Private War Diary of Cptn R W Leah, 1st Bn QOCH, May 1940

Discussion in 'British Army Units - Others' started by ibwilson1, Apr 21, 2017.

  1. ibwilson1

    ibwilson1 New Member

    Hi everyone

    The private war diary kept by Cptn RW Leah for a few days until his capture at Laventie, northern France, on 28th May 1940, has been referred to a number of times in these pages although I can’t seem to find any links to it. Most of it has also been transcribed in the WW2Today website ( where the editor of that site concludes with “At present we have little more information about Captain R. Leah whose short diary was deposited with the War Office sometime after the war.” The TNA reference given is WO/217/15.

    However, a search on the TNA website brings up the following:

    Reference: WO 217/15
    Description: Private Diary of Major M Wilson, 1 Camerons
    Date: 1940 June
    Held by: The National Archives, Kew
    Legal status: Public Record(s)
    Closure status: Open Document, Open Description
    Access conditions: Normal Closure before FOI Act

    Now, it may be that the diary has been incorporated into the private diary Major Wilson (above) but I was wondering if anyone can help with this query before I fork out £8 or so, plus digitising costs, to the TNA?

    The reason I ask is because the transcribed version of the diary refers three times to a Private 'Leidlar' which I strongly suspect is either a misspelling of my great uncle Alfie Laidlaw’s surname or a typo in the transcription - I have established that there wasn't a 'Leidlar' in the whole Battalion.

    Any help with this query greatly appreciated.

    CL1 likes this.
  2. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    I have a copy of the diary. Have Wilson's as well.

    Attached Files:

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  3. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Is Leah's diary at the National Archives or somewhere else. If it's at TNA do you have a reference for it?

  4. RCG

    RCG Senior Member, Deceased

    Wonder if this is the L/C mentioned in the diary?
    Service No: 2930094
    Date of Death: 23/05/1940
    Age: 27
    Regiment/Service: Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders 1st Bn.
    Grave Reference: Plot 3. Row B. Grave 43.
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  5. ibwilson1

    ibwilson1 New Member

    Thanks for the quick response, 51highland, the page you've sent a photo of includes one of the mentions of Pte 'Leidlar' who, if it is indeed my great uncle, Alfie Laidlaw, Army No.2726746, spent the rest of the war in Stalag XXID, Posen and Stalag 8B, Teschen. His twin brother, Walter, was in 12 platoon, under CSM Kerr, and got away to Dunkirk then served in India, being wounded at Kohima, and then Burma and finally on post-war duties in Japan. So an interesting story.

    However, the copy of the diary you have has obviously been typed up from the original. Is there any indication in the text of where the original might be or any other background? Did you find this copy in TNA? The margin notes suggest that the typist had trouble deciphering the original handwriting.

    And finally (with apologies for if I'm asking too much) what is the broad thrust of the Major Wilson diary? I'd be happy to cover any costs involved in getting copies of both diaries.

    Regards, IBW
  6. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Just to confirm Leah's account is contained in Wilson's diary. TNA Ref WO 217/15. The whole file contains 30 pages.
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  7. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    UK, British Prisoners of War, 1939-1945
    Name: A C Laidlaw
    Rank: Private
    Army Number: 2926746
    Regiment: Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders
    POW Number: 2649
    Camp Type: Stalag
    Camp Number: VIII-B
    Camp Location: Cieszyn, Poland
    Record Office: Infantry Record Office, Perth
    Record Office Number: 16

    Slightly different number


    edited to add:
    Checking Ancestry for anyone with the surname Leidlar gives only 1 result
    Name: Christopher Leidlar
    Gender: Male
    Baptism Date: 20 Mar 1757
    Baptism Place: Heddon On The Wall,Northumberland,England
    Father: Christopher Leidlar
    Mother: Ann
    FHL Film Number: 0252500-0252502

    However I do not have access to Scottish records which could produce different results
  8. ibwilson1

    ibwilson1 New Member

    Yes, should be 292... and no results for Leidlar in Scotland's People either. Getting closer. Regards IBW
  9. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    The WO 361 regimental file may be of interest and he may have completed a Liberation Report in the WO 344 files.
  10. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    I have 2926746 Pte. A Laidlaw and 2926486 Pte. W Laidlaw listed in B Company and 3188747 Pte. J Laidlaw in A Company. The lists pertain to the Field Force dated September 1939.
  11. ibwilson1

    ibwilson1 New Member

    Thanks both - I've done a fair bit of research into the careers of both Pte A Laidlaw (Alfie) and Pte W Laidlaw (Walter) who were twins. (I don't believe Pte J Laidlaw is related, but another brother, 'Jock' Laidlaw, served with the Royal Engineers at RAF stations around Rheims).

    Alfie and Walter enlisted with the Camerons in 1929 and 1928, respectively, and had 7 years in Burma, India and the Sudan. They were reservists when the 2nd World War broke out and were called up within a couple of days.

    Alfie did indeed complete a liberation form, which is how I know which PoW camps he was in (see above), and subsequently managed to find him on a few photos. He would also have completed the Great March / Death March from Teschen back into Germany between January and April 1945, though I don't know from which camp he was finally liberated. As he was in B Company of the 1st Camerons, I'm surmising that he was in 11 Platoon, led by Ctpn Leah, which is why I'm trying to establish if 'Leidlar' is actually Laidlaw.

    As mentioned above, Walter got away at Dunkirk and must probably have been in CSM Kerr's 12 Platoon. He went on to serve with the reconstituted 1st Camerons in India, including Kohima where he was wounded, and then Burma. He ended up as a CSM for D Company and served for a further year or so after the war, including on anti-Black Market operations in Japan. He was also the kilted representative of the Battalion at the Japanese surrender ceremony in Singapore in September 1945 - you can just about see him on old Movietone news reels on You Tube, standing to attention below the flag as it's being raised.

    I'll respond to Drew separately.

    Regards, IBW

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