Private John Leach

A white circle with a glove crossing it's fingers and the words: Made Possible with Heritage Fund.This man is a candidate for addition to Keighley's Supplementary Volume under the proposal to add further names in 2024, the centenary of the original roll of honour.
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Supported by the National Lottery's Heritage Fund, our project intends to submit about 120 names for peer review to add them to the book which is kept at Keighley Library. The unveiling of the book with it's new names is planned for November 2024, 100 years after the unveiling of the original war memorial.

Private. 2nd Bn. Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment) Service Number: 11268

Early life:

John was born in Keighley in 1891. His birth was registered in Keighley in the second quarter of the year.
His parents were Michael Leach and Mary Leach née Burke.
He may be the John Leach aged seven months in the 1891 census living or staying at 4, Rosemary Place at Walmgate in York, with his grandparents John and Margaret Burke, who were Mary's parents.
In the 1901 census he was living at 3, Garden Street at Eastwood in Keighley with his parents, 44 year old Michael, a labourer in a machine shop and Mary aged 43 looking after their three children Julia a 14 year old worsted spinner, John aged ten and Isabella aged nine.
By 1911 John's parents were living at 112, Back Westgate in Keighley. Michael was 51 and a machine moulder for a general foundry making brass, malleable iron and steel. Mary was a spinner of worsted yarns and Isabella was the only child living with them, aged ten years and a scholar.
Their census details state that they'd been married for 33 years, had produced 13 children and six were still living, seven having died. This may be why Isabella doesn't seem to have aged in ten years. Perhaps the first Isabella died and another child was given the same name?
Also in 1911, John Leach was still living in Keighley. He was just around the corner from his parents at 55, Burlington Street and was boarding with Robert and Julia Lyness and their family of three very young children. John's board money would have brought some much needed income into the Lyness household. John and Robert were both labourers at an iron works making textile machinery, so they may have worked together.
There is a 1912 Wakefield prison record which states that John Leach, an iron turner of Keighley had been convicted of stealing 5 shillings and sentenced to one month. It states he was 23 years old, 5 feet 3 inches tall and had dark brown hair. He was also Roman Catholic and his sentence was due to expire on 27th June 1912. It matches most of John's details but we cannot be certain it's him.

John married Florence Curry in the second quarter of 1912 at Huddersfield.
They had a son, John born on 3rd September 1912 and registered in the third quarter of that year at Huddersfield.

War service:

John enlisted with the Duke of (Wellington's West Riding) Regiment at Halifax.
The soldier's effects calculation for a war gratuity of £3 with a date of death on 9th April 1915, gives an enlistment date of less than 12 months from his death. Since the war had only been going for 9 months this does not help us, but we can assume he was a fairly early enlistment. Following his training he entered France on 25th March 1915. There would have been a delay between arriving in France and joining his unit in the field and we think he was one of 30 NCO's and men who arrived with the 2nd Battalion in the trenches at ZILLEBEKE on 2nd April.

WO-95/1552/1. 2nd Battalion Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment. War diary entry for April 1915:

