Nuttall, John Leonard

The following information was supplied by Neil  Evans, a relative of Leonard Nuttall, he has kindly agreed for this information to be used in the biographical details of Leonard’s life.

Born in 1882, in Maidstone. He moved about an awful lot with his family in the early part of his life, his parents were teachers and worked in Maidstone, Bromsgrove and Sandbach. Following the death of his father in 1885. He, and his brother, were fostered by the Wild family, of Lockley Wood, Hinstock, Shropshire. Between 1890 and 1900 he lived in Shropshire before moving to Llandrynog, Denbigh with his mother, step father and sisters. In mid 1905, he went out to Canada, Alberta or Ontario, with his brother. Meanwhile his family were on the move again and ended up in Thame, Oxfordshire!

My late Grandfather said he moved to Neath around 1911-14 in search of employment having returned from Canada with his brother, his brother ended up in Shropshire. Leonard found employment as a colliery check weigh man. He enlisted in late August, 1914, in Neath, into the 9th Welsh Regt. He was quickly promoted to a Lance Corporal and after his training landed in France in July 1915. By this time he was a Lance Sergeant.

He survived the Battle of Loos, Sept. 25th 1915, the 9th Welsh Regt., took a fair few casualties that day, but thankfully Leonard was unscathed. His luck, however, did not last long and in March 1916, he was severely wounded by shrapnel. He spent the next three months in Hospital. Fortunately he recovered from his wounds and went home on leave. His family, mother and sisters, at this time taught and lived at Bodelwyddan, Flintshire. Bodelwyddan being right next to Kinmel Camp. Somehow or other Leonard found himself as a training NCO, with the 12th Welsh Regt., at Kinmel Camp.

It was rather fortunate that he was now working so close to his family. I doubt many other men were as fortunate. Fortunate or not, Leonard was suffering from the mental strain that he endured in France. Early in the morning of June 25th 1916, he left his home at St. Asaph Lodge, Bodelwyddan, and went to a beauty spot at Bryn Elwy, St. Asaph, it was there that Leonard ended his life.

Rhyl Journal 01/07/1916

A very sad case of suicide on the part of a soldier stationed at Kinmel Camp was investigates by Mr J. Roberts Jones, deputy coroner for Flintshire, at St. Asaph on Tuesday the discovery of the tragedy was made on Sunday by Captain Wyatt, Menai Bridge, Anglesey supervising recruiting officer for Anglesey, while on a visit to St. Asaph walking through some fields near Bryn Elwy in the afternoon, he noticed a soldier apparently standing under a tree. On getting a nearer view he found the soldier was suspended from the tree by a rope, his feet being about two feet from the ground. He at once cut him down, but life was quite extinct.

On the ground near the body was a soldiers cap containing a letter. The body was subsequently identified as that of Lance Sergeant John Leonard Nuttall, formally of the 9th battalion of the Welsh Regiment and lately attached to the 12th battalion. He was 34 years of age and unmarried, prior to the outbreak of war he was employed as a colliery check weigh man in South Wales. He joined the army within a month of the outbreak of war, and he went to the front last year with the 9th Welsh Regiment. Being wounded by shrapnel he was in hospital some time until the beginning of June, and about a fortnight ago, he joined the 12th Welsh Regiment at Kinmel Camp.

Information was given at the inquest by deceased by Thomas Brereton, Farmer, Cefn that stated that the late deceased seemed to have been suffering from a nervous breakdown. He had not been able to sleep very well and on this account was allowed to sleep at his mother’s homes in Bodelwyddan, when seen by his friends last Saturday he seemed quite jolly.

Captain Wyatt related how he found the deceased, and the letter found in his cap, was read as follows.

D. Coy., Welsh Regiment, Kinmel Camp, 13575, can not rest day or night my head hurts so bad. I am grieving to think of the pain and trouble it’ll cause, but I am going to seek the other world. May god comfort my dear ones and have mercy on my soul. I am better dead than insane, and I have done my bit for England. Good Bye All.

