photo courtesy of IWPP
Leonard Albinson was born in Oldham in 1898, the son of Harry (a cotton spinner) and Emma. His early years were spent in Oldham and the family moved to 38 Mellalieu Street, Royton at some point after the 1911 census was taken (in that they were living at Siddall Street,Oldham). Before enlisting he worked as a piecer at the Vine Mill.
In October 1915 in Royton, Albinson, like many others at the time, gave a false age when signing up. He claimed to be 19 when, in fact, he was still 17 years of age. You were allowed to join the army at 18 but the rules stated that to serve overseas on the front line you were supposed to be at least 19 years of age.
After signing up Albinson first went to the Cyclist Corps depot at Uxbridge before heading to Wiltshire to undergo his basic training. Whilst still in Britain his mother made desperate attempts to get him discharged due him being underaged. The military at first rebuffed her by saying that she needed to provide a birth certificate because as far as they were concerned he had enlisted at the age of 19 years and 5 months. She sent a birth certificate but they said they never received it so she sent them a further copy. Despite that proof Albinson was still sent to serve in France.
Albinson reached France on September 18 1916 and three weeks later on October 9th was wounded by a gunshot wound to the head. On the same day a Denis Crowley, from Co.Cork in Ireland, from his unit was killed - probably in the same action.
His mother received word that he had been injured on October 23rd and immediately penned a letter demanding to know why he had been sent to the front. Leonard Albinson died the next day of his wounds in one of the several large military hospitals at Etaples. As well as his parents he left behind brothers William & Ernest as well as sister Emily.
The reply received from the unit in Wiltshire to the letter above was that Albinson's Commanding Officer had not put his name on the list of those underaged. Whether any action was taken against that officer is unknown (probably unlikely).
After Albinson's death his parents received a letter from a sister in the hospital in which he died, it was reprinted in the Oldham Chronicle:
"I dare say you will already have heard through official channels of your son's grievous wound and of his being in hospital here. Very early this morning (October 24th) your little lad passed into the Great Beyond. He never spoke to us, being unconscious all the time, and fortunately not suffering pain. He looked such a child, such a bonny wee lad, and our hearts are sore for his poor mother."
Date of Death:24/10/1916
Regiment: Army Cyclist Corps
Unit :XV Corps Cyclist Battalion
Cemetery: Etaples Military Cemetery
Grave Ref: VIII.C.8A.