1914 - 2023

The Marston Lads

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Leonard White

Killed in Action
4th September 1918

Aged 23

1st/4th Battalion
The Cheshire Regiment

1 Wincham Lane

Leonard White was the son of Henry David and Annie White. Leonard was one of six children, but sadly by 1911, one child had died. Leonard was working at the nearby 'Alkali Chemical' plant.

Henry White was born in Plymouth and Annie was from Shropshire. Around 1880 they were living in Manchester before moving to Wincham around 1889.  Henry White worked on the railways and passed away in July 1916 aged 67 years.
Leonard White attested at Northwich at the outbreak of war on the 17th August 1914 for The Cheshire Regiment at the age of 19. He was posted to the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) on the 19th August 1914. The BEF was sent to France to stop the advancing German Army with the main battle occurring at the city of Mons, Belgium.

Leonard also saw action in Belgium during the First Battle of Ypres. We need to remember both these battles were both brutal and bloody. A number of Leonard's friends had been killed there.

The Cheshire Regiment at Mons.

Leonard was clearly an excellent soldier, but like many, also liked a good time. By January 1915 he was back in England. On the 21st January 1915, he was caught in Swindon Town centre 'without a pass' and clearly not happy when caught and charged with 'Improper Conduct', so he added 'Using Obscene Language' to his charge sheet. He was fined 8 days of pay.

Leonard clearly liked a drink, and on the 9th May 1915, Leonard was waiting punishment for a case of drunkenness when again found to be drunk for a second time. He was just given a slap on the wrists and asked to behave.

In July 1915, Leonard travelled from Devonport to Gallipoli where he landed on the 9 August 1915. On the 12th December and with Christmas fast approaching, he was found drunk again and this time fined four days pay. And on the 1st February 1916, Leonard was once again fined 7 days pay, this time for misconduct.

We should not be too quick to judge Leonard's behaviour and just see him as 'going off the rails'. Given the battles Leonard had been involved in, we would today see his behaviour as a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It wasn't even seen as a medical condition in 1916. In 1914 he was just 19 years old, seen and experienced horrors no young developing mind should witness, no councillors to talk too except advice that would be similar too 'just get on with it'.

Up to the First Battle of Ypres, Leonard was a model soldier. As the author of this website, it was tempting to omit  Leonard's conduct sheet, but rather than attempting to erase history, I would rightly try and explain it.

'Booze' in the First World War'
'Had it not been for the rum ration, I do not think we should have won the war'. Before the men went over the top they had a good meal and a double ration of rum and coffee.”
Lt Colonel J.S.Y. Rogers

After the First World War, Lt Colonel J.S.Y. Rogers, the Medical Officer of Scotland's Fourth Black Watch told a hearing on shell shock; 'Had it not been for the rum ration, I do not think we should have won the war'. Before the men went over the top they had a good meal and a double ration of rum and coffee.”

British army officers wrongly believed WW1 troops fought better if they were drunk in battle.

Senior commanders encouraged drinking among soldiers as they were following medical advice that claimed alcohol made them more effective fighters.

Health experts believed that rum would “warm and dry out chilled troops” who were suffering from dysentery caught in the trenches.

But troops were unhappy with their “rum rations” of 1/16th pint per day and wanted the “more generous” levels given to soldiers who fought in the army from the early 18th century.

Many colonels agreed that the recommended level was too low and would give nervous fighters extra helpings to improve their confidence before infiltrating enemy lines. British troops were also known to have drunken wine in preparation for battles in France and beer was regularly consumed between conflicts.

'The Gallipoli Campaign'

The Gallipoli campaign, also known as the Dardanelles campaign, the Battle of Gallipoli or the Battle of Çanakkale (Turkish: Çanakkale Savaşı), was a military campaign in the First World War that took place on the Gallipoli peninsula (Gelibolu in modern Turkey), from 17 February 1915 until the 9 January 1916. The Entente powers, Britain, France and Russia, sought to weaken the Ottoman Empire, one of the Central Powers, by taking control of the straits that provided a supply route to the Russian Empire.

On the  22nd September 1915, Leonard was admitted to Hospital suffering from severe vomiting. And again admitted to Hospital on the 13th October 1915 with Malaria.
'Wounded in Iraq'

On the 28th February 1916, Leonard arrived in Basra, Iraq and part of the continuing Mesopotamian campaign. On the 5th April 1916, Leonard was shot and wounded in the left breast. After receiving treatment for his wounds, Leonard left for England on the 23rd May 1916.

On the 4th June 1916, Leonard rejoined his battalion but he still wasn't fit for full active service. Leonards father passed away in the July of 1916. A decision was made to transfer Leonard to ICI Lostock Gralam to work in the Munitions Factory that had been built, and on the 26th December 1916, that was made official. The War Office did however keep Leonard as a 'Reserve'.

This new employment didn't last long, and on the 29th January 1917 he was asked to attend a Medical Board. The Medical Board certified Leonard fit for active duty and sent back to France.
'Wounded for a second time'

In 1918, Leonard was in France and involved with the defence of Northern France and the German Spring Offensive. He was wounded again on the 2nd April 1918 and transferred to Oswestry Hospital for treatment.

On the 17th July 1918, Leonard was again back in France, and in August 1918 Leonard moved to Belgium.
'Fifth Battle of Ypres 1918'
The Fifth Battle of Ypres, also called the Advance of Flanders and the Battle of the Peaks of Flanders.

After the German Spring Offensive of 1918 failed to achieve a decisive victory, German morale waned and the increasing numbers of American soldiers arriving on the Western Front gave the Allies a growing numerical advantage over the western armies of the German Empire. To take advantage of this Marshal of France Ferdinand Foch developed a strategy which became known as the Grand Offensive, in which attacks were made on the German lines over as wide a front as possible. Belgian, British and French forces around the Ypres Salient were to form the northern pincer of an offensive towards the Belgian city of Liège.

'The real beginning of the end'

At the start of September 1918, the end of the First World War was just nine weeks away. Germany was now in full retreat and to ensure final victory, the Allies pressed ahead with their numerical advantage.

For Leonard White, a veteran from the start of the war, wounded twice, hospitalised twice with illness, fought in France, Belgium, Iraq and Turkey, he must have felt he was close to finally going home for good, and he was still only 23 years of age.

On the 4th September 1918, Leonard White was seen to be killed in action. However, his body was never recovered and given a rightful funeral. Leonard is remembered with honour at Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing.

Leonard White became the last Marston Lad to be killed in action in the First World War.

Leonard was never married.

Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and Memorial
Tony Hayes