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Lemuel (Leonard) Clement Gardner

Lieutenant Leonard Clement Gardner, 139th Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery

 

The Newbury Town War Memorial has D Gardner listed on tablet 13. Research has shown no D Gardner with any Newbury links among the recorded casualties of the Great War.  However,

D Gardner name on Newbury War Memorial

The name D Gardner on the Newbury Town War Memorial - since 1950!

(left)

the programme for the dedication and unveiling ceremony for the memorial lists the names on the memorial panel by panel. This programme has L Gardener in the place of D Gardner. Further confirmation comes from a photograph of the memorial taken in 1922, immediately after the dedication and unveiling, where a portion of panel 13 can be seen.  This also appears to read L Gardner – suggesting that the name was changed when the bronze panels replaced earlier (well worn) stone tablets in 1950.


Lemuel was born in Dorking, Surrey, on 18 August 1888 the son of Thomas Gardener and his wife Elizabeth – presumably Thomas or Elizabeth was a fan of Gulliver’s Travels. Thomas, who came from Stanton Fitzwarren in Wiltshire worked as a guard on the railway based in Dorking, Surrey. He and Elizabeth had at least eight children: Elizabeth Annie (1883), Thomas Emmanuel (1884), Winifred Gertrude (1887), Samuel James (1887), Lemuel Clement (1888), John (1891), Grace Eunice (1893) and Lucy Eleanor (1896).


Band of Hope medallion

Band of Hope medallion.

As a child Lemuel was a member of the West Street Band of Hope in Dorking, appearing in their annual concert/entertainment  in April 1899.  The Band of Hope movement was a nonconformist Christian movement founded to teach children the importance and principles of sobriety and teetotalism.


When he left school aged 12 Lemuel worked as an errand boy for a china dealer before moving on to work for W H Smith.  His next move was to follow his father in working for the railways, in his case as a porter at Leatherhead station, beginning this employment on 19 September 1904, shortly after his 16th birthday. He remained with the railway for five years working at Leatherhead, Ewell and Merton Park stations. In 1907 he was at the last named station when things went seriously awry: he and another lad, Charles John Goodbarne, were dismissed on 5 February and prosecuted for stealing station cash.


On 5 March 1908 Lemuel enlisted with the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) as Leonard Clement Gardner. It is not known why he changed his name, perhaps he just didn’t like Lemuel, although the suspicion is there that he was attempting to keep his criminal past hidden. Six months later he was posted to 9 Battary, RGA, which was stationed in Gibraltar one of four RGA companies manning the colony’s defensive batteries. While there he was promoted the Acting Bombadier on 21 November 1913. In March 1914 he was posted to 15 Company, manning coastal defences around Londonderry, on the north coast of Ireland, where his full promotion to Bombadier was confirmed on 26 August – by which time the country was at war.


His next posting was to 120 Heavy Battery on 9 October; it appears that he had some home leave before joining up with his new unit – giving him the opportunity to marry his sweetheart, Lillian Robinson, at St Alban’s Church, Ilford, Essex on 17 October 1914. He was then posted again, to a Base Unit in France – where he arrived on 16 June 1915. On 12 July he was posted to the 38th Trench Mortar Battery. Trench mortar batteries were manned by a mix of artillerymen and infantry as, as the names suggests, operated from within the forward trench area – they were the infantry’s own short range artillery, invaluable at times when communication with the artillery to the rear was impossible in time to, for instance, disrupt an enemy counter-attack.


Life in a trench mortar battery could get very ‘hairy’ at times; in one such incident in late 1915 (exact date unknown) Leonard earned a Distinguished Conduct Medal, second only to the Victoria Cross as an award for gallantry by an ‘other rank’. The award was published in the London Gazette on 11 January 1916, followed by publication of the citation in March:


Distinguished Conduct Medal

Distinguished Conduct Medal

(wikipedia)

28548 Corporal L C Gardner, 38th Trench Mortar Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery

For excellent service and bravery under heavy shell and rifle fire. He continued to serve his gun for three hours after being wounded. His good work and gallantry were conspicuous throughout.


A few months later, on 6 December 1915, Leonard transferred to the 52nd Trench Mortar Battery, the following day he was promoted to sergeant. His next major move was to apply for a commission, which he did on 9 June 1916. His application had to be supported by his current officers, who commented as follows on the application form:


This NCO has been 12 months on TM work and has always shown the greatest resource and courage. His knowledge of the work is complete and he always shows great acuteness in noticing any novel or improved features in ‘blind’ shells or TM bombs of the enemy.


