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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 22453
15th Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby) Regiment
Who was killed in action on Monday, 20th August 1917
Age 25

Row E Grave 70
Villers-Faucon Communal Cemetery, Somme, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour

Villers-Faucon Communal Cemetery, France1

Leonard George Lewis Webb was born in Bulwell, Nottingham in 18922. Although brought up as the son of Miles and Emma Jane (née Wood) Webb, he was actually their grandson, the son of their daughter, Rosetta Bertha Webb3. This was a family where virtually all the men worked as coal miners and some had moved around the country as mines were opened and closed. Miles himself had worked as a miner in his birthplace in East Dean, Gloucestershire, had later moved to the Chesterfield area of Derbyshire before settling with his family in Bulwell, Nottingham. In 1901, they were living at 10 Bancroft Street, Bulwell with Leonard, aged 5, recorded as their 'son'4. By 1911, Leonard had left home and was working as a collier at Shotton Colliery, Durham, while boarding with a local collier family5.

In 1913, Leonard married Hannah Elizabeth Woodward (b. 1893, Bulwell), the daughter of a coal miner. Their daughter, Ada May Webb was born later that year6.

As Leonard's Army Service Record has not survived, we do not have a precise record of when he enlisted with the Sherwood Foresters, but it is believed to have been sometime in January 19157. He become part of 9th (Service) Battalion which had been formed at Derby in August 1914. After initial training close to home, the battalion moved to Belton Park, near Grantham and, in April 1915, on to Witley and Frensham for final training. At the end of June 1915, the battalion sailed from Liverpool for Gallipoli as part of 33rd Brigade in 11th (Northern) Division8.

They landed near Lala Baba at Suvla Bay on the 6th and 7th of August, where progress against the enemy was found to be largely impossible and there were heavy losses. On the 19th and 20th of December 1915, badly hit by combat losses, disease and severe weather, the Division was withdrawn from Gallipoli, moving to the Greek island of Imbros and then to Egypt at the end of January. They concentrated at Sidi Bishr and took over a section of the Suez canal defences on the 19th of February 1916. On the 17th of June the Division was ordered to France to reinforce Third Army on The Somme. The battalion departed from Alexandria on the Oriana on the 1st July 1916, arrived at Marseilles on the 3rd of July and moved to the Somme. During a generally quite period they underwent training before relieving the 13th Cheshire Regiment in trenches at Ovillers on the 6th September where they faced very active artillery which became the pattern for the rest of September.

Although no direct evidence has been found, it seems likely that at some point, either at Gallipoli, or later on the Somme, Private Webb was injured and repatriated to England for treatment and convalescence. In particular, it seems that his and his wife's second child was apparently conceived in around November 1916. Their son, Leonard Lewis Webb, was born on 6 August 19179.

It seems, though, that sometime in the first half of 1917, Private Webb was deemed fit enough to rejoin the fighting, but this time with 15th Battalion Sherwood Foresters. In these early months of that year, the battalion, as part of 35th Division, was engaged in securing the ground vacated by the enemy during and after its withdrawal to the Hindenberg Line, leaving an area that had been deliberately devastated by the enemy with flooded trenches and muddy terrain needing much heavy work to enable good positions to be established. Throughout the summer months the routine continued - the occupation of trench positions with occasional raids alternating with relief positions in billets away from the front line. In May, a raid on the enemy made good progress initially but was thwarted by thick wire and there were 40 casualties. By August they were in position, preparing for an attack on The Knoll near Gillemont Farm, east of Lempire on the Somme. The raid, on the 19th August, was successful, trenches were taken and the gains were consolidated but not without the inevitable casualties - 25 killed, 53 wounded, 2 died of wound and 5 missing10. It appears that Private Webb was one of those killed, though his death was recorded on the following day. It was just two weeks following the birth of his son. He is buried in Villers-Faucon Communal Cemetery.

Villers-Faucon, a village about 12 kilometres north-east of Peronne, was captured by the 5th Cavalry Division on 27 March 1917, lost on 22 March 1918, and retaken by the III Corps on 7 September 1918. The Commonwealth graves in the Communal Cemetery are those of soldiers who died in February-August 1917, or (in the case of two who are buried in Row B) in September 1918. The communal cemetery contains 227 First World War burials, five of them unidentified, and 91 German graves11.

Private Webb was posthumously awarded the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the 1915 Star12. His wife Hannah, as the sole legatee, received payment of his financial effects of 5 10s 4d on 8 December 1917 and his War Gratuity of 12 on 3 November 191913. In 1926, Hannah married Alfred George Hall, a miner who had also served throughout the war, with the Gloucestershire Regiment. She died in Nottingham in 1979. aged 8714.

Private Webb is remembered on the war memorial panels in Beeston Parish Church although no connection with Beeston within the family has so far been found.

1The photograph of Villers-Faucon Communal Cemetery is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Bulwell was then part) in Q2/1892 (Ref 7b 249), as 'George Lewis Webb'. He was baptised on 22 November 1892 at St Marys Church, Bulwell as the son of Rosetta Bertha Webb, as 'Leonard George Lewis Webb'. His father's name is not recorded.
3Rosetta Bertha Webb was born in Gloucestershire in Q4/1873. By 1891, she was working as a domestic servant with a Bulwell family. Her son Leonard, born in 1892 was brought up by her parents as their own. On 11 November 1895, at St Marys Church, Bulwell, she married George Askew (then recorded as 'George Atkey Breedon'), a collier. They set up home in Bulwell and went on to have three children together. She appears to have died by 1911 when George, a widower, and the children were living with Miles & Emma in Rock Street, Bulwell (1911 Census, Piece 20669 RD430 SD5 ED36 Schedule 169).
4Bulwell, Notts, 1901 Census, Piece 3191 Folio 41. Miles & Emma had 14 children in total, 9 of whom were living at the time of the 1911 census.
5Shotton Colliery, Durham, 1911 Census, Piece 30002 RD552 SD1 ED10 Sched 168.
6Their marriage is recorded in Nottingham Registration District (of which Bulwell was then part) in Q3/1913 (Ref 7b 600). The birth of their daughter, Ada May Webb, was also recorded there in Q4/1913 (Ref 7b 920)
7This date is estimated, based on the amount of his War Gratuity.
8Details of the battalion formation, training, involvement at Gallipoli and transfer to the Somme is based on the account in The Wartime Memories Project (www.wartimememoriesproject.com/greatwar/allied/battalion.php?pid=7068)
9His birth was recorded in Nottingham Registration District (of which Bulwell was then part) in Q3/1917 (as 'Leonard Webb') and was stated as born on 6 August 1911 when his apparent death was recorded in Nottingham in July 2000 (as 'Leonard Ellis Webb').
10This account of the battalion's involvement in the Somme is based on the Battalion's war diary. There is an annotated transcription of the diary for this period on The Long Long Trail website, at www.1914-1918.net/Diaries/wardiary-15Notts.htm.
11This description of Villers-Faucon Communal Cemetery is based on that on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
12Details from Leonard's Medal Card and the Medal Rolls - available on ancestry.com. The code '2b' used in these records, indicates his involvement on the Gallipoli Campaign.
13Details of the payments are from the "Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929" - available on ancestry.com.
14Their marriage was recorded in Nottingham Registration District (of which Bulwell was then part) in Q4/1926. Hannah's death was recorded in Nottingham Registration District in Q2/1979 (Ref 8 1243).

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