R. Leonard Williams
Name: Richard Leonard Williams
Service Number: 4782
Unit Served: 12th Reinforcement of the 27th Battalion
Personal Details: Richard Leonard Williams was born on the 27th of April 1895, the second child to Rosetta and John Glanville Williams at home (Greenwood Park) near Auburn. His full name was Richard Leonard Williams but throughout his life he was known as Leonard.
Leonard was educated by a governess at home as well as the Auburn and Grange Public Schools, before proceeding to Prince Alfred College for further education. Whilst boarding at the college Leonard was part of the Prince Alfred College Cadets Corps and was a Corporal. In 1910 he won two gold medals as the Champion rifle Shot for his Company and at the Battalion competition defeated the St Peters’ Champion.
After leaving school Leonard returned home and joined his father in the sheep and wool industry becoming an expert with shearing machines and wool classing.
Leonard, who was aged 20 years and 9 months old when he enlisted, was 5’ 91/2’’ tall with brown eyes, dark brown hair and a dark complexion.
Enlistment details: Leonard enlisted on the 11th of February 1916 in Auburn, South Australia, and was assigned to the 12th reinforcement of the 27th Battalion.
War Details: On the 11th of April 1916 he embarked from Adelaide aboard the ship HMAT “Aeneas”. He arrived in Etaples on the 11th September 1916 having left England on the 9th September after training there for some time. After arriving in Etaples, Leonard was taken on strength by the 27th on 28th September. After spending a week in the frontlines at Ypres the battalion moved to the Somme region. In late October the battalion moved in to and out of the line near Ribemont. In the first week of November the battalion moved in to the line near Le Barque and on the 5th launched an attack on a system of trenches known as “The Maze” as part of the 7th Brigade’s offensive in the 1st Battle of Flers. They held enemy trenches for 1 ½ hours before having to withdraw with the loss of 5 officers and 72 other ranks killed. Richard Leonard Williams was one of those killed. There is no record of his burial.
Age at Death: 21
Date of Death: 5th November 1916
Memorial Details: Australian National Memorial, Villers-Brettoneux.
Interesting Material: In a eulogy written about Leonard in a newspaper the following letter written by him on the 14th October 1916 was quoted as follows “Well I am an old soldier now, and know the strains of battle. I tell you I felt mighty queer going into the frontline at midnight, only 25 yards from “Willie”, but the gods were merciful, and everything was quiet. Nothing happened to make us scared. Our trench was not very comfortable, being only an advanced post right in front of the mainline. If we made a noise, or showed we were about, “Fritz” just drops a bomb, or more often a “minen werfer” (trench mortar bomb), high explosive and up goes the whole job – me, sandbags, breeches and boots. It rained a good bit, and we stood in mud up to our ankles, but after a while the sun came out, things dried up, and life wasn’t so bad, especially when our soup was flavoured with turnips collected under Fritz’s nose. You see, one of the boys crawled over the front out in to “no man’s land”, where there was a good turnip patch. It is wonderful how one can dodge the big projectiles that come whizzing over, screaming all the way and explode almost in one’s ears, but we had only one casualty for the whole seven days we were in the line.”
Leonard enlisted after the harvest was completed in the summer of 1915 -16 with his mate Laurie Branson, who was from Greenock and a school friend from PAC. They were killed on the same day. Both have no known grave.
Leonard Williams’s family bought a property in Meningie which was to be his when he returned from the war. As he did not return, the property was given to his brother who was the father of Howard Williams who kindly asked me to commemorate Richard before he sadly passed away. May you continue to rest in peace, Leonard.