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DURHAM CITY

Shepherdson, L.W., Capt., M.C. and Bar 1914-18 (1961)

Photo : 'Scribble' February 1917

Medal Index Card

Photo : John Tunstill

Army Orders

Photo : John Tunstill

Bar Award .

Photo : John Tunstill

Leslie William Shepherdson's Military Cross

Leslie William Shepherdson was born on the 21st August 1896 at Reading, Berkshire, to William Thorney Shepherdson, [born, Hull 1871], and Gertrude Edith, [born Newport, Isle of Wight, 1869], and was the eldest of three children.

Sadly, one child died, just leaving his younger brother Harry Elsbury, [born Reading 16th November 1899], who was baptised at St Peter's Church, Amperny, on the 22nd February 1902.

Leslie's father was a Headmaster at Older's School, Angmering. Prior to this appointment, he was a boarder at 68 Castlehold, Newport, Isle of Wight, then an assistant School Master, where he met his future wife. They were married about 1895.

In 1901 the family were residing at the School House, Village Street, Ampney St Peter, Cirencester, Gloucestershire. Leslie William was educated at St Stephen's School, from 1903, then residing at 43 Manchester Road, Reading, prior to this he was at St Peter's School at Amperny.

Then William Older's Charity School, Angmering, where his father was appointed headmaster in 1905 when the family moved to Angmering.

Leslie was also at one time a bell ringer at St Margaret’s Church in Angmering.
When William became headmaster in 1905, he then resided at the School House, Angmering, Littlehampton. There is mention of Leslie receiving two stripes at school, on the 4th February 1908, for 'Persistent disobedience and inattention'. Source: School Punishment Book [WSRO E6/14/1].

His brother Harry Elsbury also was educated at this school. In 1939 he was residing at 213 Wroxham Road, St Faith's and Aylsham, Norfolk, as a commercial traveller. In 1930 he was at Chiswick residing at 63 Sutton Court, Chiswick. .

Leslie then went on to be educated at the Brighton Municipal Secondary School.

In 1911 they were all residing at the same address at Angmering.

His brother Harry Elsbury, joined the Royal Navy on the 23rd January 1917, classed as boy Service, then Man service from the 16th November 1917, he volunteered for the R.N.A.S., on the 16th November 1917, service number 225274, he was 5 feet and 7 and a half inches tall, brown Hair with blue eyes, with a fresh complexion. His first posting was on the 23rd January 1917 on the President II, then a shore based establishment, then from the 25th January he is in the R.N.A.S. at its base Daedalus until the 8th November 1917. Then posted to the Egmont II Base, until the 31st March 1918. His final posting was Egypt from the 1st April 1918, until the 17th May 1919. Harry became a trained wireless operator, and he was transferred to the RAF reserve on the 12th March 1920. Discharged at Chingford.

In the first week of August, Leslie enlisted into the Cyclist Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment, and was transferred into the Inns of Court [Officers], Training Corps on the 24th July 1915, as a private, 4/5/5060, he received his commission as a temporary 2nd Lieutenant, on the 17th December 1915, in the Durham Light Infantry.

Leslie William was transferred from the Reserve Battalion to the Regular Force on the 24th August 1916. He was sent to France on the 12th July 1916. He was posted to the 20th (Service) Battalion Durham Light Infantry.

Leslie William did not embark with the Battalion, he arrived just after the opening of the Battle of the Somme, in the War Diary of the 20th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, he is mentioned along with Captain A. Pumphrey, "On the 19th July 1917, the officers were sent to Reninghelst to view a model of the ground over which the Battalion was to make its next attack, and on the 20th the 123rd Brigade paraded to do honour to Lieutenant-Colonel Wood-Martin of the 10th Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment, who was presented with the ribbon of the D.S.O., He was the only Commanding Officer left of those who originally went out with the 41st Division.

On the 21st the Battalion moved from Mont des Cats to Kendra Camp, preparatory to moving up again into action after three weeks rest.

News was received on the 27th July that the attack which was expected for 28th July had been postponed indefinitely. It was therefore decided that Companies should occupy in turn the strong points which had been occupied the day before in a ravine of Fusilier Wood. The two front companies were placed under command of Captain A. Pumphrey, D.S.O., as O.C. Front area, with his headquarters in the ravine. Later in the night, information being received that the enemy was vacating his front line opposite the 5th Army. 'B' [company] was also placed under Captain Pumphrey with two Vickers' guns, and two Stokes mortars, to occupy the enemy lines opposite if necessary. Patrols, however, reported that the enemy were not evacuating their lines. Casualties during the night amounted to 1 Killed and 13 wounded.

The 29th was spent by Captain Pumphrey, 2nd Lieutenant Shepherdson and Walton, in reconnoitring the assembly area for the coming battle, and on that night, whilst laying out string to mark the position of the tapes for lining up, they encountered an enemy patrol. The casualties for the day were 42 other ranks wounded.

He received a letter from the Major General, Commanding 41st Division, which read:-To 2nd Lieut R W Shepherdson 20 Btn D.L.I.. I wish to place on record my appreciation of your gallantry and devotion to duty from 26 to 30 July 1917 near Klein Lillebeke when you reconnoitered the Assembly Area with great boldness in spite of enemy patrols and heavy shelling succeeding in laying out the forming up tapes. later when acting as liaison officer between Btn HQ and Report Centre you kept in touch and guided up support troops in the face of heavy shell fire. Major General Comdg 41st Division.

