'This noble and elegant site
is both a tribute to a family's
history, and to a national
heritage.' -Daniel J. Cassidy
Swifter far than summer's flight --
Swifter far than youth's delight --
Swifter far than happy night,
Art thou come and gone --
As the earth when leaves are dead,
As the night when sleep is sped,
As the heart when joy is fled,
I am left lone, alone.
Percy Bysshe Shelley
'The Last Walk' by Greg Benton, 2010
Let us then move
in discharge of
our mission and
and nothing else.
Sir Winston Churchill
Stanmer Churchyard, Sussex
In the midst of life we are in death:
of whom may we seek for succour,
but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins
art justly displeased?
Yet, O Lord God most holy,
O Lord most mighty, O holy and
most merciful Saviour, deliver us not
into the bitter pains of eternal death.
Burial Office, The Book of Common Prayer
Dixi, custodiam. Psalm xxxix.
LORD, let me know mine end,
and the number of my days; *
that I may be certified
how long I have to live.
Behold, thou hast made my
days as it were a span long,
and mine age is even as
nothing in respect of thee; *
and verily every man living
is altogether vanity.
For man walketh in a vain
shadow, and disquieteth
himself in vain; * he heapeth
up riches, and cannot tell
who shall gather them.
And now, Lord, what is my
hope? * truly my hope is even
Deliver me from all mine
offences; * and make me not
a rebuke unto the foolish.
When thou with rebukes dost
chasten man for sin, thou
makest his beauty to consume
away, like as it were a moth
fretting a garment: *
every man therefore is but
Hear my prayer, O Lord,
and with thine ears consider
my calling; * hold not thy
peace at my tears;
For I am a stranger with thee,
and a sojourner, * as all my
O spare me a little, that I
may recover my strength, *
before I go hence, and be no
JESUS said, Let not your
heart be troubled: ye believe
believe also in me. In my
Father's house are many
if it were not so, I would have
told you. I go to prepare a
place for you.
And if I go and prepare a
place for you, I will come again,
and receive you unto myself;
that where I am, there ye may
John xiv. 1.
Come, ye blessed children of
receive the kingdom prepared
for you from
the beginning of the
Honour all men.
Honour the King.
Seventy years ago on the 16th of August, 1944, Sgt. Raymond E. Leonard,
my uncle and a soldier of the Royal Regiment of Canada was sprayed by German machine gun
fire during the vicious Battle of Falaise, France.
This fierce battle, a part of the larger Battle of Normandy following the D-Day
landing, was intended to close the 'gap' through which the German army was
retreating. It was a savage fight that left over 18,000 Canadian dead or wounded.
The enemy suffered over 10,000 dead and 150,000 taken as prisoners-of-war.
As his regiment advanced, Ray Leonard lay on the battlefield, severely wounded
and dying. He was shot in the chest, shoulder, neck and lost his left hand.
Then, a comrade, looking out for Ray, turned back to find him and, when he did,
he picked his friend up and carried him to safety and medical attention at the British
field hospital. The surgeons performed immediate and near-miraculous surgery.
Ray thankfully survived; although the surgeons could not remove a round that
sat adjacent to his heart in a position that was far too dangerous to attempt to
Ray, through the help of a nursing sister, wrote this incredible letter, dated 23rd August,
to his mother and father and revealing so much of the character of the man:
Dear Mum & Dad,
Just a line hoping it finds you all in the best of health.
At present, I'm not doing too bad.
I received three wounds: one in the left hand,
one in the left shoulder and one in the left chest.
Please don't worry, as before long I'll be back
in England & will get myself straightened out.
Give my love to the girls and tell them that I
will write to them as soon as possible.
Well dears, this is only a short note but I will
write again in a few days.
Put your faith in God and we will soon be
Cheerio and may God bless you all.
Your everloving son,
As devastating as the news was to the family, there was much relief as well
to know that Ray was alive. Like his father Ernie Leonard before him, Ray had gone to war
and was wounded in the fight. In 1942, he was one of the few who managed
to escape the diasaster at Dieppe and return to England to prepare for another
He returned home to an enormous welcome; his sisters, mother and father greeting
him at the railway station. The house was decorated in flags and Grandad Leonard
painted a sign, 'Welcome Home Ray'. His dear mother, Rose (of Piddingworth),
just six years earlier had given him a pocket New Testament with the
Trust in the Lord and He will give you the strength and courage
to do your Duty, & Watch over you, and may you be spared
to come back home safely & have a speedy return.
Always keep this little book with you.
With all the love in the world,
The book was in his pocket when he fell.
Another great challenge lay before Ray following the war. He needed to heal as well
as adjust to having a prosthetic on his left arm. With the tremendous help and support
of the Canadian War Amps, his left 'hand' was now a 'hook' (with which he used to
take great delight in squeezing my nose!). Advised that his wounds, and particularly
that bullet that would forever remain near his heart, might well shorten his life,
Ray, rather than retreat into a shell of bitterness or self-pity, engaged life with
He fell in love, married Thora, his wife, and they had two boys, James and Robert.
He was employed by the Workman's Compensation Board in Toronto and continued
to assist the War Amps; even doing a commercial for that charity. More than this,
however, was his dedication to young people. He became a leader in the Boy Scouts
where the vision of Baden-Powell was lived and celebrated in every respect. Ray
expected a lot, in discipline, civility, and cheerfulness, but he gave more than he
received. A self-taught player of the piano before the war, he continued with his
music (the hook providing a unique style to the play of his left 'hand') and he
organised choirs and bands. He energised the community in which he lived,
was very active in the Church and fully enjoyed the prosperity and good things
that life offered.
It also was as if every breath he took, fully embraced, was borrowed in a way that
anticipated a knowledge, conscious or otherwise, that his life must be lived 'now'.
He was everything one could expect of an Uncle but he was also like a surrogate
Father to me. He was always 'there' when needed and showed his support for
my own musical progress by letting me play with his little band and being
Whilst bicycling on a Good Friday afternoon, Ray reached the summit of a hill,
then fell for the last time. It was 1969 and just twenty-five years after the day that
he fell in that orchard in Falaise. He was 49 years old.
The impact of the loss to the family is still felt deeply by those who knew him.
It is his legacy, however, that affords us continued inspiration and that is not
forgotten for, his was a life of faith, duty, love, family, community, joy,
honour, humour, as well as suffering and selfless devotion; all learned at the hands
of his mother and father and in the 'thick' of living.
My God give us the strength and courage to our Duty in this generation:
to God, our Sovereign, our Country, our Family, our Neighbour and, indeed,
ourselves so that when we too shall fall, we may return safely Home.
Rose (West) Leonard,
Olive Leonard awaits
the arrival of her brother
A VALIANT HEART
With family in Plymouth, 1940