Sunday, November 11, 2012

William and Ernest Leggett

The Leggett brothers - William (left) Ernest (right)
Recent publicity concerning the future of Sanford Street School has highlighted the importance of a roll of honour on display there to former pupils who died in the First World War. Among the list of more than 130 names are those of seven sets of brothers killed in the 1914-18 war.

An entry in the school logbook dated March 20, 1936 records – “Received today the memorial to Old Sanfordians who fell in the Great War.  It is a very beautifully made memorial, paid for by money in the School’s private fund.’

Two brothers listed among the dead are Horace and Reginald Corser, the sons of William and Elizabeth Corser of 1 Broad Street.  Reginald, an engine room artificer on HMS Defence was killed on May 31, 1916 during the Battle of Jutland.  He was 25 years old and had been married for less than a year.  Brother Horace was serving with the 79th Field Company Royal Engineers when he was killed on January 11, 1918 aged 25.

Arthur and William Barnes were two brothers both aged just 18 years old when they were killed.  Arthur, an Ordinary Signalman died on board the HMS Queen Mary on May 31, 1916 during the same Battle of Jutland.  His brother William was serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment when he was killed in action during the Battle of Arras eleven months later.  The boy’s parents Harry, a warehouseman at the GWR Works, and Charlotte lived at 18 Medgbury Road.

In his book Tell Them of Us, Mark Sutton includes the story of the Leggett brothers William and Ernest of 282 Ferndale Road who enlisted together in Swindon and served alongside each other in 1st Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment.

William was shot during action on the Ypres Salient on June 16, 1915 and was taken into one of the dugouts where Ernest sat with him until he died.

“He was a very brave chap and was very happy, right up to the last.  I was proud of the way he stuck it out,” Ernest wrote home to his mother.

Lance Corporal F. Parker who lived near the Leggett family in Ferndale Road also wrote to his mother:
“I am sorry to say Billy Leggett was killed.  One of our chaps told me that Ern was with him as well and he said that Billy died very calm and like a hero.  He was shot through the stomach and the bullet came out at the hip.”  Less than three months later 21 year old Ernest was also killed in action.

The brothers who enlisted together, served and fought together are remembered together - their names appear on the Menin Gate Memorial in Belgium and the Sanford Street School memorial.

Tell Them of Us – Remembering Swindon’s Sons by Mark Sutton is available for consultation in Swindon Central Library.  Copies can be obtained from the author on

Sanford Street School First World War Roll of Honour

Mark Sutton, author of Tell Them of Us

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Sanford Street School 

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