This site commemorates the men and women of Collingham, Linton and Micklethwaite who served during World War 1.
Leigh, Samuel Broadbent
(1876-1940)

Rank and Unit at End of World War One

Rank Private

Service Army/Navy

Unit Pigeon Service

Regiment Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve

Buried Wetherby

Other service during World War One
Information from Medal Index Cards (WO372), Medal Rolls (WO329), Service Records (WO363) and/or Pension Records (WO364) held by The National Archives.
Rank Number Unit
Private 360127 RASC (Expeditionary Force Canteen)
Pre-war Occupation*

Trade or Occupation pre-war: Auctioneer


* Taken from attestation papers or 1911 census

Biography

Family background

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.

Service record

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

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:

Yorkshire Evening Post February 17th 1940

A COLLINGHAM TRAGEDY

Samuel Leigh (aged about 60), widower, of Church Street, Collingham, was found dead today at his home. It is believed that he shot himself with a double-barelled gun. He was a prominent member of Wetherby Homing Society.

 

Then a fuller story on the 19th February

Yorkshire Evening Post February 19th 1940

COLLINGHAM SUICIDE

"A Done Man" After "Life and Death" Trip. A verdict that Samuel Broadbent Leigh (64, commercial traveller, of Church Street, Collingham, died from a gunshot wound, and that he killed himself while the balance of his mind was disturbed, was recorded today by Colonel Innes Wars, York District Coroner, at an inquest at Wetherby.
Mrs Sarah McLaren, housekeeper to Leigh for seven years, said that until last November he had a weekly income under his father's will, but that it then ceased. He had dealt in potatoes, but this business collapsed after the war broke out, so that he had no income. This had preyed on his mind, and he had become badly depressed.
Last Friday, he went to Manchester, telling her that it meant "life or death" to him. When he came back he said he was "a done man". On Saturday morning he went for a walk, returned at 11 o'clock and then sat by the fire.
An hour later he sent her for some chocolate, and when she returned in 10 minutes she found him dead in the chair in front of the fire, with a gun between his knees.
Police constable Foster said he found Leigh as described by Mrs. McLaren. He had discharged one shot from a double-barrelled gun - his own gun - through the mouth.
Dr. R.W. Lee, of Boston Spa, said death was due to a gunshot wound, apparently self-inflicted.

 

The Collingham Parish Magazine provides a little more detail of Sam Leigh's service:

Collingham Parish Magazine February 1940


We were all seriously distressed at the tragic end of Sam Leigh. He was one whom life in this world had treated very badly. He had been a sufferer from the results of his service in minesweepers during the Great War, and the addition of other worries were more than his mind could stand and he took his own life. Such things make us all very sad and our sympathy goes out especially to Mrs Maclaren who has served both Mr. and Mrs. Leigh for the last seven years. Upon her fell the terrible shock, and we can assure her of our desire to help her in any way we can in her natural distress.

 

A sad end to one of our village soldiers. Samuel Broadbent Leigh is buried in Wetherby.


Sources

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)

If you have any photographs or further details about this person we would be pleased to hear from you. Please contact us via: alan.berry@collinghamanddistrictwararchive.info