b. 12/08/1893 Lincoln. d. 19/10/1915 Abbeville, France.
Leonard James Keyworth (1893-1915) was born at 22 Coningsby Street, Lincoln on 12th April 1893. His father was James Keyworth, a tailor, and his mother was Emma nee Taylor. His parents married in Lincoln in 1880. Leonard had one sister, Lillie Milly.
Leonard was educated at Rosemary Lane Wesleyan School and Municipal Technical School, Lincoln. He was a keen sportsman, playing football and cricket, and latter with the Silver Street Cricket Club and the Rechabites Cricket Club, with whom he won two medals. He sang in the choir at the United Methodist Church in Silver Street and was also a member of the YMCA. After school, he was initially an apprentice tailor before becoming a clerk with Messrs William Foster & Co Engineers and was later an insurance clerk in the Lindsey insurance department of Messrs Burton, Scorers and White Solicitors.
Leonard tried to enlist in the Lincolnshire Regiment at the outbreak of war, but was rejected. He travelled to London and managed to enlist with 2/24th (County of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (The Queen’s) on 10th September 1914. Early on he transferred into 1/24th London and was initially stationed at St Albans, Hertfordshire where he was billeted at Calver Road Hall and then at 63 Heath Road. The Battalion moved to Hatfield in January 1915 and on 16th March 1915 crossed to France where it was initially based near Bethune.
The Battalion suffered over 100 casualties during the Battle of Aubers Ridge on 9th May. On the night of 25-26th May, 1915 near to Givenchy, France, following the assault on the German position by the 24th Battalion, London Regt, efforts were made by that unit to follow up their success by a bomb attack, during the progress of which 58 men out of a total 75 became casualties. During this very fierce encounter Lance-Cpl Keyworth stood fully exposed for 2 hours on the top of the enemy’s parapet, and threw about 150 bombs amongst the Germans, who were only a few yards away.
Leonard was gazetted for the Victoria Cross on 3rd July 1915, and was awarded the Russian Cross of St George (2nd Class) the following month. He returned to England on 11th July and the following day the VC was presented to him by King George V at Buckingham Palace. Leonard then took part in recruitment rallies. One was at the Old Vic Theatre, Waterloo Road, London during which one of the French artistes, Gaby Deslys, gave him her lapel watch. On 17th July, he visited Lincoln including his old school, the Municipal Technical School. After his speech he passed the VC around for the masters and boys to see. During the same visit, he was presented with an illuminated address and a purse of £26. Later he and Corporal James Upton VC were entertained by the Mayor at the Albion Hotel. He would receive several more gifts from a variety of sources in Lincoln, including a clock from the Salford Unity of the Lincolnshire Independent Order of Rechabites. His former employers at Messrs Burton, Scorers and White presented him with another illuminated address and an inscribed wrist watch. He returned to France and the Western Front at the end of the month.
The Battalion was involved in an attempt to capture Hulloch on 15th October 1915, during which he was wounded in the head and taken to 5th Field Ambulance near Noeux-les-Mines. He was moved to No 5 Stationary Hospital at 5 Rue de Capucins, Abbeville, but died of his wounds at around 8.45pm on 19th October without regaining consciousness. He was buried in Abbeville Communal Cemetery.
In addition to his VC, he was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 and Russian Medal of St George, 2nd Class. Leonard never married and the medals eventually passed to his sister Lillie, who died in 1961. They were then purchased by John Tamplin in March 1963 for £460. He was a former member of the London Regiment and because of this it was assumed that the Regiment had purchased the medals. He created a museum in the Drill Hall, London for his collection of militaria and Keyworth’s VC group. When the Drill Hall closed, he donated the medal group to the Queen’s Royal Surrey Regiment Museum, Clandon Park, Guildford, Surrey in March 2005. The medals fortunately survived the fire that almost destroyed the building in April 2015 as they are held in a bank.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: QUEENS ROYAL SURREY REGIMENT, CLANDON PARK, GUILDFORD.
BURIAL PLACE: ABBEVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY, ABBEVILLE, FRANCE.
PLOT III, ROW C, GRAVE 2.
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Plan.
The Queen’s Royal Surrey Regiment Museum – Image of the Keyworth VC Medal Group.