2nd Lieutenant, 4th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers.
Killed in action on Friday 9th July 1915, age 19
Remembered on the Menin Gate, Belgium, panel 33.
Former student of engineering.
Leslie Charles Billington was born on 25th December 1895 at Wolstanton, North Staffordshire. The only son of Charles, a Metallurgist, and Annie Jane Billington, he was educated at Bishop Stortford College (1908-1911) and by private tuition. He entered Manchester University in 1913 to study Engineering.
When war was declared he was in camp at Sailsbury Plain with the University Officer Training Corps. He immediately volunteered for active service and on 14th October 1914 obtained a commission with the 4th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers and trained at Barrow In Furness. In June 1915 he embarked for France and was attached to the 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers.
The circumstances of Leslie’s death were described by a corporal in a letter to Leslie’s parents: “We were holding some trenches captured from the Germans, and our platoon, which was ably commanded by your son, were in support to the firing line. We were subjected to a very heavy shell fire, and early on your son inspired confidence in his men by the way he assisted in digging out several of our men who had been buried with debris, thereby saving, I know, two men’s lives from suffocation, for which we all admired him. It is the most nerve-trying time you can get, to be under heavy shell fire, especially fresh out from England, but your son seemed to overcome it straight away and turned out a brick as it were. On the afternoon of the 7th we were ordered to reinforce the front line, and when we arrived there learned that our bomb throwers had retired from the advanced saphead temporarily, being short of bombs. The Germans had occupied it, so your son was ordered by Capt. Blencowe… to retake the trench. I was the corpl. in charge of the section he selected to go with him. He led us up fearlessly, he himself yards in front of any of his men, and I saw him get up to the parapet and empty his revolver, then jump in the trench, and after the trench was retaken, he was most unfortunately hit with a shell, dying a brave soldiers death, staunch and fearless to the end. His platoon greatly feel the loss of so gallant an officer. And offer you their most sincere sympathy in your sad loss.”
A Major Bowes recalled that Leslie had showed “the greatest courage, and never flinched when he was told off for the dangerous job” and added that “it was due to such fine young fellows as your boy that we were able to hold our own”.
Leslie was Mentioned in Despatches. His sword was gifted to Bishop Stortford College in November 2014.