Answers to Questions


James LEONARD or LENNARD, St Albans, 1914/5

June 2012




St Albans

Bob Carswell (racarswell @t rogers.com) of Toronto, Canada, wrote: Sometime between February 1914 when James got his girlfriend pregnant just before he left for  bootcamp and October 1914 when she gave birth and he married her 5 days later in St. Albans, James Lennard or Leonard was a member of a London group. He came from St. George in the East and on his daughter's birth certificate is shown at the time of her birth as living at Cunnynhame Hill Road which I presume is in St Albans. His mother could not write so that spelling of the last name on his birth certificate was wrong and he officially had it changed in 1939 to Leonard. Immediately after his marriage, he went off to war for the next three years. The only thing I know about his war service was that he was bitten by a horse on the neck and he and some other fellows were sitting in a foxhole when an officer came along, congratulated them on their work and threw a medal into the foxhole. Who ended up with it, I do not know. At the time of his marriage in the Parish Church, he is shown as the a stock clerk at the London Stock Exchange. He later settled in Croydon, had a second daughter, my mother and remarried sometime after the death of his first wife in 1926 from TB. He went on to occupy one of the hundred seats in the London Stock Exchange working in mines and minerals from 1934 until his death in 1949.

I have been trying for a very long time to connect him to a regiment without any luck. He was not one to talk about his war years and only about the future. Anything you can tell me would be greatly appreciated.

James Leonard/Lennard is quite a common name but I assume your James was the one born in 1895, the son of John and Elizabeth Leonard who were living at 128 Red Lion Square, St George in the East, London in the 1901 and 1911 censuses.

From what you say he presumably joined the Territorial Force (which later changed its name to the Territorial Army) in 1913 or 1914. When war was declared he would have have gone to the local drill hall - and then mobilised to St Albans in mid August 1914 as part of the 2nd London Division (later renamed the 47th Division) Initially he might have been allocated a billet in a private house or ended up in an army camp under canvas. (Unfortunately the relevant records have not survived.)

Presumably his very pregnant girlfriend (I assume Wilhelmina Degerlund) followed him to St Albans, and everything may have been friendly but I know there were cases when a marriage was rapidly arranged when a pregnant girl reported her situation to the commanding officer.  You don't give details of the marriage (there were at least five parish churches at St Albans at the time) and the witnesses might well contain soldiers from the same unit, and if one of them was an officer it should be possible to identify him, and his unit, from the Army lists. If he was not living at Cunningham Hill Road at the time of the marriage his address might also give a clue to his unit, although he may have given his London address.

The 2nd London Division initially consisted of the 13th-24th London Battalions, forming the 4th to 6th London Infantry Brigades and if James was in the infantry (as most were) he would have been in one of these battalions - and almost certainly went to France in March 1915, although the London Scottish (the 14th Battalion) went to France in September 1914. However the London Scottish were based at Abbots Langley, rather than St Albans, so James was presumably not in that battalion.

I suspect that there were many Stock Exchange clerks who joined the battalion with its drill hall closest to the Stock Exchange. There may also be information on James Leonard behind pay walls such as war medals at Ancestry, or Forces War Records. In addition, if he became rich enough to become a Name at the London Stock Exchange, I would expect a death notice and perhaps an obituary in The Times. Unfortunately the amount of help I can give which is not linked to Hertfordshire is limited and these are leads that you will need to follow up yourself - although someone visiting my web site might be able to help.

There is a lot of information on the 2nd London Division in West Hertfordshire, and some of their battles in France, in the book The London Gunners come to Town.

Via a comment on the Newsletter Anthony added: There is a medal card for James Leonard No. 2520 London Regiment 4th Bn. Enlistment 4.9.14 Discharge 4.9.16 as sick (Para from KR cited). He had applied for a badge (presumably the Silver War Badge) from 27 Radnor Street, St Luke's E.C.1. This gives 2 years of service rather than 3 but he may have reŽnlisted in 1914. I cannot find service or pension records.  

As her name suggests, Wilhelmina Gladys Degerlund had a Swedish father (born Finland). The second marriage in 1929 was to Florence Ivy Clarke. She is named as his widow in the National Probate Calendar. Date of death was 28 March 1949.

This could well be the right James, but does not explain the St Albans connection. The 4th Battalion of the London Regiment was one of four Royal Fusiliers battalions, and when the war broke out was part of the 1st London Division - and I am not sure where they went to war stations on the outbreak of war - but it was not West/Central Hertfordshire, which is where the 2nd London Division went.

Bob responded: Yes, that is my James Leonard. ... I often wondered if he worked with animals and ... he was bitten by a horse. I wonder if he might have been gassed in the war and thus returned to England because of it. 

Royal Fusiliers Cap Badge

You will need to look into the history of the Royal Fusiliers, 4th City of London Battalion, 1st London Division which, as far as I know had no connection with St Albans. As horses were the main form of transport in the First World War, and were essential on the Western Front, where the ground was often far too muddy and churned up to be passable by the comparatively few motor vehicles that were in use. As a result many soldiers would have to deal with horses at sometime or another, if only to help unload packs being taken to the front by pack horses. The date he was discharged sick (4.9.16) might indicate that he was involved, and injured, during the Battle of the Somme, and even if you cannot find a mention of him by name, information on the Royal Fusiliers might give you an indication of what fighting he may have been involved in. (The National Archives are currently planning to make the official war diaries available online so it is worth checking these.)

