8th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
F.P.M. LEONARD LIEUT. ROYAL INNISKILLING FUSILIERS BORN 30TH JUNE 1889 - DIED 29TH APRIL 1918
Leonard was born on the 30th January 1888, one of three brothers and six sisters to parents Francis and Jessie Mapletoft of 7 Carleton Terrace Belfast. Francis was educated at Ellesmere College in Shropshire, entering Campbell College in 1901.
Francis was husband to Jessie Leonard. He was a civil engineer in the foundry of Messrs Combe Barbour, Belfast and had passed the London Matriculation Examination, qualifying him as a mechanical engineer.
He is known to have enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers in September 1914 and commissioned in the same month. He was killed in action due to a 'severe gas attack'. Francis is commemorated on the Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais France.
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Francis Patrick Mapletoft Leonard was one of three sons and six daughters of Francis and Jessie Leonard of Belfast. His father was the Principal Clerk for H. M. Customs but he died in 1902. Francis Junior was born on 30th June 1889 and the 1901 Irish Census records that by the age of 11 he was well educated being able to ‘read & write’ - he attended the Royal Belfast Academic Institution (The ‘Inst’).
His education continued at Ellesmere College when he arrived to take up residence in the ‘Harold’ dormitory in January 1904. He was only to spend some ten months in Shropshire before returning back home.
There are very few references to him in the college records but it is known that he was in Form Upper IV and that he sat his Preliminary Oxford Local Examinations. Unfortunately, one record in existence is the shooting results in the Officer Training Corps in November 1904. He scored a total of 68 – sadly this fell into the category of ‘very bad. ’
On his return to Belfast, Francis enrolled at Campbell College and was apprenticed as a civil engineer at the Fairbairn Lawson Combe & Barbour’s Foundry in Belfast which specialised in the manufacture of textile industry equipment. In June 1910, he entered Queen’s University.
He enlisted in the University and Public Schools Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on 19th September 1914 and promoted Lieutenant on 30th April 1915. He served in France from February 1916 and died of gas poisoning near Hulluch in the early hours of 29th April 1916, when his battalion, the 8th (Service) Battalion, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, which was holding part of the front line, was subjected to a severe gas attack. The enemy released gas from two pipes laid out halfway across No- Man’s Land. The battalion war diary records the attack: “the first of a greenish colour, the second of a yellowish creamy colour. The Germans made no attempt to attack on our front”.
His Company Commander wrote:” His manner of death was cheerful, and I can say truly heroic” and his Colonel added: “I was very fond of him. We all were….he was truly a good officer in every sense of the word. I could see the steadying, restraining, illuminating evidences of his faith acting within him, and indeed, shining in his face.”
Francis was just twenty-six years old when he died. He was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal.
He was originally buried south of Lone Tree, Loos but his body was lost in the turmoil of the conflict. His life is commemorated on the Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais, France (Panel 60) and on memorials at Queens University, Campbell College, Belfast and at Ellesmere College.
Acknowledgements: Our thanks to John Harvey for drafting this additional information and the Ellesmerian Club for supporting the research into Francis Leonard.