The following day orders were received that Zero Hour was to be 3.50 am on the 31st July, and the Companies moved up to the assembly, sustaining casualties to the extent of 1 killed and 15 wounded. On the 31st July, before Zero, the Battalion was formed up in five waves on a two company front, each on a two platoon front. Battalion Headquarters formed the fifth wave. The first two waves were to assault the enemy front line, Imperfect Trench [Red Line]. This was successfully done in face of heavy shellfire and machine guns concealed in dug-out which the artillery had not destroyed. An advance was then made to the Blue Line, the second objective, and the Battalion dug in just in advance of it, being unable to go any further.

The Germans happened to choose this moment for a counter attack on the left of the line, and Captain Pumphrey went up and took over command, despatching 2nd Lieutenant Shepherdson to bring up two Companies of the 21st King's Royal Rifles who were in support.

These he placed in the gap between 'B' Company and the details of 'C' and 'D' Companies. The whole of the assembly area, captured ground, and No Man's Land, was by this time under heavy and continuous barrages of howitzer and field-gun fire, whilst No Man's Land and the captured ground was enfiladed on both flanks by machine-gun fire.

Captain Pumphrey called on the artillery for S.O.S through the visual station of the Royal West Kent Regiment, and the response of the artillery, with rifle and Lewis gun-fire from the Blue Line, and from a Vickers' gun which had succeeded in getting up to our left flank forward position, which smashed up the counter-attack.

For this action five Military Cross's were awarded, Captain H.F. Wilson, Captain E. Smith, Lieutenant T. M. Fletcher, 2nd Lieutenants J. G. R. Pacey and Shepherdson.

He was gazetted for the Military Cross on the 26th September 1917.

The citation reads: For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He reconnoitred the assembly area by day and night with great boldness previous to an attack. and in spite of two collisions with hostile patrols succeeded in laying out the forming up tapes correctly under heavy shell fire. Later, during the attack he displayed the utmost fearlessness and determination in keeping communications and in guiding supporting troops up at a critical moment, under heavy shell fire.

Source : Newcastle Journal Tuesday 15th January 1918.

At the end of October 1917, Leslie is at home on leave, and when he returns to France he is now posted to the 21st Battalion Durham Light Infantry, promoted from Temporary 2nd Lieutenant to Temporary Lieutenant.

On the 14/15th October 1918, [Gazette issue 31583], page 12253, the London Gazette, dated the 8th March 1919, For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty as battalion signalling officer during operations near Menin on the 14/15th October. He established telephonic communication with the companies shortly after they had reached their final objective. He reconnoitred a very advanced position and afterwards personally superintended the laying of wires to the most advanced posts. His conduct throughout was of the highest order.

This added a bar to his Military Cross.

Worthing Guardian dated 5th September 1917.
Second Lieutenant Leslie W. Shepherdson, of the Durham Light Infantry, and son of Mr and Mrs W T Shepherdson, of Angmering, whose photograph we (Scribble, a local news sheet, October 1917) are pleased to be able to publish, has been awarded the Military Cross. We also print the exact facsimile of the report, which speaks for itself. He was commended for gallantry and devotion to duty in face of heavy shell fire at Klein Killebeke between July 26th and 30th. Lieut. Shepherdson was the first volunteer from Angmering to respond to the call in the first week of the war, when he enlisted in the Cyclist Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment, but was transferred after twelve months service with battalion to the Inns of Court Training Corps, and was afterwards given a commission in the Durham Light Infantry. He is an old boy of the Brighton Municipal Secondary School, and received his earlier education at Older's School, Angmering, of which, as every one of our readers is aware, the headmaster is his father. We offer our congratulations to Mr and Mrs Shepherdson, and also to their son, for being the recipient of this distinguished honour, being, as we believe it is, the first to be bestowed on any officer residing in the immediate district, and who we are glad to learn is expected home on leave about the end of this month.

Lieut Shepherdson has since been granted another "star" with six months seniority.

Temporary Lieutenant Leslie William became a Temporary Captain on the 17th October 1918.

On the 22nd February 1920 he relinquishes the acting rank of Captain as he no longer commanded a Company.

On the 13th April 1920, he relinquishes his commission on completion of his service from the 1st March 1920.

William his father, was a headmaster until April 1920, he then moved to Croft Cottage, Crawley, Sussex.

'Just as we are going to press we learn that Mr. W.T. Shepherdson will be leaving us at Easter to take up more profitable and more important duties at Crawley. Angmering will lose its strongest supporter. We feel certain that the severance of the many links which have bound him to Angmering, links which he has “forged” himself, will be broken with the utmost regret. One could almost write a book of his good works since he has been resident amongst us. In fact one can hardly think of Angmering without bracketing with it the name of its hard-working schoolmaster. He has truly been Angmering’s guide and shining light. That he will take with him the goodwill of every individual, be they young or old, rich or poor, we have no doubt. We are certain all will join with us in wishing him and his family the best of luck, health, and prosperity in his new appointment.'Source : 'Scribble' The October 1917 issue.

Leslie William Shepherdson was married in 1925 to Marjorie Agnes [nee Ashby], born 8th May 1898 at Northampton, in Kensington, London. In 1939 she was residing at 6 Neville Road, Wallasey, Cheshire. She died in Hove in 1985.

Leslie William Shepherdson died on the 10th October 1961 at the Maelor General Hospital Wrexham. His will dated 21st November. Left personal effects worth £1062 4s, to his widow Marjorie Agnes Shepherdson.

His Military Cross was on sale on E-Bay.

Research acknowledgments: John Tunstill/Neil Rogers-Davis Owner/Editor, Angmering Village Life/James Pasby

Leslie William Shepherdson is remembered in Durham in D47.148a page 43 and 53. [His name is incorrectly shown as L. W. Stephenson].


History of the Village.
Royal Sussex Regiment
Angmering Village

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