Hero Leonard was my dad's brother

Hero Leonard was my dad's brother

Hero Leonard was my dad's brother

First published in News by

THE nephew of a decorated war hero from Dedham, killed in 1944, has contacted the Gazette to pass on a wealth of fascinating information about his relative.

Charles Francis got in touch about Private Leonard Edward Francis after reading an appeal for information by amateur historian Paul Dwyer.

Mr Dwyer was keen to learn about the soldier after buying his medals at auction.

He discovered Private Francis, 23, was shot dead while being held as a prisoner-of-war in Prague and appealed for family members and friends to get in touch.

The soldier’s 67-year-old nephew, Charles, who was given Leonard as a middle name in his honour, said: “He was a brother of my father, Stanley James Francis.

“Another brother was Leslie Francis whowas a postman in Dedham for 51 years.

“There was another brother, but I cannot recall his name. I believe he lived in Leyton, East London.”

Mr Francis, who lives in Laindon, near Basildon, added: “I was always told by my late father Leonard was a prisoner-of-war, but was very friendly with a certain guard.

“On one particular evening when he went out, he was told to return by a certain time before the guard changed, but he failed to, and was killed.

“I was also told he was an excellent bugler and won a number of competitions and won a silver bugle outright.”

Mr Francis recalls visiting his uncle Leslie in Dedham a number of times as a child, but was unaware his uncle’s name was on the war memorial in Dedham until about 15 years ago.

He said: “I have, of course, visited it nowand have been told of his place of burial.

“My father told me my second name was given to me to retain a lasting memory of him.”

Others have also been in touch with information about Private Francis and his family.

Reader Valerie Sachs, 78, from Bures, lived next to Leslie Francis in Dedham High Street until his death in his nineties, in 1996.

She said she had been spellbound to read out story about his brother.

She said: “I thought ‘if only Leslie was alive’...it gave me quite a shock.

It was a blast from the past.

“He spoke about his little brother Lenny. He said his mother never got over it.”

Mrs Sachs said Leslie kept Leonard’s bugle for some years, before giving it to the Salvation Army.

Researcher Mr Dwyer, from Northamptonshire, visited Private Francis’s grave in Prague on Monday – the 70th anniversary of his death.

His research found there had been a US Army Air Force raid on Prague on July 21, 1944, during which British prisoners were locked outside the air raid shelters, several dying as a result.

Mr Dwyer said he got the impression Private Francis had been shot while trying to flee during the raid.

Private Francis was posthumously mentioned in Dispatches, as well as being awarded several other medals.

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