Rank Captain
Service No Unknown
Date of Death 28/05/1915
Age 29
Regiment/Service

London Regiment (City of London Rifles) 6th Battalion

Cemetery Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, France. The cemetery contains 5,577 First World War Commonwealth graves. Boulogne formed one of the chief hospital areas.

 

William, seemingly known as Leslie, was born to Edward, sometimes known as Edwin, (1860-1937) and Henrietta Louisa Booth, nee Mills (1857-1927) in Finchley in 1886. He had four siblings: Dorothy (b.1883), Marjorie (1884-1962), Howard Edwin (1888-1962) and Arthur Maynard (1889-1915), who like William, was often know by his second name, Maynard.

At the time of the 1891 census, when William was 5, the family was resident with three servants at Lincoln Circus, Standard Hill in Nottingham. Edward had been born in Eastwood, just 8 miles from the city and ran a coal merchant business. By 1901 the family were settled in Finchley and made their home at 1 Hendon Lane. William was educated at Merchant Taylors’ School, an independent day school for boys, which, until 1933, was located in the City of London.

At thwe time of the 1911 Census, the family were living at Rosebank, Regents Park Road, Finchley. By now, Dorothy was an artist governess, Howard an articled clerk to an auctioneer surveyor and Arthur an accountant. Their father's occupation was 'agent (coal)'. William does not appear in the 1911 census so he may have enlisted in the army and been serving abroad. It is known that, at some point, he went into partnership as an accountant, with his brother, Arthur.

William married Daisey Maud Harter, who was born in Portugal in 1893. At the time of her birth, her father was a Portuguese commercial correspondent. The wedding took place in Bushey, Hertfordshire, on 11th September 1913, with banns having been read previously at St Luke’s Finchley. He was a chartered accountant and the couple lived at 6 Cedar Court, The Drive, Finchley. They had one daughter, Winifred (d.1975), who was born at 8, Hillside Road, Bushey, on 6th December 1914.

Before the war, William served in the Territorials, being promoted Captain on 21st October 1911. On the day after Britain declared war in 1914, he was transferred to the 6th (City of London) Battalion, the London Regiment (Rifles). At the end of November, he was based in Catford, London.

On 22nd May 1915, William was injured in the Battle of Festubert (15–25 May 1915), an attack by the British army in the Artois region of France, which was designed to relieve pressure from the Ypres salient. Records suggest that he was wounded as a result of eleven hours of shelling of the trenches. His battalion was in a reserve trench and part of its role was to bring in the wounded from the front trench, occupied by the Canadians. Six days later, he died of his wounds at No 7 Stationary Hospital, Boulogne. His wife, Daisey, was permitted to go over to France to see him, but arrived too late. His estate was valued at £338 15s 2d, which went to his widow.

Daisey, received a pension of £100 a year and a one-off gratuity of £250. Their daughter, Winifred, received a compassionate allowance of £124 a year until disqualified (perhaps when she reach the age of 16 or her mother re-married), and a gratuity of £83 6s 8d.

As was the custom, many letters were sent to the grieving family from those who served alongside him. One rifleman wrote,  

“The death of our Captain caused deep regret amongst the company. Always known to be a man who at the most dangerous and exciting moments remained cool and collected it seemed impossible for him to get flurried. I remember the last night he lived. We were expecting an attack by the Germans. He was sitting on a firing platform, calmly smoking a cigarette and giving out orders to his officers and N.C.Os.  His perfect demeanour gave his men confidence in him; he always had a cheerful word for the man on the lookout; and his untimely death was a big blow to all.’

His brother, Arthur, was killed 25 days before him and is also remembered on the St Luke’s memorial. On the receipt of the news of this brother’s death, William wrote a moving letter to his mother. It was to be the last communication she received from him. With her permission, the Vicar of St Luke’s, the Revd S W Howe, published the letter in the July 1915 edition of the parish magazine.

“The news of Maynard’s death has made me very, very sad, but I am helped, and I feel that your sorrow will be lessened by the feeling that he has died in the finest way a man can, for a purpose, and for his own country which is a privilege for an Englishman.

You must try hard not to worry too much, but to feel proud, both you and Father, that you have given one of your dearest and have had a son who accepted his responsibilities to the uttermost limit.

Over here it is a rare sight to see a woman of France who has not suffered by the loss of father, son or brother and they seem almost happy that they have done their share. You can hardly credit the respect which our British soldiers have for the women of this country, and this I am sure in memory of their own women back at home.

It is hard for a man who may be gone at any moment to do his work as he should unless he feels that his mother or wife will take the loss if he falls as a necessary part of the war’s toll. I know that you will all feel very proud of dear old Maynard, as proud as I do, so let us all let our sorrow be equalled by our gladness that we have given our best. I was intensely fond and proud of Maynard and we have worked together for so long without a difference or quarrel which was, I know, on account of his sweet and reasonable disposition.

I have this week lost a dear friend I had made in one of my officers (I now command a company of 240) who was shot a few yards from me and we buried him in a little cemetery we had made for several more of our men. The graves are planted with little plants and I know that the same loving care will be given to Maynard’s last resting place.

I have heard from D. that she has been to see you and she says that she knows now why we are all so proud of you. I hope it will be possible for me to come through alright, but death is always only an instant ahead of us and if I should join Maynard I know you will show her how to be brave as you are.

Please give my love to Father and cheer him up. He, no doubt, has friends who are suffering by the loss of sons too and will feel almost glad to bear a common burden.

Goodbye now, mother dear, with very much love. Your loving Son, Leslie”

At the time of their deaths, William and Arthur’s parents were living at 17 Holmwood Gardens, Finchley, just one minute’s walk from St Luke’ Finchley in Mountfield Road. His father had assisted in the choir from the commencement of the church. His other brother, Howard, who was a surveyor, got married to Florence Hughes in St Luke’s on 13th December 1916.