Robert Walter Leeds (1891-1918), Corporal (326100) in the 1st Battalion the Cambridgeshire Regiment, was killed in action in Belgium on 28 April 1918 aged 27. His death is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial (Panel 148), as well as in this family grave.
Robert was born on 5 August 1890 at 20 Gold Street, Cambridge. He was the fifth of the eight children of John Edmund Leeds and Mary Ann Leeds (née Rider). He was initially a pupil at East Road Infants’ School, Cambridge but finally left education on 11 September 1903. Robert became a kitchen porter at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. He played in the College servants’ football team. Robert also rowed in “The Long” a race in which the servants’ boat raced against the students’ boat. The servants’ boat also included Herbert William Benstead (1895‒1917). The cox was Archibald Fairweather (1887‒1917), another kitchen porter. All three of them were to die in the War along with three other servants from the College.
The Cambridge Regiment records report that Corporal Robert Leeds (3053) enlisted in November 1915 but he was renumbered 326100 in April 1917. He was immediately posted to the new 2/1st Battalion, then drafted from it into the 1/1st Battalion. The 1/1st Battalion had been at full strength at the outbreak of war having just returned from annual camp. Arriving in France on 15 February 1915, it was to serve continuously in France and Flanders until 1919. Part of the 39th Division, 11th Infantry Brigade, the Battalion was preparing for the Somme offensive but they were in action in spells around Festubert and Givenchy, which is where Robert was wounded. He then returned to England.
There he served in the 3/1st Battalion (a reserve and drafting battalion) and he was promoted to Temporary Sergeant. He resumed his rank of Corporal on returning to the Western Front in France. It is unclear whether Robert returned in time for the battalion’s most famous action, the attack on the Schwaben Redoubt, on 14 October 1916. It was there that Archibald Fairweather, his fellow kitchen porter, won the Military medal. Just over a year later Robert was reported wounded and missing. He died of his wounds on 28 April 1918 and he has no known grave. He is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial. He was entitled to the Victory medal and the British War medal. Two of his letters sent from the front survive: one to his parents and one to his younger sister, Clara. [See download of these letters.]
Lat Lon : 52.201703, 0.13827664 – click here for location
Parish : Holy Trinity
War Graves Photographic Project
Census returns for England: 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911
England & Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index, 1837 – 1915
England & Wales, FreeBMD Marriage Index, 1837 – 1915
England & Wales, FreeBMD Death Index, 1837 – 1915
England & Wales, Death Index, 1916 – 2007
England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858 – 1966
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914 – 1919
Caian (XXIV, pp52-54)
Cambridge Independent Press, 20 August 1920
Notebook belonging to Edmund Leeds (abt 1815‒1871)
Communications from Diana Summers
Communications from Robert Leeds and Jo Leeds
By Emma Easterbrook and Ian Bent