LEONARD EDWARD MELBOURNE, M.M.
19th Alberta Dragoons
10th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force
This photo was taken in France for Christmas 1918, and after his promotion to sergeant on Oct 10, 1918.
The ribbon of the Military Medal is showing on his chest.
Military Service Prior to WWI
Leonard was a private in the 19th Alberta Dragoons for some
time prior to WWI. In his attestation papers for joining the
Canadian Expeditionary Force he indicates that he was with
the Dragoons for 6 years. However he did not arrive in
Canada until April of 1909 and consequently '6 years' is a
bit of an exaggeration. There is some hope that we will be
able to find some documentary evidence of his involvement in
the Dragoons. The Dragoons were a militia regiment and so
enrollment in them was not a full time occupation. Leonard
states in his attestation records that he was a clerk and
family lore has it that he worked in Edmonton on the High
Level bridge construction project as a clerk in the office.
Military Service in WWIOn 4 August 1914, Canada. as part of the British Empire, entered the war on Germany. The Canadian Government mobilized certain units and created new battalions to provide its support to the war effort. All personnel (even those enlisted in regular or militia units) were required to sign a new commitment to the war effort using a form called an attestation paper. The 19th Alberta Dragoons, and all other personnel destined for the war, were shipped to Valcartier, Quebec where these papers were signed.
Walter Woods was another member of the 19th Alberta Dragoons who joined just before the war and traveled on the same trip as Leonard. This link is for an excerpt from his book "The Men Who Came Back" covers some of that trip and gives a good description of the activities of the 19th until arrival in France.
The Attestation Record of Leonard Edward Melbourne
Life in EnglandThe most detailed records for a soldier, at a personal level, are those related to health and pay as well as, while on active service a record of his promotions or appointments. These records exist in the archives, for Leonard, and we are able, by examining them, to determine something of where he was, what units he was with and, by inference, to deduce what his activities were.
From Wood's diary we learn that the unit sailed on the Arcadia, a Cunard ship, on 3 October 1914, arrived at Devonport (Plymouth) England on the 14th and the unit then went to Salisbury plain for training until being sent to France on 3 February 1915. Wood's diary gives a trooper's view of what was happening. A more official record of the unit during this time period can be gleaned by reading the War Diary which is available on line at the Canadian Archives. In the war diary we learn that living conditions were rough, but in spite of this the unit maintained a vigorous training schedule with much emphasis on riding, use of the sword and after they were issued with them on 21 December, use of the short Lee-Enfield rifle. At this stage training started with elementary cavalry mounted movements as the Dragoons started to develop into a military unit for war. In addition to training they were tasked with policing responsibilities for the area with various patrols being assigned to these duties from time to time. Instruction was also given in map reading, reconesance patrolling, silent actions and dismounted actions, etc. Gradually the training become more complex and included interactions with other Canadian and Newfoundland infantry.
The unit was amongst the first of the Empire mounted troops to reach England and were much reviewed by senior commanders who were interested in knowing their capabilities. On 24 October, Field Marshal Earl Roberts (as remarked in the war diary, in "pouring rain"). On 3 November the squadron was reviewed by Their Majesties the King and Queen and Lt. Col. Jamieson was presented to them. On 8 November a small contingent was dispatched to London to participate in the "Lord Mayor's Show". On January 13 one of the officers, Lieutenant Edmiston was married to Mary Allen of Ottawa and the squadron provided escorts and honour guard for the couple. On January 20th and 21st they were inspected by two more generals. On February 4th they were again inspected by His Majesty the King.
Generally during this period in England the squadron had a holiday for a half day on Saturday and all day Sunday. It is likely that this practice allowed the troopers to leave base on some of these occasions. (indeed there are references to punishments for late returnees). Leonard had been away from England for a little more than 5 years. He had many cousins and aunts and uncles in the vicinity of Kingston-on-Thames. I am not aware of any specific records of his visits to these areas and people. However, Leonard's mother, Polly, had two sisters in the London area and his father, Edward, was one of eleven children. Although three of his grandparents were deceased by 1914 his maternal grandmother Elizabeth (nee Rogers) Strange was still alive and he may well have seen her. In addition to any leaves he might have had, it is possible that one or more of these people would have visited him at the barracks.
The First Period of Service in France
The 19th moved to France as part of the Canadian Cavalry Division on 8 February 1915. These were exciting times for the Dragoons and with this the war diary is suddenly much more verbose. We learn that they entrained at Tidworth (in Salsbury Plains -- still a British Army training area) and then went to Avonmouth (near Bristol) to ship to St. Nazaire (in Brittany, France) aboard HMT Rosetti. The crossing was not overly fast but the weather was fine and they disembarked on the 12th of February. In rain, they proceeded from the Bay of Biscay to Hazebrouck in France. The war diary is not specific but likely they traveled in the famed "40-8" transports of the French railway system -- that is 40 men or 8 horses to a carriage. The officers would have been in a passenger coach. Hazebouck, France is located about 18 miles to the southwest of Ypres, a major battle area throughout WWI. When they detrained they then moved a 2-3 miles closer to the front in the Borre-Pradelles area.