My head is bursting again now god comfort my loved ones. Amen Amen Amen

Another letter produced contained a request by the deceased to his captain, to be allowed to revert back to the rank of private on account of loss of memory and weak nerves due to shock.

Deceased regimental conduct sheet was produced showing he had an absolutely clean record. A verdict of suicide whilst temporarily insane was recorded by the jury, the foreman was John Rogers and sympathy was expressed with the bereaved relatives was expressed.

I received an e mail from Neil Evans on 17th August 2015 with more information about Leonard.

“I hope you’re well, and thank you for emailing. I will try to keep things as simple as possible and allow you to insert the information as you see fit.”


  • Leonard, prior to his enlistment was residing at Glynneath, South Wales. He had lived their since around 1907. 
  • His place of death, Bryn Elwy, St. Asaph, stumped me for years. My wife and I visited the Oriel Country Hotel and Spa, while searching for a venue for a wedding reception. It turns out it’s the same place! The manager informed us the house used to be called Bryn Elwy.
  • New newspaper article – see below

Abergele & Pensarn Visitor 

Pathetic Farewell Letter

The story of still another Kinmel Camp tragedy was told to the Flintshire Coroner on Wednesday, the victim being Lance Sergeant Nuttall of the 12th Welsh Regiment, who was found hanging in a wood near the camp.

Nuttall had been transferred from the 9th battalion after being wounded at the front, and sent home for convalescence. Of late he had complained of loss of memory and the breaking up of his nerves. He wrote to his company officer asking to be allowed to revert back to the rank of private, as he did not consider, with his loss of memory, that he could properly perform the duties of a non-commissioned officer. He had been hit by shrapnel in the head, and complained of pains there. When his body was found there was a letter in his cap, in which he wrote: –

“I, Lance Sergeant Nuttall, cannot rest day or night, my head is so bad, and I deeply grieve to think of the pain and trouble it will cause. I am going to see the other world. May God comfort my dear ones, and have mercy on my soul. But I am better dead than insane, and I have done my bit for England. Good-bye all. My head is bursting again now. God comfort my loved ones. Amen, amen, amen.”

The jury returned a verdict of ‘suicide whilst temporarily insane’, and paid tribute to the character of Nuttall as a soldier and a man, for he was well known in the district. His conduct in the army showed that he was of exemplary character.

Leonard’s will documents which are shown below mentions his foster mother in Shropshire. 

Leonard was hospitalised in Norfolk from shrapnel wounds to the head, Feb to June 1916.

“I’m pleased to say that Ann and I married at St. Margaret’s, Bodelwyddan, Jan. 24, 2015, and had our reception at the Oriel Country Hotel and Spa. The new Shropshire Roll of Honour, which is very much Leonard’s legacy was dedicated in front of 1,500 people in Shrewsbury, last Remembrance Sunday, and presented to the county by Vice Lord Lieutenant, Col. Edmund Thewles. of 1 July 1916.”


The following information was researched by Patricia Satchell

The 1891 census tells us that Leonard age 9 years and his brother Henry age 7 years were living with William and Louisa Wild in Madeley, Shropshire in the Parish of Hinstock. His two sisters, Gertrude age12 years and Edith age10 years were living with William and Grace Ash in Ettiley Heath Sanbach Cheshire.

The England & Wales Marriage Index, 1837-1915 tells us that in 1892 Leonard’s mother married Edwin Brereton formerly a Coal Merchant of Sandbach in Cheshire.

This seems to have changed circumstances for the family as the 1901 census for Wales shows the family reunited in LLandyrnog. Edwin Brereton is listed as Self Employed Farmer, Mary Jane Brereton as wife, Gertrude Nuttall and Edith Nuttall as Schoolteachers and Leonard Nuttall age 19 as a worker. Henry Nuttall age 16 years was still living with The Wild family in Hinstock and was employed as a Carpenter.

