Unit Pigeon Service
Regiment Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve
|Private||360127||RASC (Expeditionary Force Canteen)|
Samuel Broadbent Leigh was born on the 3rd May 1876 in Altrincham, the son of William Leigh and his wife Jane Emily Leigh.
In 1900, Samuel Leigh married Isabel Smith in Leeds. In 1911, at the time of the census, Samuel was a border at 1, Market Street, Malton. He was 34 and gave his occupation as appraiser and auctioneer's valuer.
Samuel's war service seems a little complex. A Silver War Badge (number 299174) was awarded to a Samuel Broadbent Leigh who had enlisted on the 24th June 1916 as a Private in the Army Service Corps with a service number T/360127. This man had served in the Army Service Corps (Expeditionary Force Canteen). The Expeditionary Force Canteens was as a separate War Office Dept to provide wholesale supplies against deposited funds, but it was later adsorbed into the Army Service Corps. Despite its name, the fact that Samuel does not appear on the Army medal card system suggests that his service was in the UK. According to the War Badge register, Samuel was discharged from the Army on the 31st December 1917 due to ill health.
However he almost immediately joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as part of their Pigeon Service and he served in that unit until the end of hostilities. Samuel's pension record ledger/card shows he served for 1 year and 66 days as a Petty Office 1st Class in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve with a service number of LZ1093. His service record sheet shows he served from the 31st December 1917 until discharge on the 4th March 1919. All his service was listed as being with HMS Pekin. HMS Pekin was the name given to the auxiliary patrol shore base at Grimsby from 1907 to 1919. This shore base looked after a large number of Grimsby trawlers and drifters that were utilised as minesweepers in the war. Only one of these vessels was actually named HMS Pekin, although individual sailors may have served on different ships at different times.
The Navy was the first of the services to make use of pigeons in the war. It was found that trawlers used for mine sweeping had no means of reporting their work, as many of the craft were not fitted with wireless. Volunteer pigeon owners were then called upon, and birds were at once put in training with the result that valuable information was often carried from these craft by means of the birds. Thus when the first Zeppelin attack took place it was made upon a fleet of trawlers at work in the North Sea when mine sweeping. The message describing the failure of the Zeppelin to gain its objective was sent by means of pigeon.
After the war, Samuel lived in Church Lane in Collingham. In 1939, Samuel lived there with a house keeper. He was described as a widower, but we have not yet found when his wife Isabel died. In 1940, a tragedy took place. First, the Yorkshire Evening Post reported on February 17th 1940:
Then a fuller story on the 19th February
The Collingham Parish Magazine provides a little more detail of Sam Leigh's service:
A sad end to one of our village soldiers. Samuel Broadbent Leigh is buried in Wetherby.
1911 Census. The National Archives. Class RG14 Piece 28993
The Collingham Parish Magazine Feb 1940
Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve Records of Service (ADM337). The National Archives.
Royal Navy Roll of War Medals. The National Archives. (ADM171/127)
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