In this area they continued their training -- no doubt
with an increased intensity and a greater awareness of the
realities of war. They were within in sound of the guns.
They practiced musketry, sword handling, various mounted
formations, dismounting into action and so on. On the 20th
of February Sir john French, the commander of the British
Expeditionary Force (of which they were part). The 19th's
colonel, Lt. Col. F.C.Jamieson was in command of the
Divisional Mounted Troops.
This type of training, combined with sub-units gaining
some front line experience continued unabated for the next
several weeks. However they still observed "Sunday
routine" -- that is they had a day of comparative rest.
They moved from billets in one place to another. The war
diary records promotions, demotions and various other
personnel moves as well as describing problems with
billets and supplies. Included in these personnel comments
are the sentencing of 2012 Pte. Potter, R.H. to seven days
field punishment for being drunk in Sailly -- so clearly
the boys were getting away from the drudgery of training
and patrols on occasion.
It is perhaps relevant to pause and describe what the
19th were in fact doing as it related to the war. The
commanders of the British Expeditionary Force, at this
time and for much of the war, maintained a belief that
they could, by various means of assault break through the
German lines and, once that was done, would be able to
unleash the cavalry to penetrate into the rear areas of
the Germans and defeat the German army. Consequently, the
cavalry had a limited role and limited exposure to any
danger until such time as the break through occurred. This
did much to lengthen the wartime life span of members of
As March progressed, the Dragoons continued their
training. The weather was occasionally severe with snow
reported on 19th March. The war diary reports the arrival
of more horses as well as men, promotions and continual
moves to different billets. And now the troopers are being
rotated into the trenches to get front line experience.
These deployments were of a training nature with the
troopers being paired with operational units. During this
period we also see records of troopers being assigned to
various police duties in the rear areas. We see some
evidence of casualties during this time but these are from
training injuries and not from enemy action.
The Second Battle of Ypres
19th Dragoons War Diary Entry for June 12th, 1915
Squadron parade 9 - 11:30 am. Cpl Goodland, Ptes. Westgate, Durham, Melbourne, Madill detailed as permanent orderlies to Gen. Alderson to replace L/Cpl Seccombe, Ptes. Sheherd, Anderson, Day, E., McNamara. No 19124 Pte Eley, R. transfered to Squadron from Cyclist Coy. Lt. Ferris, Sgt. Pugh, Corp Watson and L/Cpl Evans on reconnoitering patrol observing enemy's working parties at night.
[Note: An orderly would have been an on-call soldier who ran dispatches and served as a duty person for miscellaneous duty for the Commanding Officer and/or his headquarters. This was usually a temporary assignment.]
(click on image for larger copy)
Marriage That Wasn't
As we see, in his personnel records, Leonard was given permission to marry on ------. We also see that he is granted passage to Canada with a dependent. But what of this marriage? His xxx papers indicate the marriage is cancelled, but only by crossing it out. For most researchers this would be the end of the story -- he received permission to marry and the marriage never occurred.
Interestingly we have two items of family history which relate to this wedding that never happened.
On January 31st, 1916, Leonard's sister Elsie had married Leonard's school friend Frank. Frank had an older sister, Lillian, who was widowed in 1916; she was left with four children and no means of support. In letters between Frank and Lillian it was decided to send the older boy, Francis Fry, to Canada for a few years. In a letter to Lillian, dated XXXXX, Frank suggests that Francis might travel to Canada with Leonard and gives as a contact the name and address of the future bride, Miss Jacobs. Interestingly Frank's grandmother was Mary (nee Jacobs) and one wonders if this was a cousin? [Francis may or may not have met Miss Jacobs. He did travel to Canada, by himself at the age of 12, and joined the family of Frank and Elsie. Francis never returned to live in England. He would eventually become the Chief Scout in Canada and an ordained minister in the Anglican Church of Canada. He was presented to the Queen in 1957 at the Scout Jamboree in England]
A generation and a war later, Leslie Scott, nephew of Leonard, also went to England, as an airman in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Shortly after arriving he was granted leave and went to visit family relatives; he had numerous aunts and uncles in south of England. Amongst those he visited were some in the Thames Ditton area who were vocally critical of the fact that he was the nephew of Leonard Melbourne who, engaged to be married, and with all arrangements in hand, had left the bride at the altar.
citation for the Military Medal awarded to Leonard
London Gazette entry for his Military Medal
Medals Awarded To 2035 Sgt. Leonard Melbourne
for service in WWI
Military Medal with Rosette (2nd award) -- for
1914-1915 Star -- awarded to those who served in
France before November 1, 1915
British War Medal -- awarded to all who served
Victory Medal -- awarded to all who served
The first of these, for bravery, was awarded
during the war, the remainder were awarded after