On 10th May 1904 Leonard and his brother Henry departed from Liverpool  on ” The Lake Manitoba” bound for Quebec in Canada, we know this from the UK Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960.

Unfortunately I was not able to trace his incoming details but am advised by Neil, Leonard’s ancestor, that he arrived back in the UK around 1911, his brother Henry who also returned at this time went back to live with the Wild family in Hinstock, we know this because he is shown  the 1911 census age 27 years employed as a Carpenter.

The 1911 census for Wales reveals that Leonard’s family resided at School House, Worminghall School, Thame, Oxon, his mother Mary Jane Brereton was listed as widowed again, his sisters Gertrude and Edith Nuttall were employed as Schoolteachers.

On under the heading, UK Soldiers who Died in the Great War 1914-1919  we learn that Leonard enlisted in Neath, also that he died on 25/6/1916 at home and that his residence was Bodelwyddan, Flintshire.

His Flintshire Roll of Honour card in the Archives Office in Hawarden gives Leonard’s rank as L/ Sergeant and his  period of service 2 years.

Leonard’s WW1 Medal Card states that he was awarded The Victory Medal, The British War medal and The 1915 Star medal. Under Remarks on the Medal card are the words, Committed Suicide 25/6/16 whilst Temp Insane. Also recorded is the Theatre of War first served in, France, Date of entry therein, 18/7/15

Sadly these medals were never claimed by his family at the time.

Leonard Nuttall was in the 9th Battalion of the Welch Regiment which was part of 58th Brigade , 19th (Western) Division. He survived the Battle of Loos but was injured by shrapnel and spent three months in hospital in Norfolk between February and June 1916.

The 19th (Western) Division in 1914-1918

The history of 19th (Western) Division

This Division was established by the Western Command in September 1914, as part of the Army Orders authorising Kitchener’s Second New Army, K2. Early days were somewhat chaotic, the new volunteers having very few trained officers and NCOs to command them, no organised billets or equipment. The units of the Division initially concentrated in the Bulford area with the infantry being at Tidworth, Ludgershall and Grately. The battalions moved into billets for the winter, in Andover, Whitchurch, Basingstoke and Weston-super-Mare. In March 1915 all units concentrated near Tidworth..

The Division was inspected by King George V on 23 June 1915. Advanced parties left for France on 11 July and the main body crossed the English Channel 16-21 July. Units initially moved to the point of assembly near St Omer.

The Division served on the Western Front for the remainder of the war, taking part in many of the significant actions:

The Action of Pietre, a supporting/diversionary action during the Battle of Loos

The Battle of Albert* in which the Division captured La Boisselle
The attacks on High Wood*
The Battle of Pozieres Ridge*
The Battle of the Ancre Heights*
The Battle of the Ancre*
The battles marked * are phases of the Battles of the Somme 1916

The England and Wales National Probate Calendar shows us that Mary Jane Brereton (Leonard’s mother) was residing at School House Bodelwyddan at the time of her death on 19th April 1938., she left her effects to her two daughters who taught at the local school for some years before moving to Ridgway St Asaph. They both remained Spinsters for the rest of their lives.

I had the pleasure of attending the “Open Doors” weekend at Bodelwyddan Church. On entering the Church I was advised that descendants of Leonard Nuttall were in the Church at that time and would be happy to meet me. They were the parents of Neil Evans who supplied some information for Leonard’s story and are descended from his brother Henry who was known in the family as Harry.

On display in the church was Leonard’s Death Plaque or “Death Penny” as they were called. This is a plaque that was presented to the family on the death of a Serviceman or Servicewoman.

I would like to thank Neil Evans and members of his family who have supplied me with information and photographs that have enabled me to write Leonard’s story.

I hope that I have done justice to the memory of a very brave soldier.

May he rest in Peace.

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