Leonard Coulton


Private 11049, 2nd Battalion King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry

Died 31st October 1914 aged 22

No Known Grave Commemorated Le Touret Memorial, France

Son of John and Martha Coulton

Lived 2, Peel Street, Heckmondwike

Leonard was the youngest son of the nine children of John Coulter (Coulton), a Carpet Weaver from Barnard Castle in County Durham and his wife Martha who was born in Dundee, Scotland. Sometime after 1861 the family came to Heckmondwike and in 1871 were living in Oldfield Lane. John and his father George were both Carpet Weavers.

Acton Taylor, Leonard's maternal grandfather, was born in Kidderminster in 1826. By 1851 he was living in the Gorbals and was married to Sarah Henderson, from Ireland. They married on 13th May 1849 and their address is given at 84, Eglinton Street, Glasgow. Their daughter Martha Taylor, Leonard's mother, was born in Dundee in 1858. By the 1861 Census the family were living at 37, Central Street, off Webster Hill in Dewsbury. By 1871 they had moved to Upper George Street, Heckmondwike. Acton was a Carpet Weaver and the family were working in local carpet mills. Martha and John Coulton were married at St Peter's Church, Birstall, on 11 August 1878; they had 9 children, six boys and three daughters. Martha died in 1895, when Leonard was aged about three years. John is described as a widower in the 1901 Census living at 7, Upper George Street. John died in 1906 when Leonard was fourteen.

At the outbreak of war the Coulton family had lived in the area for over 40 years, John Coulton – Leonard’s father - first appeared on the census in Heckmondwike in 1871. After John's death it seems that Leonard went to live with his brother Joseph Coulton a Rag Grinder for a flock manufacturer, living at 2 Peel Street. All the family worked in the mills and Leonard himself had become a Piecer, a person who mends, repairs or joins something, especially broken threads on a loom. He worked with Botany Wools, which then were made into fine cloth. He enlisted in the army at Pontefract early in 1914 and was the first fatality from the town of Heckmondwike, although it was some time before his death was reported.

By the time that Leonard died on 31st October 1914, the 2nd Battalion KOYLI had been in almost constant action for two months. The Germans were having considerable success at the First Battle of Ypres and in the early morning of the 31st the Battalion was taken by bus to Neuve Eglise and then further to Messines to re-enforce the 2nd Cavalry Division.

At 10am the Battalion was sent into the attack to try to re-take some trenches east of Messines. The western end of the village was in enemy hands and the Germans had concentrated their machine guns there. "B" and "C" Companies, leading the attack, could make no headway towards the objective and had to dig-in to await supporting artillery fire.

By 2pm, these two companies and the two support companies were entrenched and holding a line running along the road that ran through the village. Casualties were very heavy; the Battalion had suffered 155 casualties during the day - dead, wounded and missing, amongst them was Leonard – but the rest of the company held on until the next day when they were forced to withdraw.

He was initially posted as missing and it was another eighteen months until his death was reported in a letter from the Infantry Record Office in York. The letter stated that it was the writer's painful duty to inform the family that "no further news having been received relative to 11049 Private Leonard Coulton of the 2nd Battalion KOYLI, who had been missing since 31st October 1914, the Army Council have been regretfully compelled to state that he is dead and that his death took place on the 31st October (or since)". The writer expressed the Army Council's sympathy in the loss. An article in the Cleckheaton Advertiser and Spen Valley Times outlined some of the circumstances surrounding Leonard's disappearance. George Acton Coulton, Leonard's brother, was in France serving with the Cheshire "Bantam" Regiment. The "Bantams" were a regiment raised in Birkenhead for men of about 5 feet tall. George had a letter he had sent to Leonard, at the end of 1914, returned marked "killed" but this comment had been changed to "wounded". There was no further news for over a year.

Leonard’s name is inscribed on the LeTouret Memorial which commemorates over 13,400 British soldiers who were killed in this sector of the Western Front and who have no known grave.

Leonard had qualified for the following medals: Victory, British and Star.

His effects were recorded, by the Army, in York in May 1916 as £12-16 shillings and sixpence and this was shared between his brothers and sisters. His eldest brother Joseph signed for Leonard's war gratuity of £5 in February 1920.{PL/KW-027}

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