On this day in 1916, Francis Leach (1894-1916) was killed on the Somme in the Great War.
Francis, a private in the 8th (Service) Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment, died in the Battle of High Wood – a high point commanding a large area of ground where the three-month Battle of Somme was fought – on July 20, 1916.
His battalion launched an attack on German defensive positions south-east of High Wood at 3.35am that day.
‘As the Devons pushed forward, they came under heavy fire from riflemen and machine guns hidden in standing corn,’ C T Atkinson wrote in The Devonshire Regiment 1914-1918.
When the attack came to a standstill, ‘anyone who stood up was hit at once, and it was difficult to get targets to fire back at owing to the splendid concealment given by the standing corn…
‘After about an hour’s endurance the survivors of the assaulting companies crawled back (to support lines) as best they could,’ wrote Atkinson.
Francis was among 160 officers and men killed or wounded at High Wood.
His body was never found.
Francis is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.
He is also commemorated at Tiverton’s War Memorial Hall and Library and on the war memorial in St Peter’s Church, Tiverton.
Born in Thelbridge in 1894, Francis was the son of Frederick William Leach (1866-1952) and Susan Cockram (1863-1934), who for many years lived at Higher Lodge, Hensleigh, Tiverton. In 1911, aged 17, he was a plumber, living with his parents at 22, Bartons Causeway, Tiverton.
Francis’s sister, Sarah Leach (1902-1982) married Walter Sharland (1898-1973) in 1932 in Tiverton. Walter was the son of Walter Sharland (1869-1951) and Jane Hunt (1866-1912). Walter (1869-1951) was the son of James Sharland (1839-1907) and Eliza Crook (1843-1923). Eliza was the daughter of Richard Crook (1810-1883) and Charity Roberts (1818-1883). Charity was the daughter of William Roberts (1779-1848) and Sarah Treble (1784-1861). William was the son of William Roberts (1738-), my great-great-great-great-great grandfather.
Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on which Francis is remembered. Picture taken by Chris Hartford of London on July 26, 2005 (source: Flickr. CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons). https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thiepval_Memorial_to_the_missing.jpg