Leonard LONG
Rank: Private
Number: 5153
Date of Death: 20 November 1916
Age: 26
Cemetery: Hermies Hill British Cemetery, Hermies, Pas de Calais, France

Leonard was one of the four Long brothers who fought in the War. Only Walter would come home. When news came of Leonard’s death, his family would still be grieving for George, killed two months before. Their older brother, Joseph, would die in May 1917.

Joseph and Emma Long originated from Hanley in Staffordshire where Joseph had earned his living selling mineral water. Their first five children were born there – Leonard in about 1890. Shortly after this, they moved to Heaton Norris where Walter and George were born. When the Census was taken in 1901, they had moved back to Hanley and were living at 6 Wellington Terrace. A later move brought them back to Stockport where the family home became 21 Gradwell Street.

Leonard enlisted into the army at Salford and was, probably, working in the area at the time. He was assigned to the Northumberland Fusiliers as one of a draft of replacement troops for the 5th (Territorial) Battalion.

On 13 November, Leonard and his mates moved to assembly trenches near the Somme village of Flers, ready for an attack at 6.45am, the next day. The 7th Battalion of the Fusiliers would be on their left with Australian troops to their right. Their objective was the strongly held Gird Trench on the other side of No Man’s Land. It would have been a difficult enough challenge had the weather conditions been favourable, but it had rained heavily for most of October and November. No Man’s Land was a sea of mud.

The attack, when it came, was a disaster. Men became stuck in the mud and had to take shelter in shell holes before moving on for a few more yards. All the while, the area was raked by German machine gun fire. The Fusiliers were easy targets. At 8am, reports arrived back at Battalion HQ in the British trench that “D” Company had reached Gird Trench but had suffered many casualties from the machine gun fire and, also, from British shells falling short. There was no news of “B” Company. 45 minutes later, news came that “C” Company, forming the second wave, had also reached the enemy trench but all its officers had become casualties. It was not until around 11am that news came that “A” Company, also in the second wave, had reached its objective.

The Germans now shelled the captured trenches and attempted several counter-attacks. These appear to have eventually been successful and they regained their ground. Leonard was originally posted as being missing after the action but news eventually came that he had been badly wounded and had to be left behind. He was taken prisoner but died a few days later.

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