Hurst War Memorial, St.Nicholas Church, Hurst, Berkshire
:: Hurst in the Great War
:: The War Trophy
:: Reminiscences
:: Gallery
:: Map of Memorials
:: The Graves
:: Casualty Statistics
:: Military Voters
Hurst War Memorial
Follow on Twitter
Previous: Ernest Grant
Next: Arthur Hale

Greetham, Leonard

Leonard Greetham
Victory Medal
Victory Medal
British War Medal
British War Medal
Private Leonard Greetham (22565)
Killed in Action on Tuesday 31st July 1917
Third Battle of Ypres, aged 27
Son of Henry & Helen Greetham
Father's occupation: Carter
Born Q3 1890 at Silchester, Berks
2 sisters, 4 brothers, position in family: 4
Relatives: Brother of 8108 Pte Charles Greetham. Wife - Gertrude Greetham
Local address: Virginia Cottages, Hurst
Battalion:14th Bn.
Went overseas:After 1 Jan 1916
Died:Tuesday 31st July 1917
Cause:Killed in Action
Action:Third Battle of Ypres
Battalion at:St Julien
Commemorated:Memorial at Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres

Leonard Greetham was born in 1890 in Silchester to Henry and Ellen Greetham. The family lived at Lower Barn, Silchester and Leonard's father was an agricultural labourer. Leonard was the fourth of seven children and had four brothers and two sisters. By the time he was ten the family were living in Brickleton's Farm, Silchester where Leonard's father was a carter.

During the First World War Leonard enlisted into the army at Godalming and served as a Private in 14th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment. Early in 1916 the 14th Battalion was training at Witley Camp, not far from Godalming, when orders were received to set out for France. The Battalion departed in three trains on 5th March 1916, bound for Southampton. The men embarked at 5 p.m. and travelled through the night to Le Havre. They docked next day and marched through a snowstorm to Base Camp. It is not known whether Leonard went overseas at this time but by 1917 he was serving with the Battalion on the Western Front near Ypres.

Leonard married Gertrude Louisa Morrell at St.Nicholas Church on 17th March 1917, and they moved to Virginia Cottages, Hurst.

From 1st May until the 15th May 1917 the 14th Battalion was out of the line resting at Moringhem, to the west of St Omer. Here they took part in training, rifle practice at the ranges, sports competitions and generally relaxed after the rigours of fighting. Then the Battalion moved to Wormhoudt for more training, before going back into the front line trenches at Wieltje on 26th May. For the next few days they remained close to the front, digging support trenches and saps (spurs dug from the trenches towards the enemy) in preparation for the forthcoming attack. The men worked mostly by night, but the Germans could hear them at work and the artillery searched them out, killing five soldiers with their shellfire. The Battalion then did a spell in the support trenches at the Yser Canal Bank and afterwards they were back in the front line near Hill Top Farm, from where they would attack six weeks later.

From 21st June the Battalion was in billets at the French village of Houlle, 30 miles west of Ypres. Here they dug mock trenches, which they repeatedly used to practise the forthcoming attack. These exercises were designed to teach the volunteers what to do and what to expect when their turn came to attack real trenches. This intensive training, which was taking place in all areas behind the lines, prepared the men well and contributed to the early successes at Ypres in July and early August. On the 15th July, after nearly a month at Houlle, the Battalion packed up and moved closer to the front. On the 16th July, the bombardment commenced that preceded the Third Battle of Ypres.

14th Battalion moved again on 23rd July, continuing with training and preparations for the forthcoming attack. On 29th July they made their last move, crossing the Yser-Ypres Canal and making their way to their final positions ready for the attack. By 8pm. on 30th July the Battalion was in position in Bilge Trench - the second line of attack, ready for the 'off', which was planned for the early hours before dawn. 14th Battalion formed part of 116 Brigade whose mission was to attack the German trenches opposite St Julien, a tiny Belgium farming village.

At 4am. shrill whistles blew and the men rushed forward across No Man's Land before the German counter barrage could hit them. After reaching the firm ground of Admiral's Road, a farm track in No Man's Land, they pushed on across shell torn fields, occasionally diving into shell holes for protection. They reached the first objective of Caliban Trench, the old German front line, which had already been taken by the 11th Royal Sussex Battalion. The 14th Hampshires passed through them as they consolidate the position.

It was still only 4.30am. and the Battalion continued its advance towards Juliet Farm and beyond that to the village of St Julien, the objective of the day. The attack was held up by machine guns of German defenders still clinging on to some of the pillboxes and by 9 a.m. heavy rain had set in and lasted for the next five days. With the help of tanks the 14th Hampshires overcame these defences and went on to capture and hold the village of St Julien. The Battalion War Diary described the days events as follows:

31st July 1917Hill Top Sector
Zero 3.50 a.m. Advanced from assembly positions, passed through 11th Royal Sussex Regiment on Blue Line, attacked, captured and consolidated Black and dotted Black Lines at FALKENHYN REDOUBT. From there advanced onto Alberta and dotted Green Line on east of STEENBEEK which were captured. Here troops of 118th Infantry Brigade passed through to capture solid Green Line. Company on East of STEENBEEK retired with 118th Infantry Brigade on night of 31 July / 1st August. Captured two Field Guns and one 4.5 Howitzer, 17 Machine Guns (counted) and over 200 prisoners.
Killed: 2/Lt D.G.W Hewitt; 2/Lt J.K. Falconer
Wounded: 2/Lt N.F. Tyler; 2/Lt G.H. Peet; Lt C. Chevallier; Capt. A.D. Gammon MC; 2/Lt P.M. Collis (Died of wounds)
Other Ranks, killed 17; died of wounds 1; wounded 156; missing 42.

Private Leonard Greetham was one of those killed; he was 27 years of age. Leonard has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial along with nearly 55,000 other missing soldiers.


Leonard Greetham on the Menin Gate Memorial
Menin Gate Memorial

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in morning
We will remember them.
Lawrence Binyon