Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
Regiment: 8th Battalion Devonshire Regiment
Leonard Harding was born at Bovey House, Beer on 2 November 1894, the son of Charles Harding, a farmer, and his wife Mary. He attended Ashburton and Colyton Grammar Schools, and then worked on his father’s farm at Bovey Barton.
Leonard was commissioned into the 8th Battalion, the Devonshire Regiment, in February 1916, and was sent to France on 6 December that year.
On 2 April 1917 the battalion took part in the capture of Ecoust St Mein, fighting alongside the regiment’s 9th Battalion. Between them, the two battalions suffered 218 casualties in this attack, 57 of them killed. On 7 May they also took part in a successful attack on nearby Bullecourt.
At the end of August 1917 the battalion was moved to the Flanders area of Belgium, and on 4 October they were sent into the front line to mount an attack near Polygon Wood, north east of Ypres. Before they could start the attack they were caught by a German artillery barrage. Leonard was wounded in the foot by a shell fragment, and it is likely that Herbert Westlake from Beer, a private in the same battalion, was killed by shellfire at around the same time.
The Pulman’s Weekly News for 2 November 1917 announced that Leonard had been awarded the Military Cross for bravery in the field. The process of approving the award of a gallantry medal usually took months, rather than weeks, so it is possible that Leonard won his MC for an incident prior to the day he was wounded, rather than at Polygon Wood. Research is continuing to track down the citation for the award.
Leonard was sent back to England for treatment for his wounds, and eventually joined the Devonshire Regiment’s 3rd Battalion at Plymouth, where he would have been involved in training new recruits.
Leonard died in 1976, aged 82.
* Required fields