Leonard Thompson was born in Rugby around 1898. We have been unable to find a birth registration although six of his seven siblings were registered in Rugby. The eldest, Daisy was born in Penge, Surrey around 1891.
Leonard’s father was Charles Thompson born around 1870 in Maids Moreton, near Buckingham. His mother was Lily (nee Hughes) from Ely in Cambridgeshire. It is not known when and where they married – the 1911 census stated they had been married for 22 years. At that time the family was living at 12 Union Street, Rugby. Charles was a groom with polo ponies and Lily a shopkeeper. Three daughters worked at the Electric Lamp factory and 17 year old Charles jnr. was a groom, perhaps with his father. Leonard (13) and the rest of the children were at school; a later report said that he had attended St Matthews School.
Leonard joined up in June 1915. He was one of 25 men listed in the Rugby Advertiser of 5th of that month as having been recruited. Leonard joined the 9th Bn Rifle Brigade (No. S/12635). It is not known when he arrived in France (his medal roll index card has not been found) but would have fought in many of the battles on the western front in 1916.
At the beginning of May 1917 the Rifle Brigade was preparing to take part in the Battle of Bullecourt, the final phase of the Battle of Arras. A report found in the War Diaries gives the details:
By midnight 2/3.5.17, the Battalion were all formed up in the Assembly Trenches where tea and rum were issued.
At Zero – 10 the first wave left the front Assembly Trenches, and lined up on the tape 250 yards towards and parallel to the objective.
At Zero + 42 minutes the second wave left the front Assembly Trenches.
No report was ever received from the Coys in the first wave, communication to these Coys after daylight being impossible. Eight of these Coy runners became casualties.
The first wave evidently bore too much to the Right, and struck the new Boche trench. This was wired and held by the enemy…
The first wave, with the exception of some moppers up who found an abandoned Boche Machine Gun which they stripped, had passed on in advance of this trench by Zero + 40.
From accounts from survivors the line carried on in spite of heavy casualties from enfilade Machine Gun fire, but few, if any, ever reached the rear of HILL SIDE WORK.
All the Officers of the first wave – total 8 – appear to have become casualties very early in the day, some being wounded several times…
The second wave went over the line and kept their direction, leaving the Wiggle just to their left, then bringing up their right shoulder, thus avoiding the valley which was prohibited as a line of advance.
Owing to it then being lighter, this wave came under Machine Gun fire sooner than the first wave and also came up against Machine Gun positions which had been established after or missed in the dark by the first wave, in addition to enfilade fire from across the valley.
The second wave was finally held up just in front of SPOTTED DOG Trench which was held by the enemy, and dug in in a line of shell holes about 600 to 700 yards in front of APE Trench.
No one, with exception possibly of individuals, actually got into SPOTTED DOG…
Those (in the shell holes) were subjected to a succession of vane bombs and egg bombs, while Machine Guns prevented any movement.
Later orders were received to withdraw but contact was made with only two platoons.
On the night of 4/5.5.17 2/Lt Round who had organised and held a strong point with 12 men, sent back for more bombs. The party was recalled.
During the night of 5/6.5.17, Rf, Atkins got back from a shell-hole where he had been guarding 2 wounded men, one of whom he brought back.
The report continues with a list of “reasons for failure”. There is a carefully typed list of “Casualties by Companies” with percentages. In the first wave, “A” Coy suffered 75%, “B” 53%, “C” 73% and “D” 70%. Of the second wave, the rest of “D” Coy 48% and “B” 54%
Leonard Thompson would have been amongst these casualties. A short paragraph in the Rugby Advertiser of 16th June 1917 states that he had been missing since May 4th.
His body was never found and his name is listed on the Arras Memorial. He was aged 20.
It appears that Charles Thompson died in late 1915, aged 50. Leonard’s gratuity was paid to his mother Lily.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM
Note: The man on the Rugby Memorial Gates is listed as L Thompson. There is another man, Levy Thompson, who died on 23rd September 1917. It is not known which of them the inscription is intended to represent. We will be remembering both.