Date of birth: 1882
Date of death: 27.4.1918
Regiment: King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Husband of Amy Leather nee Jefferson and son of Thomas and Harriet Leather
Service number: 12/184
Ernest enlisted in 1914 with the 9th Battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and went to fight in France. He fought right the way through until 1918.
The 9th Battalion of the KOYLI were in reserve at Chateau Segard when on 19th April 1918 they received orders to move up and relieve the battalion in Onraet Wood, Wytschaete. Tragically the following day ‘B’ Company in one of the trenches came under friendly fire. At 9pm the SOS was put up but in spite of this one of the guns continued to shell them during the early hours killing 17 and wounding 16 men. The author of the war diary was understandably not happy:
“The strongest protest was made against this discreditable performance and it is to be hoped that the Officer of the artillery concerned will be tried by court marital for this carelessness.” The men were relieved by ‘D’ Company as they “were somewhat shaken by being shelled by our own artillery”. The following day another battalion relieved them.
At 5.20am on 25th the Germans attacked with gas. The attack was withstood but many men suffered from the effects of gas. The following day the battalion launched an attack but miscommunication meant that the battalion on their right hadn’t moved forward and the one on their left were held up with machine gun fire and there was very little barrage cover for them. The battalion suffered heavily with casualties and they were forced to withdraw and consolidate their position.
It is impossible to say when Ernest was wounded or indeed by whom, however it is recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission that on 27th April Private 12/184 Ernest Leather of KOYLI 9th Battalion died of wounds received in battle. He is buried in the Haringhe Military Cemetery.
It was also reported in the Wakefield Express:
“PRIVATE ERNEST LEATHER KOYLI died from wounds in a casualty clearing station, France on April 27th. Prior to the war he worked at Newton Colliery and enlisted in November 1914. He was 36 years of age and a late verger of St Andrew’s Church. He leaves a widow and three children, who reside at Brick Yard, Greenhill, Eastmoor.”
Ernest is remembered on the Wrenthorpe Colliery and St Anne’s Memorials.
Sadly, Ernest was not the only member of the family to be killed in action, as his brother Fred also died. Ernest who was born in 1882 had married Amy Jefferson on 25th December 1904 at St Anne’s in Wrenthorpe. He was a 23-year-old coal miner and Amy was 21.
In the 1911 census Ernest and Amy were living at 7 Pentonville Place, Stanley Road, Wakefield. They had two children – Lily, who had been born in 1905 and Walter Ernest born in 1909. Two children had already died. The following year Mabel was born to them.