James Leonard WATSON M.M.
Rank: private
Number: 49583
Unit: 1/6th Battalion CHESHIRE Regiment
Date of Death: 26 September 1917
Age: 36
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke , Belgium

Leonard Watson was born in Heaton Chapel, the elder son of James Dean Watson and Jane Watson. The family later lived at Derby Road, Heaton Moor. He had been educated at Denstone College - a boarding school in Uttoxeter. At the time of the 1901 Census, he was working as an apprentice at a fancy goods warehouse. This was probably the warehouse of J & N Philips Ltd, Church Street, Manchester for whom he was working when war was declared. He is commemorated on the company's entry in the appendix to the Manchester Battalions' Roll of Honour.

Leonard's service career can be established from his on-line medal entitlement records at the National Archives. His original service number, 4345, confirms that when he enlisted, probably in early 1916, he joined one of the Cheshire Regiment Territorial Army Battalions. This was probably the 1/6th which was Stockport's local unit. He went overseas in September 1916.

Not long after, he was probably wounded or otherwise out of action for a while. When he had recovered, he was re-assigned to the 13th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment (and given the above service number). He was serving with them at the Battle of Messines in June 1917 when he was awarded the Military Medal "for gallant conduct". He is listed in the Honours section of the official history of the Army's 25th Division. Although the details of his bravery are not known an account of the Cheshires' attack is here.

Shortly after this, he was transferred back to the 6th Cheshires and was assigned to the Battalion's Lewis Gun section (light machine guns). On the evening of 24 September, the Battalion was ordered forward from reserve positions to the Bassevillebeek area (near Zillebeke , to the south east of Ypres). Two Companies were placed in close support to the 4/5th Battalion, Black Watch and the other two companies held in reserve. During the 26th, the British Army attacked on a six-mile front and, although the Cheshires were not required to "go over the top", the whole Battalion re-enforced the Black Watch until it was relieved during the night of the 27th and moved back to billets. Leonard and George Lowe were two of the 10 men killed on the 26th. Neither has a known grave and both were probably killed by artillery fire.

After the War, Leonard's employer erected a plaque at the warehouse to commemorate their employees who had died. When the building was demolished in 1969, the plaque was saved and is now (in 2005) fixed at the nearby NCP car park on Tib Street.

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