Leonard LEE
Rank: Private
Number: R/850 (as recorded by War Graves Commision, but actually 11850)
Unit: 13th Battalion Cheshire Regiment
Date of Death: 14 November 1917
Age: 20
Cemetery: Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

Leonard is one of three brothers commemorated on the Cheadle memorial. Nothing is recorded about his life pre-war, but you can read more about the family by going to the page for Edward Lee.

Leonard enlisted in the Cheshires at Stockport. His service number suggests he was a very early volunteer, probably enlisting in the early autumn of 1914. He would have only been 17 and must have lied about his age to enlist.

On 14 November 1917, the Cheshires were in trenches near Cambrin - a small village, approximately 7 kilometres north west of the town of Loos.  Leonard was one of a small group of soldiers from the Battalion's No. 4 Company to undertake a raid on the enemy trenches.

Such raids were commonplace in the stagnation of trench warfare, They were designed, partly, to keep the men motivated and aggressive and, also, to disrupt the enemy's routine and morale. They could also be the source of valuable intelligence.

At 6.10am, 26 men left the cover of their trenches and made their way across No Man's Land. Here they split into two groups. The first group, commanded by an officer entered a section of the enemy trench but found no Germans. A little way along the front line, Leonard, in the second group commanded by an NCO, came across enemy soldiers. The Germans immediately started to throw grenades. The party had to quickly retreat. Leonard and another soldier, believed to be a Charles Baker, were hit by the grenades and had to be left in the enemy trench.

By 6.20, the raiding party was back in safety of their own trench. Six men had been wounded and it was believed that Leonard and the other soldier were also only wounded. Three search parties were then sent out. These made it to the enemy trench but there was no sign of Leonard or Charles Baker, although they did find the bodies of two Germans. It seemed as though the two privates had accounted for the Germans and crawled back into No Man's Land. At 7.30am, about 14 German soldiers were seen crawling over their parapet into No Man's Land, presumably going out to search for Leonard. The British sentries fired a Lewis gun on them and they took cover in a shell hole.

During the evening, a patrol from No. 2 Company went into the enemy trench to try to take prisoners to get information about the missing Cheshires. They found no signs of the enemy, the two British soldiers or the two dead Germans encountered earlier. Other patrols went out into No Man's Land, but could find no trace of Leonard or Charles.

Neither Leonard nor Charles was ever found and they are commemorated on the Loos Memorial to the Missing.

(NB: Original research by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website.)

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