18611 2nd Bn., King’s Own Scottish Borderers who died on 23 July 1916
Leonard Arthur Ball was born in South Croxton, Leicestershire in 1897. He had an older brother Ernest and his parents, who were married in 1888, were Thomas Ball, a painter from Newbold Vernon and Carolina (nee Hunt) from South Croxton. It is possible that the family moved around with Thomas’ job as they have addresses in Clarendon Park and Burfield St., Leicester.
By 1898 the family had settled in South Croxton and were publicans of the Golden Fleece Inn. Also living with them was Carolina’s widowed mother Mary Hunt.
Thomas died in 1910 and Leonard and Carolina moved to 65 Southampton Street, Leicester where they took in lodgers working for the nearby Midland Railway Company. This situation appears to be shortlived for in 1912 Carolina married Samuel Sarson, a shepherd of Broxhill (sic) Farm, Oadby. Samuel’s first wife Sarah Anne, who had died in 1911, was originally from South Croxton so it is likely that she and Carolina had been friends.
Leonard’s service record no longer survives but his Medal Index Card suggests that he was only 15 or 16 when he enlisted in the 1st Battalion of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB). The Oadby Remembers 1914-1918 researchers believe that Leonard Ball was the youngest soldier commemorated on the town war memorial to have served in the front line.
Leonard was posted to Gallipoli and arrived at the battle front on 3 August 1915. He was just 17 years old when he first went ‘over the top’.
Troops of the KOSB go over the top at Gallipoli.
The evacuation of Gallipoli
After the failure of the Balkan Campaign. Troops were evacuated from Gallipoli on 8 January 1916. Leonard landed in France on 18 March and transferred to the 2nd Battalion KOSB in late spring. On 13 July the battalion started five days of difficult marching from Arras to Meaulte on the Somme battlefield, a distance of approximately 50km. Throughout July there had been fighting in High Wood. The official war diary of KOSB describes how, on 23 July, four companies of KOSB plus the 1st Royal Warwicks attempted to secure the north eastern section of High Wood. They “reached part of their objective but were held up by machine gun fire from a trench position not previously located. A platoon of D company went forward to them but eventually all Warwicks and this platoon had to withdraw with heavy losses.” Losses in the assault were 2 officers killed and 3 wounded. Other ranks killed 13, wounded 68 and missing 29 including Private Leonard Ball.
Map showing the location of High Wood on the Somme battlefield
The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing
Leonard’s body was never recovered and his death was not notified until May 1917. He is Remembered with Honour on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. He was just 18 years old.
Photograph of the Golden Fleece reproduced with the kind permission of Phil Snelders, ‘The Village on the Hill’.