28 July 2005

After his untimely death by a sniper's bullet on 19th October 1915, Keyworth's Victoria Cross passed to his sister Lilly who retained possession of the Cross until she died in late 1962. In March 1963 a well known and respected medal collector purchased the Keyworth Victoria Cross and other campaign medals from the estate of Lilly Perkins ( née Keyworth ) for 460 and in whose possession the VC remained until March 2005, when they were donated to the Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment Museum based at Clandon House, Guldford, Surrey.

( select to enlarge )
Medal entitlement of Lance Corporal Leonard Keyworth,
24th ( County of London ) Bn, The London Regiment ( The Queen's ) T.F.

  • Victoria Cross
  • 1914-15 Star
  • British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
  • Victory Medal ( 1914-19 )
  • Medal of St George ( Russia )

Shortly after the outbreak of war in August 1914, Leonard Keyworth attempted to volunteer for service with the Lincolnshire Regiment but was not accepted. So, on the 16th September 1914, with a friend he travelled to London and joined the 1 / 24th ( County of London ) Bn, the London Regiment ( The Queen's ). Following initial training Keyworth joined the battalion in November where it was billeted in St Albans, Hertfordshire.

With the 6th Brigade, 2nd ( London ) Division, the 24th Battalion went to France on 16th March 1915, the second complete Territorial division to arrive there. Billeted near Bethune, the Queen's first went into the front line on 25th April 1915 in the Rue de l'Epinette sector, north of Fesubert. In its first engagement at Aubers Ridge on 9th May the battalion suffered over 100 casualties.

At 17:30 hours on 25th May 1915 the 24th Bn took over trenches just north of Givenchy in readiness for an attack later that evening. After a supporting artillery bombardment, the attack began at 18:30 advancing on a stretch of the enemy line known as the 'S' Bend, the leading companies reaching its objective with few casualties. The supporting companies followed and within thirty minutes all were in the German front line but were unable to advance further as the enemy was holding the slightly higher ground to the south and from there were able to inflict heavy rifle fire on the attacking troops.

The Battalion War Diary records '18:45 - 21:00 captured trench being consolidated. A severe bomb fight taking place all the time on the right flank'. Keyworth described how half his section were shot down by enemy machine-gun fire before reaching the German line and how all the bombers had been killed except him. When his supply of bombs was exhausted, Keyworth was supplied with more by men behind him who continually implored him to lie down. For about two hours Keyworth remained on a parapet throwing some 150 bombs and although blinded with dirt he survived unscathed. The captured trench was held throughout the night and the whole of the next day, despite being under shell and rifle fire for much of the time until the battalion was relieved.

The Battalion War Diary states: "the most noticable feature of the operation was the retention of the captured trench by a few exhausted, and in many cases wounded, men, after it had been subjected to a very heavy enfilade rifle fire'. Keyworth was recommended for the DCM for his actions by his company commander Captain Armstrong, but was actually awarded the Victoria Cross, as published in the London Gazette on 3rd July 1915. The first Keyworth knew of his VC was when he read a newspaper containing the citation on 4th July.

[ London Gazette, 3 July 1915 ], Givenchy, France, 25 - 26 May 1915, Lance Corporal Leonard Keyworth, 24th ( County of London ) Bn, The London Regiment ( The Queen's ) T.F.

For most conspicuous bravery at Givenchy on the night of 25th - 26th May 1915. After the successful assault on the German position by the 24th Battalion, London Regiment, efforts were made by that Unit to follow up their success by a bomb-attack, during the progress of which 58 men out of a total of 75 became casualties. During this very fierce encounter Lance Corporal Keyworth stood fully exposed for two hours on the top of the enemy's parapet, and threw about 150 bombs amongst the Germans, who were only a few yards away.

Leonard Keyworth was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace, on the 12th July 1915.

At the end of September 1915 the Queen's again went into the front line during the Battle of Loos and held trenches between Loos and Lens for three days. In early October the battalion was involved in operations to capture Hulluch and on 15th October a member of 5th Field Ambulance recorded in his diary "steady stream of wounded, among whom is Lance Corporal Keyworth VC - hit in the head". Keyworth was moved to hospital at Abbeville and died on 19th October 1915 without regaining consciousness. He is buried in Abbeville Communal Cemetery.


Go to VC UK flag Home Page

Iain Stewart, 28 July 2005