Leonard DABBS
Rank: Private
Number: 4545
Unit: 1/6th Battalion CHESHIRE REGIMENT
Date of Death: 9 August 1916
Age: 20
Cemetery: Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

Leonard was the eldest son of Henry (a 30 year old warehouseman in the local hatting industry) and Sarah Dabbs. When the National Census was taken in 1901, he had two younger brothers: Henry (then 4) and Richard (5 months).

Leonard worked for a pawnbroker - a Mr W Woodhouse, in Manchester. He enlisted in September 1915, originally joining the local territorial Battalion - the 6th Cheshires. He trained with them and, in early July 1916, went overseas as part of a large draft of new recruits intended to replace casualties. However, the Cheshires had not seen major action by that time and were almost at full strength. The new troops were, instead, sent to other units and Leonard was part of a group of 87 assigned to the Royal Lancasters on 24 July.

Over the following days, Leonard would have been kept busy. The Battalion was at the southern end of the Somme battlefield undertaking the important work of carrying stores up to the front line, ready for an attack on 9 August. There were casualties - killed and injured - on a daily basis, mostly from shellfire. During the night of 8/9 August, they moved into the rear trenches ready to support an attack on the village of Guillemont.

The Regimental History records "On it's way up to the trenches (they) encountered  a phosphorus shell which in flight looked like a red ball of fire with a tail of a comet.....As luck would have it, it ignited a dump of Very lights and the subsequent conflagration lighted up the Battalion to enemy shelling." There were a number of fatal casualties and it is probable that this is when Leonard was killed. He was ten days short of his 21st birthday.

His officer later wrote to his parents "He was close beside his platoon officer at the time and was struck by a fragment of shell which pierced the brain and killed him instantly, so he could have suffered little pain. He was a good lad and liked by officers and men and we shall miss him."

Sergeant H Gorst, of the Lancasters, also wrote that just after Leonard had been killed, a food parcel arrived for him from his parents. He had shared it out amongst the Cheshire lads attacked to his platoon.

There remains something of a mystery about Leonard's death, and that of a Joseph Etchells who was also killed on 9 August and whose unit is recorded as being 1/6th Cheshires. Neither of them has a known grave and both are commemorated on a Memorial to the Missing. However, both are recorded on the Memorial at Loos many miles to the north. The men officially linked to the Lancasters are, correctly, commemorated on the main Memorial for the Somme at nearby Thiepval.

Leonard had been killed so quickly after joining the Lancasters that the paperwork never caught up. As such, he remains, officially, a soldier of the Cheshire Regiment.

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