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8660: Joseph Alfred Leggett 317719, 7th Bn, Norfolk Regt

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posted on 2024-01-17, 16:55 authored by Lest We Forget Project Team

Joseph Alfred Leggett enlisted into the 3rd Bn, Norfolk Regt in Norwich prior to the outbreak of WW1. The service number indicates that he enlisted in late March or early April 1914. He joined the Special Reserve, 3 months serving full time with the 3rd Bn Norfolk Regt and a further 5 yrs and 6 months in the Reserves, undertaking regular training. He was based at Britannia Barracks, Norwich.

As a Special Reservist, with the Declaration of war on 4 Aug 1914, Joseph and the Bn were mobilised immediately on 8 Aug and moved to Felixstowe, Suffolk the following day. (The photo of Joe as a Lance Corporal was most likely taken during this period in Suffolk by the United Service Studio Ltd, Ipswich and Felixstowe).

In March 1915 Joseph was sent as part of a small draft to the 1st Bn Norfolk Regiment and records show he landed with them in France on 24 March 1915, moving to a holding camp near Rouen.

On 29th March 1915, Joseph and the 1st Bn Norfolk Regt as part of the 15th Infantry Bde found themselves in trenches near Verbrande Molen, a village south east of Ypres Hill 60.

Records are sparse for Joseph's units for this period but, still in the Hill 60 Conflict Zone on 26 June 1915, Joseph receives a bullet wound to his right leg. The exact circumstances are unknown, but he was admitted to the 14 Field Ambulance from his Regimental first aid post and evacuated behind the lines to a casualty clearing station at Bailleul, France where he underwent an operation on his wound. The injury was serious enough for him to be repatriated back to Britain on a hospital ship.

Records for Joseph are from then on (lost presumably in the Blitz) and the family are unable to trace where he was or when he returned to the Western Front until his death on 30 Nov 1917.

However, by the latter part of 1917 he was back at the front with the 7th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment holding the rank of at least Cpl and by the date of his death, Sergeant. Records also show he was awarded the Military Medal and this was recorded in the London Gazette on 28th January 1918. This listing recorded those medals awarded for acts of bravery in October 1917 so it is assumed that he was awarded it during that month.

His Battalion had moved back into the trenches near Monchy on 19 August and continued to operate in the area until it moved to Beaurains Camp on 31 Aug. The records show that nothing much of note occurred during this time. September and the first weeks of October passed in similar fashion, with the Bn operating between Arras and Monchy with still nothing of note occurring apart from a trench raid from Pick Cave on 14 October. The detailed war diary records the action and estimated that 200 Germans were killed including many after they had surrendered. 30 prisoners were taken.

The 7th Battalions war diary from Nov 1917 was destroyed in the attack in which Joseph was killed, however, the Bde HQ diary does confirm the movements of 7th Bn. On 20 Nov 1917 the Battle of Cambrai began, which lasted until 6 Dec 1917.

The War Diary entry from 30 November 1917:

"About 7 am and a very heavy Hun barrage commenced, at 7.40 am he attacked, in mass in enormous numbers, from Gonnelieu, which he had just previously taken about 7.35 am and also from Banteux. The Bosche attacked the Battalion from the right flank and the front. Our Lewis guns did splendid work, mowing down the enemy in large numbers, but by weight of numbers, he forced the Battalion to fall back on Battalion HQ in Bleak Trench and a strong point on our left front.

The Hun succeeded in surrounding many of our own men, who while (sic) thereby forced to surrender. We made a splendid fight and accounted for enormous numbers of the enemy. About 10 am Second Lieutenant G Maddison was the only officer left, and he, with the remaining men of the Battalion, attached himself to the 9th Royal Fusiliers."

The war diary then lists the names of the officers who were killed, wounded or missing, 17 in total. The other ranks' casualties were recorded as follows:

Killed 27 Wounded 89 Missing 204 Wounded & Missing 13

Bleak Trench, the area where the Bn withdrew to, was most likely the area in which Joseph was killed, as he was one of 77 officers and other ranks of the 7th Bn recorded as dying on 30 Nov 1917. Of this number, only three have known graves, the rest, including Joseph are commemorated on the Cambrai Memorial, Louverval to those with no known grave.

Joseph appears on panel 4 of the Cambrai Memorial.

Joseph was initially reported as missing, not killed and it took many months to ascertain that he had in fact died.

After the war both identifiable and unidentifiable bodies were found and exhumed. Those recovered from the Bleak Trench area of the battlefield were reburied in Villers Hill British Cemetery, Villers-Guislan Cemetery. Joseph may be one of the unknowns buried there.


Name of contributor(s)

Julie Lister (Granddaughter)

Subject of the story/individual the object(s) relate to

Joseph Alfred Leggett 317719, 7th Bn, Norfolk Regt

Date(s) the event(s) in the story took place


Location(s) where the event(s) in the story took place

Verbrande Molen, Bailleul, Monchy


Medals Photographs Death Plaque Queen Mary Christmas Tin Match box with bullet holes Registered Letter Letter from Regiment Cap Badge Silk handkerchief

Community Collection Day

King's Lynn, Norfolk (20/01/19)

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