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Heart-breaking though it must have been for a family to receive the telegram giving formal notification of the loss of a loved one in some foreign field, equally, if not more, traumatic would have been the experience of watching the last few weeks in the life of one returned from the front home to hospital in Birmingham only to die of his wounds. Such was the case of 30035 Sergeant Leslie William Walter GOTTS of the Royal Garrison Artillery, who died of wounds sustained in Flanders on the 26th July 1916 aged 25.
BL 15-inch howitzer Mk 1
In action on the Somme 1916
Leslie was born in Erpingham, four miles north of the market town of Aylsham, in the summer of 1891, to James GOTTS and Rachel LEE, who were living in that village on the Ingworth Road a little earlier at the time of the April Census. By 1901 the family had moved a short distance west to Low Common in the nearby village of Itteringham. At Aylsham Leslie enlisted in the Royal Garrison Artillery, a Siege Battery that was involved in the prolonged bombardment that began on the 23rd June 1916 as a prelude to the great offensive of the 1st July. Despite the intensive shelling, its intended task of breaking up the barbed wire through which the British assault waves were to advance utterly failed.
Leslie is remembered, along with six other men of the village who, unlike him, did not return from France, on St Mary’s war memorial and is buried in the south-east corner of the Itteringham churchyard.
Thanks to Ian Gotts of Kings Lynn for this
One extra piece of information is that Leslie’s Soldier’s Will is one of the few that can be bought from the Probate office.
He is registered as dying on 20/7/1916, and it is filed under William Walter for some reason.
The Soldiers Effects record confirms him as Leslie William Walter, Sergeant 30035 in the 2nd Depot RGA, dying of wounds on 26th July 1916 in the 1st South General Hospital in Birmingham, which explains why his death is recorded there. So he must have been wounded in action 2-3 weeks earlier, though we don’t know where.