7522 PTE. C. E. LEIGH. A.I.F.  

 

Charles Edward Leigh is not on the Hope Terrace Memorial but he is listed on St Gerard’s War Memorial. In fact, he fought in the Australian Infantry.  How did that come about?  Charles’s father, also Charles Edward b. 1873, was a family butcher, originally from Avenham Lane in Preston, his mother was Emma Isabel Walmsley b. 1874 also from Preston.  The family moved to Tardy Gate in about 1903, living at Lupton Terrace on Leyland Road.  Charles and Emma had 12 children of whom 11 survived infancy: Margaret b. 1895, Ellen b. 1896, then came Charles Edward b. 1899, then Dorothy b. 1901, twins Bernard and Emma b. 1903, Norah b. 1904, Mary b. 1906, Gertrude b. 1908, Gerard b. 1909 and finally Benedict b. 1911.

 

The family emigrated to Australia in 1911, but in two stages: Charles Edward, both father and son, left aboard the S.S. Themistocles on her maiden voyage to Brisbane in February 1911, arriving and disembarking in Melbourne about 6 weeks later.  The rest of the family (Emma and her remaining 11 children, aged between 16 yrs and 3 months) left in May aboard a much older ship, the Moravian, arriving in Melbourne on 25 June 1911.  Under the assisted passage scheme, 1906-1913 was a boom period for emigration to Australia, but it would still have been an enormous financial as well as logistical challenge to move the entire family to Melbourne (where they eventually settled).  In 1914, the ships which had previously transported emigrants were taken over by the British government and used as troop ships to take soldiers back to the War in Europe.

 

Charles Edward enlisted with the 14th Battalion Australian Infantry (Australian Imperial Force).

 

January 1918 sees 14 Battalion AIF still in the Somme area, but on 11th they are moved to Meteren south west of Ypres. At the beginning of February at Zonnebeke the Battalion strength is 51 officers and 762 other ranks. In mid April they move to close reserve at Sailly-aux-Bois. The War Diarist records: “April 25th was a fine day. Under canvas in this beautiful forest (Forêt/Bois de Mai, near Amiens/Allonville). ANZAC Day was celebrated in the time-honoured way - a bottle of beer per man”. They see little action during the month.

 

1 May they are at Villers-Brettonneux, south of the Somme. Desultory fighting, some gas attacks on 14-15 May.  Then rather out of the blue the worst incident of the month occurs, in fact the War Diarist calls it "the greatest misfortune in the Battalion's career". “31 May at about 1.15am, the enemy shelled Allonville and one shell landed right in the large barn occupied by "A" company, cutting it in halves. 13 other ranks killed; 56 wounded. Another shell landed in barn occupied by "C" company and Headquarters, causing 17 casualties. The behaviour of the men was splendid magnificent, as men were buried in the debris and had to be dug out and some of the wounds (the majority) were awful. The Battalion should have moved off at 6am but owing to this accident did not move until 10am.” Casualties at Allonville: killed 18 other ranks; wounded 68 other ranks. Sick to hospital 17 other ranks.

 

From here 14 Battalion moved on to relieve 54 Battalion in the trenches....

 

Charles Edward Leigh died in this tragic shell attack on 31 May 1918.  He was just 20 years old.  He is buried at Longueau British Cemetery.

 

Rank:  Private

Service No:  7522

Date of Death:  31/05/1918

Age:  20

Regiment/Service:  Australian Infantry, A.I.F., 14th Bn.

Grave Reference:  I. E. 12.

Cemetery:  LONGUEAU BRITISH CEMETERY

Additional Information:  Son of Charles Edward and Emma Isobel Leigh, of Beach Road, Mordialloc, Victoria, Australia.

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