Arthur LEIGH
Rank: Private
Number: G/11779
Unit: 2nd Battalion ROYAL FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 1 July 1916
Age: 24
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

Arthur was born in Camberwell, London, the son of John and Fanny. The couple originated from Stockport and had married at St Mary's Church in 1890. It was probably John's work as a gold printer that took them to London. However, within a couple of years, the family had returned north and Elsie was born In Stockport in about 1894. Nothing else is known of Arthur's life, except that for many years the family lived at 45 Grimshaw Street.

The first day of the Battle of the Somme would prove to be the costliest in terms of casualties in the history of the British Army and Arthur would be one of over 19,000 killed in the attack.

"Zero hour" for the attack was scheduled for 7.30am and the men were in position ready to "go over the top" by 5.15. Their objective was the village of Beaumont Hamel on the other side of No Man's Land. The start of the attack would be signalled by the explosion of 17 large mines under the German trenches. However, for reasons never fully explained, the mine in the Fusiliers' sector was exploded 10 minutes early (giving vital warning to the Germans of the impending assault). Two platoons of "D" Company rushed forward to occupy the large crater but were met with heavy artillery and machine gun fire. They could only occupy the near lip as the Germans were already in position on the far side.

At 7.30, the rest of the Battalion moved to the attack but, like the units on either side of them, came under intense machine gun fire from the German trenches. Only a handful were able to press on further than the crater and these were soon killed. The remainder took what refuge they could find in the crater and other shell holes. By midday, it was clear the attack had failed and the Battalion was forced to give up further attempts to press forward. They made their way back to their own trenches as best they could. 490 men, more than half the Battalion strength, had become casualties - dead, wounded or missing. Arthur's body was never found and identified.

   
           
   
     
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