This NCO is quiet reserved and exceedingly intelligent and quick and possesses the happy knack of extracting from the men under him the utmost amount of labour possible

 

I consider this candidate eminently suitable.


The officer was also required to state whether they would be prepared to accept the candidate as an officer within their own command:


If Sgt Gardner can get a commission in the infantry for duty with TM batteries I shall do my utmost the secure him for this Brigade.


With such a testimonial it is not surprising that Leonard was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on 18 July 1916.


On 30 July he joined 118 Siege Battery, RGA (back to the big guns). As an officer leave was easier to come by and he had a week in England in November. The following February he was posted to the HQ 21st Heavy Artillery Group as acting adjutant.


Loading a heavy trench mortar

Loading a heavy trench mortar.

(National Library of Scotland)

In June he was posted to another conventional artillery unit, the 240th Siege Battery, but he never got to them being diverted to 40 Divsion Trench Mortars on 24 June. He served with the division’s Z Battery until 5 September when he broke his arm while on a night out in the Officers Club at Peronne. Apparently he tripped over a door sill – a fellow officer (Lt T S Ward) wrote a note supporting the accidental nature of the injury.  This was a serious matter, if an inquiry determined that the injury was self inflicted Leonard could have faced serious consequences.  As it was the inquiry decided that the injury was a genuine accident. After a period in hospital (where he had an operation on his broken arm) and still unfit to serve he was sent home on three weeks leave. He left for England on 8 November 1917.  When his leave ended he was able to work at a desk, but it was a while before he was deemed fit to return to the Front.  However, he was rewarded with promotion to Lieutenant on 30 January 1918.


He returned to France on 25 May 1918, posted to the 4th Army; after a few days at the 4th Army Reinforcement Camp he went on to the 139th Heavy Battery (this time he was with the big guns).  It might seem a lot safer to be with the heavy guns a mile or so behind the front line, rather than crouched over a trench mortar a few yards behind the line – but Leonard did not find it so. Wounded within hours of his arrival at the Battery he was sent to No 4 Casualty Clearing Station where he died on 2 June 1918.


The news reached Newbury:


Newbury Weekly News, 13 June 1918 – Local War Notes
Corporal L C Gardner, RGA, subsequently promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, son of Mr Thomas Gardner, of Oriental Terrace, Andover-road, was awarded the DCM and a sum of £25 under circumstances thus described in the London Gazette:- “For excellent service and bravery under heavy shell and rifle fire. He continued to serve his gun for three hours after being wounded. His good work and gallantry were conspicuous throughout.” Sad to relate, news has since been received that Lieut Gardner died of wounds on June 2nd. Mr Gardner has another son, who is a sergeant in South Africa, and a third who is engaged in torpedo warfare in the Mediterranean. He is an able-bodied seaman, and was on board the Lightning when it went down having struck a mine, and was one of the few who was rescued after having been some time in the water.


Leonard was buried in Pernois British Cemetery at Halloy-les-Pernois south-west of Doullens.


93 Andover Road

93 Andover Road.

Leonard’s name appears on tablet 13 of the Newbury Town War Memorial; though there is no evidence he ever lived in the town. The connection came through his grandmother, Emma Gardner. 

 

Emma and her husband William were both born in Stanton Fitzwarren, married there and raised a family.  However, after William died in 1876 aged 61, Emma was forced to support herself. She did this by becoming a midwife and nurse.  She may well have been doing this sort of work in the village long before William died, the difference being that she then needed to derive a regular income from it.  By 1891 she had moved away from the village where she had spent all her life in order to take up employment in East Woodhay, Hampshire, where she lived alone at 5 Essex Terrace. In 1901 she moved into nearby Newbury and set up home at 3 Oriental Terrace (now 93), Andover Road, still working as a midwife in her 70s, but supported by her unmarried daughter Sarah who kept house for her. Emma died in 1915, aged 88, and was buried in Newtown Road Cemetery on 3 May, three years before Leonard/Lemuel’s death.

 

As mentioned in Leonard's obituary (above) his father Thomas was also a member of the household at that time, and may well have remained so. Although it was Sarah's name that appeared as the householder in local directories until her own death in 1937, Thomas is shown from that date until he too died in Newbury in 1940, aged 87.

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 Died this day:
15 December 1941
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