D Sector. Quiet day. One man killed by sniper (no.10818 Pte. Fisher C Company) Relieved by Royal West Kent Regiment. Completed by 11.15 am. A Company went into support at TUILERIE. Battalion (less 1 company) marched on relief to YPRES Infantry barracks, in support to D Sector. Draft of 30 NCO's and men arrived to join Battalion.
April 3rd. YPRES:
In support at Infantry Barracks. Bishop of London visited YPRES and addressed troops. C Company relived A Company as support company to Royal West Kent Regiment. Orderly room held.
April 4th. YPRES. Easter Day, servicew were held in the barracks. Church Parade 11.30 am. Battalion relieved Royal West Kent Regiment in the trenches D sector. Relief completed by 4 pm. Casualties one man wounded.
April 5th. In the trenches ZILLEBEKE:
In the trenches D sector. Quiet day. Battalion Headquarters was shelled for a few minutes, no damage. Lt. Colonel P. A. Turner arrived in YPRES to take over command of Battalion. Casualties one killed (9569 Pte. Kennedy A Company) Three wounded.
April 6th. ZILLEBEKE:
In the trenches D sector. Quiet day. Casualties one killed three wounded. 2nd Lieutenant Cunningham 3rd Reserve Battalion joined battalion. Battalion relieved by Royal West Kent Regiment. Relief completed by 10.30 pm. Three companies moved into support in YPRES Barracks. One company (D Company) remained in support at the TUILERIE and RAILWAY EMBANKMENT.
April 7th. YPRES:
In support in the Infantry Barracks, YPRES. Heavy shelling of the town about 8 am. Casualties, one killed. B relieved D Company in support dugouts.
April 8th. YPRES:
In support in the Infantry Barracks. Quiet day. Battalion relieved Royal West Kent Regiment in D sector. Casualties, two killed, two wounded.
April 9th. ZILLEBEKE:
In trenches D sector. Fairly quiet day. Battalion Headquarters shelled by light field guns for a few minutes. Little harm done. Our artillery opened with effect. Trench 50 shelled. Enemy's gun silenced after a few minutes. Casualties, one wounded.
April 10th. ZILLEBEKE:
In trenches D sector. Quiet day. Battalion relieved at 8.0 pm and 10 pm by Bedfords and Cheshires reliefes completed by 12.30 am. Battalion moved into billets in YPRES in reserve to 5th Division. Casualties, 1 killed, 5 wounded.

At some point during this period, John was killed in action.

Keighley News 8th May 1915:

Private John Leach, 2nd West Riding Regiment, was killed on April 9 by a sniper. He was a native of Keighley, but had lived in Halifax for a few years, his address at the latter place being 24, Grey Street, Range Lane. His death occurred just a fortnight after his arrival in France. He leaves a widow and a child.

(Grey Street no longer exists although Range Lane does. The houses were all back to back properties and were probably demolished due to safety issues.)

John was buried in Tuileries British Cemetery in Belgium in grave 2 of row B. He was 23 years of age.
Many of the graves in this cemetery were shelled in subsequent actions and some were lost.
John's grave is one of the surviving graves still marked.

Post war:

His widow Florence Lockwood (formerly Leach) was living at, Quebec Dam Side in Keighley after the war. She had remarried by this time.
John had a debit balance in his Army pay account of £1 11s 3d. Florence was informed about it on 21st September 1915 but there is record of it being asked for, nor repaid. received a war gratuity amount of £3 on 30th June 1919.
Florence had remarried by 17th July 1916, to Private Arthur Ernest Lockwood no. 5363, 2/4th Royal Scots. She did not receive a widows pension but from 19th October 1915 she did receive a dependants pension for their son John Leach of 5 shillings per week until 3rd September 1928 when he was sixteen years old.
Florence received a lump sum gratuity of £51 18s 3d when she remarried.
She would also have received John's personal effects and his medals which were the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal, plus a bronze war memorial plaque and King's Scroll inscribed with his name. These usually arrived early in 1920 or later.

In the 1921 census Arthur and Florence were living at 36, Oakworth Road in Keighley along with stepson John, aged eight; Harold, aged five; Claude, aged four; Nora, aged one and Ivy aged eight months. Arthur was a carter for a coal dealer, Brown of Fell Lane.

John and Florence's son John was living with Thomas and Ivy Frobisher at 16, Braithwaite Grove in Keighley during the 1939 Register. He was a general labourer on highways.
He died aged 53 in 1965, the death was registered in the Worth Valley in the third quarter of the year.

Information sources:

England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915
1891 England Census
1901 England Census
1911 England Census
England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915
Keighley News archives at Keighley Library.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919
Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929
World War I Pension Ledgers and Index Cards, 1914-1923
British Army World War I Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920
World War I Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920
1921 Census Of England & Wales
England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007
1939 England and Wales Register

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