunk while on active service and was scheduled to be tried on Sept. 11, 1918. Before his scheduled trial date, the 7th Battalion would come under fire from the enemy, without hesitation, Lechow heroically took down the enemy and captured the mounted gun. “Private Lechow noticed two of the enemy mounting a machine gun on the parapet of a truck, rushed forward into our own barrage and captured the men and the gun. This prompt initiative undoubtedly saved his platoon from many casualties and earned him the Distinguished Conduct Medal” from a published citation. 

The Distinguished Conduct Medal, created on Dec. 4, 1854, was an award given to warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of the British Army, for acts of bravery and good conduct. Considered the second highest award for acts of bravery after the Victoria Cross, a total of 2,132 awards were awarded to the Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force.  

On Sept. 11, 1918, Lechow was tried and sentenced to 28 days in Field Prison No.1, tragically he would succumb to the wounds he received in action two weeks later. On March 3, 1919, Lechow received the D.C.M posthumously, attempts were made to send his personal belongings and accumulated pay of $249 to his mother Mrs. Johana Lechew in Corinthia, Nicaragua, but were unsuccessful. RS

On May 19, 1999, the City of Richmond honoured Thomas Lechow by naming a road after him. Today, Lechow Street can be found running parallel in between Bridge Street and No 4 Road. 

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