Service Number J52146
Service Royal Navy
Ship HMS Courageous
|Private||3617||1/4 Battalion Yorkshire Regiment|
In 1911 the Ledgard family were living at Field Cottage, Collingham. The family was composed of Alfred Ledgard, a 40 year old warehouse man in the cloth trade from Leeds, his wife Sarah, aged 42 from Morley, and their children George Ledgard, Lewis Ledgard, Joseph Leathley Ledgard and Alfred Frogatt Ledgard as well as a 30-year old general servant Florence Esme Wilkinson. George (aged 13 in 1911) and Lewis (aged 11) are shown as having been born in Morley, and in the 1901 census we find the family had lived at 99 Mill Street, Morley, where Alfred was a stone and quarry worker. Lewis was baptised at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel on Queen Street Morley on the 29th April 1900, having been born on the 6th March 1900. Joseph (aged 4 in 1911) and Alfred (Jnr) (aged 8 months) had been born in Leeds. The 1911 census also tells us that Alfred and Sarah had had seven children but that only four were still living in 1911.
Knowing that Lewis was born on the 6th March 1900 in Morley we were able to find Lewis' service record in the Royal Navy starting at the rank of Boy on the 29th March 1916. Lewis was described as a Van Boy. But surprisingly, given that he was only 16 years and 23 days old, the Navy record also describes him as 'Late of the 1/4 Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, Private 3617. Lewis must have lied about his age and enlisted. Even more surprisingly Lewis's medal entitlement shows that he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his overseas service which started on the 2nd September 1915 when he first went overseas to France. At that time Lewis would have been only about 15 years 6 months old.
When Lewis joined the 1/4th Yorkshire Regiment they were in trenches near Armentieres, and they stayed in this area, rotating between front line duty in the trenches and time stationed in reserve in billets near Armentieres until the 12th November 1915 when the left Armentieres for a months training in Merris. During the time in training, the war diary records the following for the 4th December 1915:
Private Lewis Ledgard was therefore returned to base and would have been sent back to England. His medal roll entries show that he was discharged from the Army on the 15th January 1916. During his time with the Battalion, 19 men were killed in action, although this was quite a quiet area of the line at a fairly quiet period.
Remarkably given that he had just been returned from the Army as underage, Lewis joined the Royal Navy almost immediately. On the 29th March 1916 he registered as a Boy Second Class in HMS Ganges with the service number J52146. Ganges was a training ship and later stone frigate of the Royal Navy, established as a boys' training establishment in 1865. By 1916 Hms Ganges was at Shotley in Hampshire. HMS Agincourt was a dreadnought battleship built in the early 1910s. She was part of the Grand Fleet in the North Sea. Lewis' next posting was on the 4th November 1916 to HMS Courageous. This date was the completion date for Courageous, so Lewis would have been among the first men to serve on her. She was the lead ship of her class of three battlecruisers built for the Royal Navy during the First World War. Designed to support the Baltic Project, the ship was very lightly armoured and armed with only a few heavy guns. Courageous spent the war patrolling the North Sea. At the end of 1916 Courageous was in the Forth attached to the Battle Cruiser Fleet's 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron.
Lewis' amazing service record next takes a sinister turn. His Navy record is marked as: "1/1/17 Run". This is the Navy terminology for a deserter. Thus, although Lewis had committed to 12 years adult service in the Navy which would have started on his 18th Birthday on the 6th March 1918, on the 1st January 1917 when he was aged about 16¾ he deserted his ship.
Desertion was a very serious military offence in wartime, and deserters could be subjected to the death penalty. Lewis' name and description were circulated in the Police Gazette on the 23rd January 1917 - "Ledgard, Lewis, a deserter from HMS Courageous on the 1st January 1917. Rank Boy 1st Class. Born Morley. Aged 16¾ 5 feet 5½ inches tall, with a fresh complexion, brown hair, grey eyes and a scar above one eyebrow". Interestingly, the same edition of the Police Gazette lists: "Harker, Thos., a deserter from HMS Courageous on the 1st January 1917. Rank Boy 1st Class. Born Carlisle. Aged 17¼ 5 feet 2½ inches tall, with a fresh complexion, light brown hair, brown eyes and scars on the lobe of one ear, nose and one side of the mouth". It would be interesting to know if these two Boys knew one another and if they absconded together. Lewis' navy record shows that he would have been entitled to the British War Medal and the Victory medal (although he had already been awarded these for his service in the Army) but that these navy medals were forfeited for running.
It is likely that Lewis kept his head down somewhere, perhaps even living under a false name, and he may not have told anyone of his story. In 1918 Lewis appears on the electoral roll of Horsforth, listed with his brother George at 1 Sunnybank Avenue, Horsforth, but both Lewis and George are marked as absent voters due to Naval or Military service. We cannot know who registered them at that address, or whether they knew of Lewis' story. Interestingly by the following year, 1919, both brothers appear at the same address in Horsforth but without being listed as absent.
After the war, the Army seem to have put in place as system whereby deserters could get protection from further prosecution in the inter-war years, and it is likely that the Navy would have followed the same route.
From 1920 to 1922, Lewis appears on the electoral roll of Horsforth for 1 Sunnybank Avenue with his parents (Alfred and Sarah) and brother, George. On the 5th April 1920, Lewis was one of the witnesses at his brother George's wedding to Elsie Illingworth at St. Peter's Church, Gildersome. Then, in the last quarter of 1926 we think that Lewis married Elsie Dalton in the North Brierley district.
Records are sparser from this point - in 1933 Lewis and Elsie are living at 12 Clarence Drive, Horsforth and in 1939 at 75 Woodhall Road, Liverpool where Lewis is described as a bakery manager. Given Lewis' age he might have served in World War 2, but we have not found any record of service for him.
Lewis Ledgard died in the first quarter of 1980 in Swindon.
Biography last updated 25 March 2022 16:47:40.
1911 Census. The National Archives. Class RG14 Piece 25962
First World War Medal Index Cards. The National Archives (WO372).
First World War Medal Index Rolls. The National Archives (WO329).
War Diary of 1/4 Battalion Yorkshire Regiment (WO95/2836) The National Archives.
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