James Leslie HOWARD
Rank: Sapper
Number: 81875
Unit: 202nd Field Company ROYAL ENGINEERS
Date of Death: 9 July 1916
Age: 21
Cemetery: Peronne Road Cemetery, Maricourt, Somme, France

Edwin Howard and Eliza Howe had married at St Mary's, Stockport in the final months of 1888. They are known to have had two other sons - Joseph who was five years older than Leslie and Edmond who was three years younger. The family lived at 4 Garden Terrace, Turf Lea, Marple.

In later life, Leslie qualified as an architect, having served his articles with Messrs Bramhall & Smith, Canon Street, Manchester. These were only completed in December 1914 and he enlisted into the army the following March and was assigned to the Royal Engineers.

202nd Company was attached the Army's 90th Brigade which comprised 3 infantry battalions of "Manchester Pals" and a battalion of Royal Scots Fusiliers. The infantry had attacked on 1 July  - the first day of the Battle of the Somme (see article in the Fields of Fire section)  and, in a rare success on the battlefield that day, had captured their objectives in the village of Montaunban and held them. Over the following days, Leslie and his comrades undertook their allocated duties - constructing new trenches, "reversing" those that had been captured so the firing parapet faced towards the Germans, etc.

The infantry was due to press home the attack on 9 July and, in preparation, the Engineers were ordered to dig an assembly trench near the recently captured Bernafray Wood. Needless to say, these preparations had not gone unnoticed by the Germans and there was constant artillery shelling of the British positions. Leslie's job on this day was to act as a messenger and it was whilst taking a message that he was mortally wounded by the explosion of a shell. He was not killed outright and was carried to the rear where there was a dressing station a few hundred yards behind the front line. Unfortunately, nothing could be done to save him.

Further information about Leslie, including a photograph, can be found in the book "Remembered" by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff.

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