Leonard Hargate, Royal Marine Light Infantry, was born in Halfway, near Sheffield, on the 25th of February 1894 to Thomas and Louisa Hargate (née Beresford). He was the fifth of Thomas and Louisa’s eight children.
Richard and Lesley Hargate recall passing by the War Memorial each day on their way to school and seeing their great-uncle Leonard’s name. No one ever said what happened to him. It wasn’t until years later when tracing her family tree that Lesley discovered Leonard’s connection to the Laurentic.
Leonard was a miner, as were all of his brothers and father. In the 1911 census, when he was 17 years old, his occupation is Pony Driver in the mine. The family had been living at 39 Station road Halfway since at least 1891. His father, a Hewer in the coal mine, was killed by an ‘accidental fall of coal’ at Holbrook pit (near Halfway) on the 11th of Oct 1906 aged 49.
Leonard enlisted on the 26th of January 1914, leaving behind the mine where his brothers worked, and where his father had been killed, to join the Royal Marine Light Infantry. He received his basic training at Chatham before joining the crew of HMS Laurentic on the 27th of November that same year. He remained with Laurentic throughout the next 26 months.
On the 3rd of December 1914 Leonard and his crewmates set sail for Sierra Leone and then Lagos to assist with the Cameroon Campaign, transporting troops and carrying out general patrols. On January 30, they returned to Liverpool and disembarked German prisoners brought back from Lagos. Laurentic then returned to Sierra Leone via Gibraltar and the Cape Verde Islands, arriving on the 5th of March 1915.
By early August the Laurentic was on route to Singapore and spent the next 10 months on patrol around Rangoon and Hong Kong. In July 1916 it sailed back to South Africa, loading a quantity of gold bullion on board for transport to Canada to pay for munitions. There followed two months general patrol in the area, sailing for Bermuda, then returning to Halifax, Nova Scotia, with more bullion. The Laurentic returned to Liverpool, carrying Royal Canadian Navy officers, rated seamen and Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserves, arriving in early December 1916. The crew were given a short period of shore leave, returning to the ship on the 22nd of December. On the 29th of December Leonard was again on the Laurentic en route to Halifax.
We do not know when exactly the Laurentic returned to Liverpool but we do know that the ship sailed out of the port of Liverpool again on 24th January, 1917, carrying £5,000,000 worth of gold bars, and £1,000,000 in silver. This was loaded on board under armed guard, and cloaked in secrecy. The gold and silver was for payment to the U.S. government for war materials.
Leonard’s body was recovered and is buried in the mass grave in St Mura’s churchyard, Fahan, County Donegal and he is commemorated on the WW1 memorial, Station Road, Halfway, near his family home. He was posthumously awarded the Star, Victory medal and British War Medal.
British Newspaper Archive
Census Returns of England and Wales, 1891, 1901 and 1911: The National Archives of the UK
General Register Office. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes
Photograph and information on Leonard Hargate kindly supplied by his great-niece Lesley Sanders and great-nephew Francis Hargate.
Sheffield City Council Archives: http://www.picturesheffield.com