Researched and written by Anne Wright
Pte L C A Bromhall
7th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment
Killed in action, 3.7.1916
Leslie Charles Arthur Bromhall was born in Weybridge in 1893/4. He was the eldest child of Arthur James Bromhall, a native of the town, and his wife Clara (nee Billings). His father was a labourer employed by the Urban District Council for many years. Two more children followed: George Frederick in1895 and Ethel Clara Florence in 1898. Leslie’s siblings were baptised at St. James’ Church in Weybridge but he seems not to have been. Arthur Bromhall was left to bring up three young children when his wife died aged just 29 in 1900. By 1911 the family was still in Weybridge living in two rooms at Scotch Villas in Oakdale Road. Leslie, a former pupil of St James’ School (Baker Street), was an errand boy for a Cleaners & Dyers and his brother was a milk boy for a local dairy.
He was among the first to volunteer for military service when he enlisted in Weybridge on 4 September 1914. Leslie was a slight young man, just five feet and five inches tall with a sallow complexion, blue eyes and dark brown hair. He was a gardener aged 20 years and 10 months. Leslie was posted to the 7th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment which was part of the 37th Brigade in the 12th (Eastern) Division. They landed at Boulogne in June 1915 and went into the front line for the first time at Ploegsteert Wood on the 23rd of that month. By 15 July the Division was holding 7000 yards of the line. On 26 September they moved to the Loos Front; they lost 117 officers and 3237 other ranks killed or wounded in the Battle of Loos.
On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916, the East Surreys were in reserve and did not ‘go over the top’ in the attack on La Boiselle and Ovillers but they heard the intense bombardment which began at 6.25 am. 8th Division troops entered Oviliers and La Boiselle but were driven back to their old front line by German bombing parties. On the following day Leslie and his comrades relieved the men of the 8th Division at 3.30am; this division had suffered heavy casualties as Oviliers and La Boiselle were heavily garrisoned and dotted with machine guns. At 2.30pm the East Surreys were told to move back as Oviliers and La Boiselle were to be bombarded in preparation for further attacks. These attacks went ahead whilst the East Surreys moved back to their old trenches. Once again the British were forced to retreat by machine gun fire and bombing.
Leslie’s battalion were in a communication trench on the 3 July but as their war diary records they came in for ‘a nasty bit of shelling’ and at 1 pm ‘all hope of continuing the attack was given up’. At 3pm the East Surreys moved into the front line; they found the trenches in a terrible state and full of the dead and wounded. In the course of the day they sustained 53 casualties reported killed or wounded. Leslie Bromhall was one of that number.
He has no known grave and is commemorated on Thiepval Memorial (Pier & Face 6B & 6C) with over 72000 others. A Medal Rolls Index card for George Frederick Bromhall may well refer to his brother. If so, he also served in the East Surrey Regiment (240427) and the Loyal North Lancs. Regiment (235300). George Bromhall certainly survived the war as he married Emma Lucy Marshall on 3 April 1926 at St. James’ Church where he had been baptised in 1896. Leslie’s father was still living in Weybridge in 1939; he had moved to Radnor Road.
British Army WW1 Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920, www.ancestry.co.uk
Memorial to the Masters and Old Boys of St James’ School, Weybridge, Who Fell in the Great War 1914-1918, St James’ Church
Surrey, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1912, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey, England, Church of England Burials, 1813-1987, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1962, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey Recruitment Registers 1908-1933, www.findmypast.co.uk