Leonard lived all his short life in Marple until he enlisted into the army.
In 1901, when a national census was taken, the Baxter family was living at Chadwick Street, which was the home of Sarah Goodwin. She was the aunt of one of Leonard’s parents. They were Charles (a 36 year old cotton weaver) and Mary (38). Leonard was the youngest of their four children, aged 3. His older siblings were Ada (13), William (11) and Holden (5).
In May 1916, the Borderers were in a position known as the “Kink”, near “Hill 70” and the village of Mazingarbe. The area had been captured after hard fighting the previous September at the Battle of Loos, in which Leonard may have seen his first major attack.
In the early morning of the 11 May, the enemy opened up a heavy bombardment of the front line trenches. This continued all day, playing backwards and forwards between the front and support trench sytems. At 6pm, the barrage became extremely heavy and was followed by a localised attack by German infantry. One shell directly hit Battalion HQ, killing or injuring everyone in the dug-out. The Borderers tried to counter-attack but were unsuccessful and had to completely withdraw from the “Kink”, leaving it in enemy hands which they then incorporated into their front line.
22 men were killed during the day, including Leonard and Norman Sidebottom. Both men were originally posted as “missing” and it was not until March 1917 that Norman was confirmed to be dead. Unlike many men posted as missing, their bodies must have been discovered. Perhaps they were buried in the HQ dug-out and were only found, months later, when troops were digging new trenches. The Cemetery in which Leonard & Norman are buried contained only a few graves until after the Armistice. It is likely, therefore, that they were originally buried elsewhere and were re-interred as the small frontline burial areas were returned to civilian use.
Both of Leonard’s brothers would serve in the War. Holden was invalided out after service with the Cheshire Regiment. Further bad news would come to the Austin household in 1917, when a telegram would be delivered saying that William had been killed on 22 October, also whilst with the Cheshires.
After the War, when the War Graves Commission was collating its casualty information, Mr & Mrs Baxter were living at 55 Church Lane, Marple.