Leonard Osborne Saxton – War Casualty

Leonard O. Saxton

Leonard is my third cousin, thrice removed. He was born in Handsworth near to Sheffield in 1893 and lived in Park Lane, Handsworth on the 1901 Census. Special thanks are owed to Trevor Higgins for writing the following text:-

Leonard was a member of the 1st Btn Coldstream Guards, within the Guards Division.

In February 1917, the German army decided to withdraw from the Somme and retreat to the newly constructed and well defended Hindenburg line. Shorter than the Somme line, it was a series of broken trenches, deeply dug with enforced artillery and machine guns posts. The line was just being reinforced with troops from the Eastern front. In their withdrawal, the Germans caused as much damage as they could to hinder any possible pursuit by the British Army. Villages were destroyed, roadside tree’s cut down to create barriers, wells were poisoned and animals slaughtered.

When the British Army advanced in early March, they left the desolation of the Somme, entering green fields and forests. When leaving

Headstone

Bapaume, they could see the extended chalk banks of the Hindenburg Line about 5 klms in front of them. They were also confronted with pockets of well set German artillery and infantry, strategically placed to further hinder their advance, many Germans hiding in village houses and farm buildings, totally unseen by British forces.

Advances were commenced 10th March, when the Guards Division, together with ANZAC troops, fought for the occupation of villages to clear them of German troops. Their advance was initially slow because of the number of hamlets and villages held by hidden Germans. It is possible Leonard was killed just south of where he is now interred. The cemetery was made after the armistice in 1918, and it is known that 62 members of the foot guards were taken from smaller cemeteries at Charing Cross and Hebule, south of Sailly-Saillisel village. The cemetery now contains 471 commonwealth soldiers.

This is a revised version of a post which was originally published on my WordPress Blog on 05/01/2010 and republished on Mollekin Portalite on 06/05/2011. Special thanks are also owed to Sheila O’Brien for donating the photo of Leonard for this post.

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