Fred LEAH
Rank: Private
Number: 40016
Unit: 6th Battalion SOUTH WALES BORDERERS
Date of Death: (officially recorded as ) 9 April 1918
Age: 29 (approx)
Cemetery: Ploegsteert Memorial, Comines-Warneton, France

John and Mary Leah had married in Stockport and lived in town for the first years of their marriage. Their first three children were born there. In about 1888, they moved to Bramhall, possibly in connection with John's work as a railway signalman. Fred was born the next year and there would be another five children born over the coming years. For many years the family home was at Kitts Moss Lane.

When War came, Fred was not the only Leah to join the army. Four of his brothers also enlisted - Walter into the Field Artillery, Joseph into the Army Service Corps and Charles and Albert into the Cheshire Regiment. Fred originally joined the King's Shropshire Light Infantry and went overseas on active service with them. It's not known when or under what circumstances he transferred to the Borderers. It may be that he was wounded and when fit enough to return, they were in greater need of replacements. It may be that his unit was one of those disbanded in France at the beginning of 1918 with the men being dispersed to other regiments.

Although Fred's date of death is recorded by the War Graves Commission as 9 April, an examination of the Battalion's War Diary at the National Archives shows he was posted as being "missing" from the 10th.

The Diary also confirms that they were not in action on the 9th. In the early morning of that day, the German artillery opened a ferocious barrage of the British trenches. It heralded the second phase of their spring offensive and, within a few hours, overwhelming numbers of German infantry had forced the British front line into retreat. Fred and his mates were the reserve area at this time but were ordered to leave their scattered billets and concentrate at Canteen Corner Camp, near Neuve Eglise, ready to go forward into the battle.

By 10pm, they had taken up a defensive position along the Lys-Vanne line with 3 Company, Royal Engineers who had been thrown into the line to fight as infantry. The Diary confirms that there was no sign of the enemy overnight and all was quiet.

At 7am on the 10th, news came that the Germans had broken through the new British front line. The Borderers were ordered to go forward to counter-attack between Lys Farm and Reserve Avenue. "C" Company rushed forward to find that the troops on the spot had already restored the situation.

At 10am, the other three companies received orders to withdraw to Gravier and they did this under very heavy shellfire. "C" Company, still in an advanced position at Le Bizet, did not receive  the order and remained with other forward troops until later in the day. About noon, the battalion was again able to attack and, later in the day, "C" Company rejoined the others and they dug-in for the night. Fred's body was never found and identified.

   
           
   
     
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