I have just looked at his marriage certificate to Wilhelmina Gladys Degerlund and it just specifies the Parish Church but also says " in the Parish of S. Peter S. Albans in the County of Hertford." Would this be a St. Peter's Church? The witnesses to the wedding were family members so that won't help us much. He was married by licence so there must be another record out there somewhere.

St Peter's is one of the ancient parishes of St Albans. Cunninghamhill Farm was originally outside the Borough (later City) of St Albans and was still a farm in 1911- but houses had obviously been built in Cunningham Hill Road by 1914. It may be that one of them was acting as a nursing home for unmarried mothers and Wilhelmina had been sent there for the birth. The normal procedure with a Church of England marriage was for banns to be called in the parishes of the bride and groom in the two weeks prior to the marriage, but if the wedding was arranged in a hurry and St Peter's was not the normal parish for the couple a licence would be applied for. I don't know if any records would have been kept but you should enquire at HALS. If - as now seems certain - James was in the Royal Fusiliers it may be that James' only connection with St Albans is that he went there to be married.

I guess I will have to wait until the 1921 census comes out to find out where James was living at the time.  In 1923 he bought a house in Croydon on Inglis Road and I even have all the records on the sale and mortgage arrangements which the current owners were so kind to send me some 25 years ago. His last house in Croydon sold a few years ago for 700,000 pounds. Nice deal if you can afford it.

If you have any clues as to the area where he lived, perhaps from your mother's birth certificate there may be contemporary street directories which listed heads of households - but these are unlikely to be online.

Bob also provided the following useful background information: My mother was not born until February 1920 so I figured James was away until the end of the war and only returned to London in 1919. She did her part in WWII as a WAAF plotter at RAF Biggin Hill during the entire Battle of Britain. She was working when a bomb came through the roof of the ops building, a scene recreated in the movie by the same name. She went on to cipher school and RAF Wigtown where she arrived as the first WAAF, the new cipher officer. She married my father, a Canadian pilot in the RAF and only left Wigtown to join him in Harrogate when she was released from the RAF due to her pregnancy with my older brother. She was the senior WAAF officer at the station at the time in charge of 250 girls and only 22 years old herself. Like my brother who was born in May 1943, I was born in Harrogate in November 1944. Asked why she joined up, she said, "There were no boys in the family to do their part so I went instead. A number of her male cousins also served in the RAF as pilots. Her grandfather Gustaf Severin Degerlund was an interesting character. He did not like doing farm chores back in Bromarv, Finland so became a cabin boy, went to sea at the age of eight and spent the next 20 years learning to be a ship's carpenter. I refer to him as a "Swede by race, a Finn by location, a Russian by occupation and a Brit by choice." Born in 1861 he live through both wars in London and died in 1952 in Kent. He married the widowed daughter of his employer and together they had another seven children to add to her two. 

I have three announcements about James's death from the London papers but they are very short and say little. I wonder if he belonged to some of the old London Clubs that catered to the Stock Exchange bunch or perhaps a veterans' association of sorts. 


"Pip, Squeak & Wilfred"

The 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal

Anthony writes: There is a service record for No. 2520 James Leonard on Ancestry although mistranscribed. It shows, firstly, that he had no previous service and, secondly, next of kin as Father Joseph Leonard of 27 Radnor Street. The service records relating to Radnor Street show James with the BEF first in Malta then a place I cannot decipher (but from internet the 1/4th went to France). He earned Pip, Squeak and Wilfred. There is no detailed medical history.

I did a search based on James's parents' marriage (calculated from the 1911 census) and came up with an 1878 marriage at Walworth between Joseph John Leonard and Elizabeth Massey. Groom's father was William Leonard (deceased) but is shown as a commercial traveller.

Bob sends copies of James's birth, marriage and death certificates and added: I have known for a long time that James's father was John Leonard who died when James was about nine and I believe also at age 54. He was a London dock worker like his brothers and Irish father before him. The family of his maternal grandmother brought James into the stockjobbers firm of C.T. Pulley and he became a partner in 1934. 

The girlfriend had already delivered the daughter in London. She, her mother and brother came to St. Albans with the minister from her home church in St. George in the East and wedding arrangements were made to marry the couple before he shipped out. I think this was being done so that she would receive a widow's pension should he be killed in the war. There was never a case of his trying to get out of the arrangement. She worked in social work for the church so it was not a surprise to anyone. I have attached a copy of the marriage certificate and a few others.

The position is currently complex as it turns out that James Leonard who was in the 4th Rpyal Fusiliers Battalion was given the war service medals posthumously - so cannot be the James this post is interested in - and there appears to only be one set of James Leonard army records ...

Further comment will have to wait until I have more time - as the matter has wandered a long way from Hertfordshire Records.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.

June 2012   Page created