Two brave Leamington men killed in action

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Historian David Eason has researched the untold stories of two brave Leamington 
soldiers killed in the First World War.

David, who is a member of Leamington History Group, said: “I want to tell as much of these lads’ stories as I can, which up until now hasn’t been done.”

One of the soldiers, listed on the war memorials in Leamington, is Second Lieutenant Miles Atkinson of Kenilworth Road, Leamington.

Miles was born in Kenilworth in 1888. The family moved to Durham but returned to Leamington before the 1901 census.

His father Dr Miles Hugh Atkinson was Mayor of Leamington (1915-18). The family lived at No 1 Newbold Terrace where Miles Hugh, 57, was recorded in the 1911 census as being a physician and surgeon-employer.

In 1911 Miles, 22, was a medical student at St Thomas’s Hospital.

Miles enlisted in January 1915 as a gunner after abandoning his medical studies. He arrived on the Western Front in April but was sent home with blood poisoning later that year. Having recovered, he was commissioned into the newly-formed Tank Corps in 1916 and returned to the front in June 1917.

On the first day of the Battle of Cambrai (November 20, 1917) Miles was killed in action. He was hit by a shell while evacuating his disabled tank.

His commanding officer, Major Montgomery, wrote to his father: “I shall miss your son. He was the best type of a sporting British officer and his loss to the battalion is a great one.”

Miles is buried at the Ribecourt British Cemetery in France.

The story of another Leamington soldier researched by David Eason is that of Acting Captain Gordon Mapplebeck, who was born in Lillington in 1880. Educated at Harrow and Cambridge, he became a stockbroker based in Leamington.

In December 1914 Gordon was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 4th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment. He arrived in France in August 1915 just before the Battle of Loos. He suffered in a German gas attack before seeing action on the Somme, Vimy Ridge, Messines and Ypres.

Then, two days before the Battle of Pilckem Ridge on Sunday July 29, 1917, Gordon was fatally wounded during a heavy German bombardment. He succumbed to his wounds at the 5th London Field Ambulance the following morning, aged 37. He is buried at the Reninghelst New Military Cemetery in Belgium.

His company commander wrote that he had been described by one of his men as one of the bravest men he had ever met.