by Jane Kirk - Village Recorder
Amos Leeks was the first man named on the Tattingstone memorial to die. He was a Sergeant in the 2nd Battalion Suffolk Regiment and he was killed in action on 14 January 1915 in Flanders. His death is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, Eiper which states that he was born in 1880 in Aldham, Suffolk, the son of Henry and Maryann Leeks and husband of Mrs S E Leeks.
Amos was the seventh child in the family and his mother Maryann (nee Kinsey) died when he was about six. His father soon remarried and had a further three children with his second wife Charlotte. By this time the family lived in Somersham where his Dad Henry was an agricultural labourer.
Well before the War Amos had been in the Army. In 1901 at the age of 21 he was single and serving as a Corporal with the 3rd Suffolk Regiment stationed in St Peter Port, Guernsey. Ten years later, still a Corporal in the same Regiment and still single, he was in Bury St Edmunds at the time of the census. During his time as a regular soldier he never saw active service in, for instance, the Boer War.
That same year, 1911, records show that his father Henry and stepmother Charlotte aged 72 and 60 respectively, were living here in Tattingstone in the Samford House of Industry as inmates at the workhouse either through old age or poverty. Henry is paralysed by this time and he subsequently died in 1912.
From the information about Amos in the Liber Vitae (a book written by the vicar of Tattingstone with a page dedicated to each of the men from the village who lost their lives in the Great War), Amos lived in Tattingstone and worked at Pond Hall Farm for 16 years so presumably he left the Army in about 1909 and as a former soldier he must have been recalled for training or similar to have been at the Bury St Edmunds Barracks for the 1911 census.
When WW1 broke out Amos was called up to rejoin the Suffolks as a Sergeant in the 2nd Battalion. As a professional soldier and like all ex-servicemen he would have automatically been enrolled in the Reserves. When Britain entered the war on 14th August 1914, the 2nd Battalion was immediately mobilised and was in France with the British Expeditionary Force by the 17th.
The 2nd battalion of the Suffolk Regiment consisted of 1000 men, including 26 officers and a medical officer. They were soon in action against the advancing Germans near Mons and on 25 August at Le Cateau. There, the decision was taken to stand and fight. Along with other Battalions they fought against overwhelming forces for nine hours before being overrun. Losses were over 700. In September the 2nd Battalion fought at the Battle of the Aisne and also at the 1st Battle of Ypres (Eiper). Amos survived these battles but was killed in action by a sniper a few months later during what was an exceptionally cold winter and some months before the 2nd Battle of Ypres. We can also only speculate on whether he may have been involved in the Christmas Truce of 1914 and if so to what extent – maybe a shouted greeting, a shared cigarette or even an impromptu game of football who knows! It would be nice to think he took part in it in some way.
Amos was posthumously awarded the Victory Star, British Star and 14 Star medals.
Further research has unearthed no information whatsoever about his wife, Mrs S E Leeks who is named on the Menin Gate memorial. It may be that the War Graves Commission simply made a mistake. However there is a little twist to the ending of the story about Amos because through the army records available online, there is reference to his army money being left to a Dora Mahala Vincent. On further investigation on Ancestry.com and because of her unusual middle name, it was possible to trace Dora to The Wheatsheaf in Tattingstone where her grandmother was the landlady. Dora was considerably younger than Amos but unless someone comes forward who knows their story there is no way of knowing their relationship.
Acknowledgements to Jennifer Jones and Jean Austin for their Commonwealth War Grave research.