Researched and written by Anne Wright
Pte L B Lucas
B Battery, 72nd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery
Killed in action, 17.10.1918
When he enlisted in Kingston on 5 September 1914 Leonard Blunden Lucas stood five feet and eight inches tall, had a sallow complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. He was born at 0atlands Park on 21 September 1893 the third child of Henry Daniel and Matilda (nee Payne) Lucas. He was baptised on 4 February 1894 at St. Mary’s Church, Oatlands. Leonard eventually had four siblings: Harry, William, Reginald and Hilda. Their father was a baker and confectioner; he and his wife had married at St. James’ Church, Weybridge on 26 March 1883. In 1901, they and their four sons lived at Fern Cottage in Elm Grove Road and ten years later they were at 1, Stanley Villas in the same road with the addition of their daughter. After leaving St James’ School Leonard was employed as a mechanic at Zenith Motors Ltd., motor cycle manufacturers of Church Street, Weybridge.
It was probably his working experience which led to him being posted to the Royal Field Artillery (RFA) as a fitter. He would have been one of a team of six who serviced and operated the British standard 18 pounder field guns. Leonard’s battery had four such weapons initially and this was increased to six after the RFA Batteries were reorganised in January 1917. Each gun was drawn by three pairs of light draught horses and was used near the front line. The 72nd Brigade, RFA arrived in France between 7–13 July 1915, attached to the 15th Division. They would remain throughout the war; the Battle of Loos (1915), the Battle of the Somme (1916) and the ‘Final Hundred Days’ were among the actions they participated in.
In the four days building up to the start of the Battle of Loos on 25 September 1915 Leonard’s 72nd Brigade was based near Brebis. On the 20th they were busy identifying targets and ensuring an accurate range of fire. For the following four days they carried out a heavy bombardment of the German front line. The final bombardment was to take place on the 25th, to be carried out in four phases, but by 12.30 pm smoke made observation difficult and two batteries could not be moved to the northern end of Loos. However, two sections of Leonard’s ‘B’ Battery were brought into action at the Lens-Bethune crossroads in close support of the 15th Division’s infantry who had ‘gone over the top’ at 6.30 am. Three days later the battle was effectively over; many British units achieved their initial objectives but these successes could not be consolidated because of reserves not being brought forward quickly enough and dwindling ammunition supplies. The British suffered 8,500 fatalities on 25th September. The Germans had not been pushed out of France before the winter began.
Leonard survived with his battery until the final hundred days of the war; the Germans were in retreat having withdrawn from the Hindenburg Line and by 11 October 1918 they were taking up new positions east of the River Selle. The 72nd Brigade of the RFA was among those in pursuit. The British had to get across the river in large numbers so they paused for six days to prepare and for the artillery to bombard the enemy. The attack of the infantry and tanks took place at 5.20 am on 17 October along a ten mile front south of Le Cateau; it was preceded by a creeping barrage in which Leonard would most likely have taken part. He did not survive the day. By nightfall Le Cateau had been taken and two days later the front line had advanced 5 miles pushing the Germans back towards the Sambre-Oise Canal.
Leonard had served for more than four years and died just over three weeks before the end of the war. He is buried in Wellington Cemetery in the village of Rieux-en-Cambresis, 9 km north-east of Cambrai. His mother died in August 1918 and his father appears to have moved away from Weybridge.
The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long, Long War – Batteries and Brigades of the Royal Field Artillery, http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/
1913 Kelly’s Directory, UK, City and County Directories, 1766-1946, 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 Marriages, 1754-1937, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey Recruitment Registers, 1908-1933, www.findmypast.co.uk
Vipond Family Tree, www.ancestry.co.uk