Leonard GRIFFITHS
Rank: Corporal
Number: S/25591
Unit: 1/6th Battalion SEAFORTH HIGHLANDERS
Date of Death: 23 July 1918
Age: 20
Cemetery: Soissons Memorial, Aisne, France

In the late spring of 1889, Moses Griffiths married Hannah Adshead at St Mary's Church, Reddish. By 1901, the family was living at 17 Station Street, Stockport (and later at 4 Davenport Road, Hazel Grove). They now had four children - Sarah (8), Gerald (6), Leonard (3) and Frank (11 months).

Leonard is thought to have enlisted into the army, at Chester in 1916. He was assigned to a Training Reserve Battalion (service number TR/1/4512). The Training Reserve was only established on 1 September, so he must have joined after that date and will, therefore , have been conscripted, no doubt when he became 18.

After training, he was posted to the Seaforth Highlanders (service number S/13904), but it is not known to which Battalion. At some point, probably after being wounded or otherwise away from the Battalion for a considerable period, he was given a new service number (S/25591).

In early July 1918, Allied troops launched an attack which the German Commander in Chief later described as "the black day for the German Army". Although there would be three months hard fighting before the war ended on 11 November, there would be no more defeats for the British.

Leonard and his comrades were near Reims in the Champagne region of France. Orders were given for the Highlanders to take part in further attacks in the Ardre Valley. The Battalion's War Diary for the following days is surprisingly sketchy in its detail and there are no daily tallies of casualties. Leonard's record with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission only gives a date of death as "between 20th and 26th July". Regimental records published after the War (and now available as the CD-ROM "Soldiers Died in the Great War") have it as the 23rd, which seems to be the most likely.

On the 20th, British and French troops advanced at 4am. They quickly came under heavy machine gun fire which checked the advance. No real progress was made for the rest of the day. The stalemate continued for the next two days.

On the 23rd, the troops were, once again, organised for the attack. A covering barrage was to be provided by French as well as British artillery. The plan was that the barrage would fall 150 yards in front of the infantry's assembly position and then roll forward 100 yards every 5 minutes. However, when the barrage opened, there had been miscalculations of the range and a good number of shells fell on the assembling troops. In spite of this, the men advanced at zero hour. The Seaforths' objective was the Bois d'Aulnay which they captured with little resistance and by 8.30am, they had reached the edge of the wood. They dug-in and formed a defensive flank to protect themselves from the Germans still in the nearby village of Espily. There was little further action in this sector until the 28th, when another advance took place which was virtually unopposed by the Germans.

Leonard's body was never recovered and identified and he is commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing at Soissons.

Further information about Leonard can be found in the book "Hazel Grove to Armageddon" by John Eaton.

   
           
   
     
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