Leonard Bradshaw appears to have had an unremarkable War but was killed in one of the most famous incidents of the Irish War of Independence.
There is some doubt about his age. The family history website, FreeBMD, shows the birth of a boy of this name, in Lancaster, in 1898 and certain of his records with the Constabulary show his date of birth as 18 July 1898. The burial records for Willow Grove also show him as being 22. However, in his army service file are papers which he completed giving a date of birth of 19 July 1895. He had lied about his age to join up.
Leonard's parents, Ernest and Edith, were living at 56 Greaves in Lancaster when the 1901 census was taken. They had three sons - John (then 5), Leonard (2) and Frank (1). Not long after this, Ernest got a job at the Guardian Printing Works in Reddish and the family moved to live at 177 Reddish Road. Their stay in the Stockport area was relatively short as the family emigrated to America and Leonard is known to have been at school there between 1911 and 1913
However, by 1914, he had returned to England and was living at Greg Street, Reddish. On 10 August, he enlisted into the army giving his age as just over 17. He was assigned to the Cheshire Regiment and was given the service number of 10172. He must have intended that, by the time he had finished his training, he would have been 18 and eligible to serve overseas. However, three months later his true age was discovered form his birth certificate and he was discharged.
It would seem that he made another attempt on 13 March to join up at the recruiting office in Stoney Lane, in Birmingham. He again lied about his age, giving it as 19 and, this time, he was accepted. He was just over 5' 6" tall and weighed 133 pounds. The examining doctor noted that he had a tendency to flat feet. Leonard had given his religious denomination as Church or England.
Leonard had given his occupation as printer and, as a referee, had named Mark Smith, manager of Taylor, Garnett and Evans Ltd - a Stockport printing company at Greg Street, Reddish. It's not known if Leonard had worked for the company at some point or if Smith was an old family friend.
He was assigned to the 308th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery and given 835977 as his service number and went overseas on 21 May 1916. On 4 September, he received a shrapnel wound to the chest and was hospitalised for about 5 weeks before making a full recovery and returning to his unit. On 1 April 1917, Leonard applied to become an officer. At the time he was attached to the 61st Heavy Trench Mortar Battery of the Artillery.
He became a 2nd Lieutenant and was later promoted to Lieutenant but it is not known to which unit he was assigned at this time. On 21 March 1918, the Germans launched a massive attack on the British lines. During the day, Leonard was gassed and he was evacuated home. He was discharged as fit on 30 July 1918 but as he was still debilitated he was sent on three weeks leave before returning to his unit. His army service ended when he was demobilised on 11 April 1919. Leonard then returned to America taking up brief residence at Wood Ridge, New Jersey, where he seems to have tried to earn a living as a motor engineer.
The Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary was formed as a paramilitary organisation, similar to the more famous (or infamous) "Black and Tans" in 1920, as the insurgency towards Irish independence gathered pace. They were all ex-officers who had served in the War and were originally intended to become the officer class to the "Tans" but quickly became an independent force. The cadets, as they were known, were formed into companies which operated in rural areas as a mobile strike force. Leonard returned from America and joined the cadets on 18 August.
The events at Kilmichael in Cork are well documented elsewhere. The week before, members of the Auxiliaries had opened fire on civilians at a football match in Dublin, killing 14 and a revenge attack was planned by the Irish Republican Army. The local commander in Cork assembled a flying column of 36 riflemen and positioned them near Kilmichael on either side of a road regularly used by the cadets when they went out to patrol the countryside.
The commander stood in the middle of the road forcing the cadets' lorry to slow down. The IRA men opened fire with rifles and a grenade was thrown before hand to hand fighting took place. All nine Auxiliaries were killed. While the fight was still going on, a second lorry appeared which also came under fire.
It is here where there is controversy. It is claimed that the Auxiliaries in the second lorry shouted to surrender but when the IRA moved to take them prisoner they opened fire again. At this point, no mercy was shown to them. The other version of events is that they simply surrendered and were then killed whilst prisoners.
What is not in doubt is that the men in the second lorry were also killed. It is not known in which lorry Leonard was travelling. The men's bodies were returned to England amidst much publicity and national outrage. It is understood that his parents and younger brother, Frank, had also returned from the USA. Ernest and Frank had gone on to India and Mrs Bradshaw had gone to live at 34 Larkhill Terrace, Blackburn, thought to be the home of her sister. She went to Ireland as soon as she heard the news about Leonard and, no doubt, accompanied his body on its return to Stockport on 3 December. It is not known why she chose to have Leonard buried in Stockport - perhaps it was that, although brief, the family's stay here had been longer than elsewhere.
Leonard's funeral service was the next day at St Mary's Church, Reddish. The Stockport Advertiser reported that hundreds of residents lined the route from the church to the Cemetery and that Leonard had been well known and held in high respect in the neighbourhood. The coffin was carried on a guncarriage pulled by a team of grey horses from 503rd Battery, Royal Field Artillery, from Fullwood Barracks in Preston. It was accompanied by a detachment from the Cheshire Regiment carrying reversed rifles. 50 members of the Stockport Branch of the Comrades of the Great War also marched in the procession.
There was a large group of people waiting at Willow Grove and the police were needed to act as marshals. The service was conducted by the Rev. Adams and concluded with the singing of "Abide with Me". Captain Robinson the saluted the grave and fired three shots from his revolver. This was followed by three volleys fired by the detachment of Cheshires. "The soldiers then got the order to "Fix bayonets", "Present arms" and then in a beautiful manner, the buglers sounded the Last Post." His mother is the only relative identified amongst the mourners but as there was also a floral tribute from his aunt, she was presumably there as well.
Leonard is buried in grave reference P10176. If ever a headstone was erected, it has long since disappeared. The Bradshaws are believed to have returned to the USA where Mr Bradshaw became a noted artist in Springfield, Ohio.