Ingram, Leonard Walter. Died 29th May 1918

Leonard Walter INGRAM was born in Rugby, and registered there in Q3, 1898.  He was christened Leonard Walter Ingram on 9 October 1898 at St. Andrew’s church, Rugby.  He was the youngest of four sons of Joseph Ingram, who was born in Rugby in early 1859, and Mary Ann, née Pike, Ingram, who was born in Crick in about 1860.

Leonard’s parents were married at Crick on 16 June 1890, but soon afterwards were living at 10 Russell Street, Rugby and then by 1891, when his father was still a groom, the couple were living at 96 Cambridge Court, Rugby.

By 1901 the family had moved to 1 East Union Street, and Leonard’s father was now working as a ‘general labourer’; there were now four boys aged between two to ten.

By 1911, Leonard was 13 and a ‘schoolboy’ and it was later reported that he attended Elborow School.[1]  The family had moved again to live at 61 Victoria Avenue, New Bilton, Rugby.  His father gave no occupation, maybe he was not well, and indeed he died in Rugby, three years later, in late 1914, aged 54.  His mother was then a ‘laundress’ at the Workhouse.  His three elder brothers were respectively: a Labourer, a Chemist’s Porter and an Errand Boy for a Fruitier.

With only the minimum details on his Medal Card and no surviving Service Record, it is difficult to reconstruct Leonard’s service history.  A later report[2] stated that by 1918, he had been in the army for three years, so it seems that he enlisted sometime in 1915, as a Private, No. 266513, in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.  His six figure service number is likely to have been issued later in the war, and he would not have been 18 and eligible for overseas service until 1916.  He did not win the 1914-1915 Star which again suggests that he did not go to France until after late 1915.   When he died he was with the 15th Battalion, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

The 15th Battalion (2nd Birmingham) Royal Warwickshire Regiment had been formed in Birmingham by the Lord Mayor and a local Committee in September 1914.  The Battalion moved to Sutton Coalfield and then in June 1915 to Wensleydale to join the 95th Brigade of the 32nd Division and later moved to Salisbury Plain.

The 15th Battalion mobilised for war and landed at Boulogne on 21 November 1915 and on 14 January 1916 transferred to the 13th Brigade in the 5th Division.  In March 1916, quite possibly still before Leonard joined up, the Division took over a section of front line near Arras, between St Laurent Blangy and the southern edge of Vimy Ridge.  When the Somme offensive opened on 1 July 1916, the 5th Division was enjoying a period of rest and re-fit and was in GHQ Reserve.  However, this restful time was not destined to last and later in July 1916 they moved some 50 miles south to reinforce the Somme.

It is unlikely that Leonard had yet received sufficient training to have been involved on the Somme, but in October 1916 the Division had left the Somme and was holding a quieter line near Festubert and this may have been when newer recruits would have joined the 15th Battalion as reinforcements.  Whilst there was a constant threat from enemy artillery and sniper fire, in comparison with the Somme it was a relatively quiet period that lasted until March 1917.

In early April 1917 the Battalion moved to Arras for the various phases of the Battles of Arras, starting with the attack on Vimy Ridge from 9-12 April 1917; and then the three Battles of the Scarpe, 9-14 April; 23-24 April 1917; and 3-4 May 1917; and the subsidiary attack on La Coulotte on 23 April 1917, and then, on 8 May 1917, the 15th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment was ordered to attack the German-held village of Fresnoy [Fresnoy-en-Gohelle], about 8 miles north-east of Arras and west of Vimy.

The Battalion also took part in the Battle of Polygon Wood in September 1917; the Battle of Broodseinde (4 October); the Battle of Poelcappelle (9 October 1917); and the Second Battle of Passchendaele (July to November 1917).

In late November to early December 1917, the Battalion moved from France to Italy to strengthen the Italian Resistance.

Some four months later, the Battalion returned to France by train between 1 and 6 April 1918.  This would have been in part in response to the German attacks of Operation Michael, although the main initial thrust would have been over by the date of their return.  The Battalion War Diary[3] details the period in April which would be referred to later by the Company Captain.

From 7 to 10 April they were in Billets and ‘cleaning up’ and training, and then marched to Sus-St-Leger and ready to move at two hours notice.  They entrained for Monicourt, arriving mid-afternoon on 11 April.

Early morning on 12 April, they detrained at Thiennes and prepared to bivouack in Bois d’ Amont just south of the Nieppe Canal, however at midday they were ordered to ‘dump kit’ and prepare to attack Merville.  They moved to Le Foret and dug in and then advanced in mid-afternoon, and at 5.15pm ‘Touch joined with enemy at Le Corbie.’  At 5.45pm they attacked the enemy in the brickfields, which were cleared and held.  7 ‘Other Ranks’ (O.R.s) were killed and 84 wounded.

From midnight to noon on 13 April there was increasingly heavy enemy shelling.  Massed enemy attacks in the mid afternoon were beaten off by Lewis gun and Machine Gun fire.  Five O.R.s were killed and 35 wounded.

On the morning of 14 April there was more heavy shelling and another enemy attack was beaten off.  Later on 14 April, the Battalion was relieved by the 2nd King’s Own Scottish Borderers.  11 O.R.s had been killed and 57 wounded.

