200570 Sgt Leonard LAWLESS DCM 1/4th York Lancaster Regiment
Leonard was born in Sheffield in 1893.
His parents were Thomas and Emily.
Thomas was a Steel Wiredrawer who had been born in Warrington, Lancashire in 1848.
Emily was born Emily Otley in Sheffield in 1852. Her parents were Joseph and Amelia.
Thomas and Emily married in Sheffield in the first quarter of 1871.
In 1881 the family were living at 176 Clifton Street, Sheffield.
In addition to Thomas and Emily there were sons, Arthur born in 1875 and Fred or Frederick born in 1879.
By 1891 the family had expanded and also moved home.
They were now living at 6 Houghton Street.
In addition to Arthur and Fred there was Robert, born in 1882, Eleanor born in 1885 and Albert born in 1888.
They were still at the same address in 1901 but by now some of the sons had moved out.
Staying with their parents were Fred, now aged 22, Eleanor who was 16 and Albert 13.
Leonard, the youngest and last born was aged 8.
By 1911 the family had reduced even further and now only Leonard was living at home with his parents. The new home was at 6 Thistle Street which ran from Verdon Street almost to Spital Hill. It does not exist today. Leonard was described as an ‘Armour Plate Planer’ aged 18.
At some stage, Leonard enlisted into the Army being designated as Private later Sergeant 200570 and was posted to the 1st/4th Battalion of the York and Lancaster regiment – The ‘Hallamshire’s’.
On the 9th of October 1917, Leonard was heavily involved in one of the most intense battles his battalion fought in.
After a tiring march of over eleven hours in rain and through heavy mud, the battalion reached their front line trenches at about 4.00am. Such was the tired state of the men that it was difficult to rouse some of them at zero hour.
As the battalion advanced they found the Ravenbeck stream to be a serious obstacle being in places, waist deep. Only some 50 men of C Company managed to cross the stream the remainder having to advance on the left bank. B Company in the rear of C were to take the second objective but came under very heavy machine gun fire and were unable to reach the stream. On the left though the machine gun fire was not so heavy and A and D companies were able to cross the stream by the Gravenstafel road before deploying on the far side.
A Company reached it’s objective and dug in – D Company were then supposed to pass through A Company but were held up by more machine gun fire and could not proceed.
Meanwhile the party of C Company who had managed to cross the stream were reduced by machine gun fire to about 10 strong aided by a few other stragglers. This line was eventually reinforced by men from the 4th King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry who had been sent up in support.
At about 5.00pm about 200 of the enemy were seen to be forming up for an attack but due to rifle and machine gun fire, the threatened attack failed to materialise.
The Battalion was eventually relieved early on the morning of the 10th of October.
The Battalion suffered high casualties in this attack : 4 Officers and 42 other ranks being killed; 5 Officers and 199 other ranks being wounded and 1 Officer and 48 other ranks being reported as ‘Missing’.
It was for gallantry during this action that Leonard was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The citation reads :
‘ For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He led his platoon with great courage and determination in an attack. While our barrage was still on the objective he dashed forward into the enemy’s trench and silenced a machine gun, which was giving trouble.’
The award appeared in the London Gazette dated 4th March 1918.
It was also reported in the Sheffield Independent Newspaper dated the 3rd of April 1918.
Leonard appears to have survived the war unscathed and in 1923 he married Emily Rodgers (born in Sheffield in 1890) and, as far as I have been able to establish, they had two sons, apparently twins – Ronald and John, both born in the first quarter of 1931.
Leonard died in Sheffield in March 1961.
His parents, Thomas and Emily had died, Thomas in 1923 and Emily in 1933. They are both interred in Burngreve Cemetery, Grave 40, Section Z2.