Ernest Leopold HIBBERT
Rank: Private
Number: 267503
Unit: 16th Battalion ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 19 September 1917
Age: 38
Cemetery: Erquinghem-Lys Churchyard Extension, Nord, France

Leopold Hibbert was born in the Bradford area of Manchester and lived there until shortly before the Great War. His parents were James and Ruth and he was probably their only child. The family home was at 81 Victoria Street. James was a hairdresser and, after leaving school, Leopold followed in his footsteps. On 1 January 1901, he married May Sutton at Christ Church, Bradford. They went to live with his parents but, by the time of the War, had moved to 6 Tyrell Road, North Reddish and had two sons - Ernest born in 1903 and Roland in 1910

On 10 December 1915, he enlisted into the army at Stockport and was assigned to the 2/6th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers. His service papers still exist at the National Archives and these show him to have been 5' 5" tall - about average height for those days. The medical examination found him generally fit but missing a few teeth. His services were not immediately needed and he was posted to the Reserve - returning to Stockport but ready to be called up later. He was finally mobilised for training on 15 August 1916.

Just before going overseas at the beginning of August 1917, Leopold was given a short leave to return home but overstayed his trip. He was fined two days pay and confined to barracks for a week. Seven weeks later, he would be dead. Just after his arrival in France, he was posted to the 16thBbattalion and joined it on the 17 August as part of a draft of reinforcements.

After a period in reserve, the Battalion moved back to the front line on 17 September 1917, taking over trenches in the Bois Grenier sector. The next day is recorded as being quiet but, on the morning of the 19th, British artillery started to fire in front of the German trenches with the intent of destroying the barbed wire. Retaliation was swift and the Fusiliers were shelled by enemy trench mortars and heavy artillery. Eleven men were killed (and another four died shortly after from their wounds). An officer later wrote to May, saying Leopold had been killed instantly by shrapnel from one of the explosions.

In the late spring of 1918, May remarried becoming the wife of Herbert Hardaker. The ceremony was in Coventry and the couple went to live there at "Holmdene", Durbar Avenue. In the spring of 1922, May received notification that Leopold's body was to be moved from its original front line burial place to Erquinghem-Lys. She wrote back asking for information about how she should "make an application for expenses towards helping myself and his sons to visit the grave, everything has been very bad with us for a long time, the eldest boy being out of work 3 months, otherwise had things been more prosperous with us we should have paid a visit before this." She was advised to contact the YMCA which was arranging tours.

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