Norman Leah, Private 22347, 11th Battalion, South Lancashire Regt
Killed in action 12th June 1917 near Ypres, Belgium, aged 20
Norman Leah was born in Macclesfield on 13 March 1897, the youngest son of Sarah Ellen (nee Eaton) and Robert Leah, a tavern keeper.
In 1901, four-year-old Norman was living at the Crown Hotel, 76 Bond Street, Macclesfield with his parents and siblings Emma (28), Martha (22), Alice (19), Nellie (17), Annie (15), Amy (12), Ethel (8) and John (6). Norman’s father died in 1906 and by 1911, Norman was living with his siblings and widowed mother at the same address; aged 14, he had left school and was employed as an errand boy. His mother died later that year.
Norman enlisted at Macclesfield on 15 April 1916 and was drafted to France four months later on 24 August, travelling from Southampton to Rouen.
His death was reported in the Macclesfield Times on 29 June 1917:
“A SOLDIER AND A MAN” – OFFICER’S TRIBUTE TO PRIVATE NORMAN LEAH
Miss Leah, licensee of the Crown Hotel, Bond Street, Macclesfield, received a War Office notification on Saturday last informing her that her brother, Private Norman Leah, of the South Lancashire Regt, was killed whilst on active service in France on June 12th. The following letter from Second-Lieut John W Joliffe reached Miss Leah the previous Wednesday: “I write these few lines with a view to softening the blow dealt you by the official intimation of the death of your brother, No 22347, Private Leah (N.). The boy was killed instantly by a heavy shell, which penetrated the billet in which he was sleeping on the morning of 12th inst. Of a bright and cheery disposition, he speedily won the esteem of all who knew him, and his loss will be mourned by all ranks in general and myself in particular. Your brother’s platoon commander was severely wounded by the shell which caused Norman’s death, and is quite unable to pay tribute to his sterling worth, but I feel sure he mourns with me the loss of a soldier and a man. We buried him in a military cemetery under heavy shell fire – fitting conditions indeed for the last journey of a brother of whom you have every reason to be justly proud. On behalf of all ranks I offer you my deepest sympathy.” A card of sympathy, signed by Lieut-Colonel H F Fenn, has also been received.
Private Leah was 20 years of age and was born at the Crown Hotel, being the son of the late Mr Robert Leah, for many years the licensee. he was educated at St John’s Day School and afterwards at St George’s. Private Leah was connected with the Large Sunday School, Roe Street. He served his apprenticeship with Mr John Bassnett, Newgate, tin and coppersmith, and enlisted on April 15th, 1916. He had been at the front ten months. His brother, Private John Leah, of the Cheshires, went through the Gaza fighting on March 26th. He was formerly employed at the Royal Silk Warehouse, Waters Green, and has been in the Army nearly three years.
Private Norman Leah is buried in Grave Ref. I. S. 12 of the Menin Road South Military Cemetery in Belgium. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private Norman Leah, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
In Macclesfield, Private Norman Leah is commemorated on the Park Green, Town Hall, St Michael’s Church and Macclesfield Sunday School war memorials. He is also remembered on a family gravestone in Macclesfield Cemetery at plot number Z.19034.
Brother of John Leah, who served as Private 290653 with the 1/7th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment and was killed in action on 25th October 1918 in Belgium, aged 23.
GRO (England & Wales) Index: Births
Census (England & Wales): 1901, 1911
WWI British Army Service Records 1914-1920
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Lives of the First World War website
Macclesfield Times: 29 June 1917