It was in this period when Leonard ‘… did most excellent work … by taking urgent messages to the Battalion Commander, running through an absolute hell to deliver them.  This he volunteered to do when I had lost my Company runners.  His deeds were of a gallantry I shall never forget.’[4]

The Battalion War Diary[5] shows that in May the Battalion was alternating between ‘the Front’ and periods ‘In Reserve’.

At the beginning of May, the 15th Battalion was ‘In Reserve’ working on the Reserve Trenches by day and wiring on the Support Line by night.  They relieved the 14th Bn. RWR in the front line from 3 to 9 May and carried out patrols, work on trenches and salvage and were then relieved by the 12th Bn. Gloucestershire Regiment.  The Battalion received a gas bombardment as it withdrew to Arcade camp.

They then were able to have baths and clean equipment, worked on the Divisional Lines, undertook training, and had a church parade on the Sunday.  Casualties in the period had been light with only occasional men wounded.  On 16 May they relieved the 1st Cheshire Regiment ‘in support’.  Whilst ‘in support’ the Battalion provided carrying parties and working parties on the support line until 23 May, when they relieved the 2nd King’s Own Scottish Borderers in the front line.

From 24 to 27 May the situation was quiet and patrols were sent out at night.  One O.R. was killed on 27 May, and on 28 May one O.R. was killed and one wounded.

A larger raid was carried out on the night 28/29 May, when two Machine Gun posts were attacked, the garrisons killed, the machine guns put out of action, and some prisoners taken.  The raid took only 20 minutes – and there were ‘eight slight casualties’.  The Battalion was relieved by the 1st Devon Regiment on 29 May, and the total day’s casualties were nine O.R.s wounded.  The Battalion retired to billets to rest and clean up at Thiennes, which was shelled in its turn on 31 May.

Assuming that Leonard was one of the O.R.s wounded when taking part in the raid on the night of 28/29 May, his wound was not so ‘slight’ and he subsequently died.  This was confirmed in two reports in the Rugby Advertiser.
LOCAL WAR NOTES. – Mrs Ingram, 21 Victoria Avenue, New Bilton, has received news that her son, Pte L Ingram, aged 20, was wounded on May 29th, and died the same day.  He was an old Elborow School boy, and has been to the Army three years.  Second time wounded.[6]

Also, a letter, published in the Rugby Advertiser, from …
‘… the Captain of the Company to which her son Leonard, who died from wounds on May 29th, belonged. … The writer says: “He was wounded on 29th by a machine gun bullet in the right side under the ribs. … Your son was a splendid fellow, the ‘life and soul’ of my Company, and was always cheerful and full of good humour under the most trying circumstances.  He was a very gallant soldier, and in heavy fighting we had here for the first three days – April 12, 13 & 14 [see summary edited from War Diary above] – he did most excellent work for me by taking urgent messages to the Battalion Commander, running through an absolute hell to deliver them.  This he volunteered to do when I had lost my Company runners.  His deeds were of a gallantry I shall never forget.”’[7]

Leonard died on 29 May, probably having been evacuated to the 54th Casualty Clearing Station at Aire, some way behind the lines, where he was later buried in the Aire Communal Cemetery in Grave Reference: II. K. 34.

Aire is a town about 14 Kms south-south-east of St. Omer.  From March 1915 to February 1918, Aire was a busy but peaceful centre used by Commonwealth forces as corps headquarters. … The burials in plots II, III and IV (rows A to F) relate to the fighting of 1918, when the 54th Casualty Clearing Station was at Aire –  the town was, for a while, within 13 kilometres of the German lines.

Leonard was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  There is no additional family inscription on Leonard’s gravestone, but his father had died in 1914 and by the date such matters were being decided in the 1920s, his mother may have been unwell as she died, at 64, in mid-1924.

Leonard is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate, and on the New Bilton War Memorial which is located by the chapel in the Croop Hill Cemetery, Addison Road; it bears the inscription ‘In the Great War these died for England 1914-1919’.

An ‘In Memorium’ note was published soon after news of his death was received.

INGRAM.—In ever loving memory of my dearest and youngest son, Pte. LEONARD INGRAM, 15th Royal Warwickshire Regiment, who died from wounds in France on May 29th ; son of the late Joseph and Mary Ingram, 61 Victoria Avenue, New Bilton ; aged 20 years
“His sufferings here are ended, His work on earth is done;
He fought the fight with patience, And now the victory’s won.
I loved him, oh, no tongue can tell, How much we loved him and how well.
God loved him, too, and thought it best, To take him home with Him to rest.”
“Though lost from sight, to memory ever dear.”[8]

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Leonard INGRAM was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, February 2018.

 

[1]              Rugby Advertiser, 15 June 1918.

[2]              Rugby Advertiser, 15 June 1918.

[3]      WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 5th Division, The National Archives Ref: Piece 1557: 13 Infantry Brigade (1915 – 1919).

[4]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 6 July 1918.

[5]      WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 5th Division, The National Archives Ref: Piece 1557: 13 Infantry Brigade (1915 – 1919).

[6]      Rugby Advertiser, 15 June 1918.

[7]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 6 July 1918.

[8]      Rugby Advertiser, 15 June 1918.

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