The son of a Northamptonshire farmer, Alfred Leete was born at Thorpe Achurch in Northamptonshire and educated at Weston-super-Mare Grammar School. He was a self-taught artist, began work in a surveyor’s office in Bristol, then worked as a draughtsman at a furniture company and also as a lithographer. He had his first cartoon published in The Graphic in 1898 when he was just 16 and, after moving to London in 1905, had his work accepted by Punch.
He worked for several other magazines including The Strand, illustrating short stories by P. G. Wodehouse, and London Opinion for whom he created the “Schmidt the Spy” character, a humorous anti-German character. He also famously drew a cover for London Opinion’s 5 September 1914 issue featuring Lord Kitchener, which would be adapted to become the iconic “Your Country Needs You” recruitment poster. During this time, Leete also produced a number of cartoons for The Sketch, The Tatler and particularly The Bystander, including several covers.