WOODS, Leopold

No.1150, Sergeant, Leopold WOODS
Aged 33

1st Northumbrian Field Coy., Royal Engineers
Killed in Action on Sunday, 7th March 1915

Leopold Albany Woods was born in Dalham in 1881 (Newmarket Q3-1881 3B:515), baptised in Dalham on 19th May 1881, son of Joseph and Frances Mary WOODS. (née CARNEY). His father had also served in the Royal Engineers, from 1859 to 1875, much of the time in Australia.

1891 census...Aged 9, he was at 9 Front Street, Ousden with his father Joseph WOODS [59] a carpenter, born Barrow, Suffolk; his mother Frances [52] born Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; brother Charles [21] carpenter, born Gravesend, Kent; sister Agnes S [13] born Dalham and brother Ernest [12] and Joseph [11] both born in Dalham. 3 elder siblings had been born in Australia.

1901 census...Aged 19 he was not found in the census, he was already in the Army and was 18 days from leaving for Singapore. So far, neither of his parents have been identified in this census, nor identified in the death registers.

1911 census...Aged 27, single, he was a motor (?) builder, lodging at 8 William Street, Chopwell, Newcastle.

He married Lena MILLER in Morpeth in Q4-1912. They had one child, Lawrence T. Woods, born 1914.

He enlisted in Bury St Edmunds on 1st March 1900 in the Royal Engineers No. 5003. He gave his age as 18 yrs 10 months (reverse of same form shows 19 yrs 10 mths )
He was born in Dalham, a carpenter, next of kin his father Joseph in Ousden. Big man for those days, 5ft 9 3/4 inches (177.1cm), weighing 145 lbs (66 kg) chest 36" to 38" (91.4 to 96.5 cm). Church of England, grey eyes, dark hair. Signed for 7 years in colours, 5 on reserves.
On 19th April 1901 he was on his way to Singapore, returning 4th March 1902. On 28th March 1905, with his consent he was transferred to 1st Class Reserves and ended his 12 years service on 28th February 1912.

He enlisted next on August 8th 1914 in Newcastle on Tyne. He was married and living at 13 Race Street, Newcastle on Tyne, next of kin his wife Lena. His age was given as 33 yrs 3 mths, height 5ft 10.5 inches (179.1 cm), chest 42.5" to 44.5" (108 - 113 cm). As can be seen from the image below, his WW1 service records, part of what are known as the "burnt documents (thanks to the Luftwaffe in 1939-1945) are severely damaged. However it is possible to ascertain that he was mobilised on 8th August 1914, as a Corporal, and promoted to Sergeant on 26th September. He was sent to join the British Expeditionary Force in Belgium on 18th January 1915 and was killed in action on 7th March 1915. In 1921 his wife was living at Abbey Mills, Mitford, Morpeth.

The engineers being attached to so many different units is is hard to pin down where he was killed, but his unit seems to have been concentrated in the area between Bailleul and Hazebrouck. His cemetery is inside the town of Ypres. As you would expect, engineers' deaths were scattered and relatively thin in any one area.

The Bury Free Press of 10th April 1915 reported:-
Sergt.Leopold Woods, of 13 Race Street,Newcastle, was killed in action last week. Sergt.Woods was the youngest son of Mr. J.Woods, of Ousden, and brother of Mrs.H.J.Rowling of Stansfield. He was employed by Messrs.Angus Sanderson and Co.,and was quartered with the Engineers in the Bull Park during the summer, and subsequently at the Exhibition Building. He left Newcastle for Winchester on January 2nd preparatory to going to the front.
Sergt.Woods leaves a widow and an infant son. Mrs Woods has received the following letter from Captain MQueen, R.E.,Adjutant of the Northumberland Division, Royal Engineers:- "Colonel Crawford directs me to write and inform you that he has learnt from Major POllard, with greatest regret, that you husband, Sergt.Woods, has been killed in action,and that he begs to express to you his deepest sympathy in this loss. As I have not Major Pollard's letter by me I am unable to tell you the date of this occurrence, but Major Pollard in writing stated that Sergt.Woods was killed instantaneously by a rifle bullet. Major Pollard speaks very highly of your husband's services at the front. he says he was "one of the best" in his command and that he will feel his loss severely. Colonel Crawford hopes that the fact that your husband was doing such fine work for his country may in some measure help yourself and his relatives to sustain his loss. Official intimation has not yet been received in this office, but Colonel Crawford had no doubt as to the correctness of the information he has received,and no doubt official intimation will be received in due course. Sergt.Woods was a most excellent non-commissioned officer. His loss will be severely felt and is much regretted by all ranks".

What some Army service records look like, but his widow's address is legible

photo: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Leopold Woods is buried in Ramparts Cemetery,Lille Gate, Ypres, grave C:25

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details