Leonard Paul was born in Chesham, Hertfordshire. One of six children, he was the second son PC Harry Paul and his wife Mary Martha.
By the time of the 1901 census, Harry had been promoted and had moved his young family – William, Ivy, Leonard and Stuart – to Harmondsworth, where he worked as the Station Sergeant.
It’s clear than Leonard wanted to better himself, as in August 1908 he enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery. After training, he was posted overseas, arriving in India in March 1910. He is listed as a driver in the barracks at Ambala on the 1911 census.
When war broke out, his battalion was moved to the Western Front and he arrived in France in November 1914. Leonard was appointed a Shoeing Smith at the start of 1915, before being promoted to Farrier Serjeant later that year.
Serjeant Paul’s battallion, the 110th Brigade, fought in some of the bloodiest battles of the war – Somme, Pozieres, Third Ypres – and it is almost certain that he was involved in this battles in some respect.
Leonard’s records show that he was admitted hospital in St Omer on 16th March 1917 with Trench Fever, before being invalided back to the UK a few weeks later.
Serjeant Paul was medically discharged from the RFA at the end of April; his release notes show that he was “physically unfit with tubercle of the lung”. His father having retired from the police force, his parents has moved to Kent by this point, and were living in Rainham, where Leonard joined them.
A contemporary newspaper picks up Serjeant Paul’s story from there.
The young man… joined the Army, and had served in France, where he was gassed. This undermined his health, and he fell into a decline, and after lingering for a year at home, died on Saturday [25th May 1918].East Kent Gazette: Saturday 1st June 1918
A century on, the cause of Leonard’s lung affliction (a gas attack or trench fever) is neither here nor there. Either way, he suffered for a long time before finally succumbing. He was 29 years old.
Serjeant Leonard Paul lies at peace in the St Margaret’s Churchyard, Rainham.