2 May 2010

CHAMPION Leonard John


Lieutenant Northern Rhodesia Police
Killed in Action on Friday 4th October 1918

Buried at Dar-es-Salaam War Cemetery, Tanzania, Grave 5.D.3.

Leonard Champion was born in 1885 in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, the son of John Isgar Champion and his wife Caroline. By the time of the 1901 census the family were settled in Plumpton, Sussex, where John worked as a gardener and two of their three sons, Thomas and Claude were at home and still at school. At that time, Leonard, who was sixteen, was living in Bermondsey, London, where he worked as a draper's assistant. All this seems a fairly humble beginning for a man who would go on to have a rather unusual life, and the few facts that I have about him come from a newspaper report and from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Roll of Honour. First, a report from the Sussex Daily News of 20th November 1918:

LANCING OFFICER'S DEATH - The death of Lt. Leonard Champion, of General Northey's Force, in German East Africa, is reported. Thirty-two years of age, he was one of three soldier sons of Mr. and Mrs. J. Champion of Coogee, Penhill Road, Lancing, and formerly of Shoreham. A member of the South African Mounted Police, he was home on leave when war broke out, and being recalled, he joined the military forces of the Crown, taking part in the hostilities in the East African theatre of war until he was wounded fatally within about a month of the signing of the Armistice. Another son, Claude Champion, Royal Field Artillery, is at present in hospital recovering from the effects of gassing sustained at the Western Front. He had been wounded in the Dardanelles. A third son, Thomas, is in the Royal Field Artillery, and was at Mons when the Armistice was signed.

The CWGC Debt of Honour Register also adds the information that at some time he had been awarded the French 'Medaille Militaire.' This decoration, for gallantry in action, was only for NCOs and other ranks, and must have been awarded to him prior to being commissioned. So the son of a gardener, who worked in Bermondsey as a shop assistant, is buried in Dar es Salaam War Cemetery following a varied career in uniform in Africa - unfortunately it is probably we shall never know the steps that took him there.

Leonard Champion's name does not appear on Lancing War Memorial, but we know that his family lived in the village, and although they moved away after the war, at some point they returned and are buried in the churchyard of St. James the Less, North Lancing.

1 comment:

Bob Hatcher said...

My mother kept Leonard's medals safe in a drawer all of her life and they now reside with my sister.

When I was young we would often travel to Lancing to visit my Great-Aunts Dolly & Daisy