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  • HMS Alcantara and SMS Greif in mutually destructive combat.
Person Details
24 May 1897
Belle Vue Wakefield Yorkshire
Leonard was the son of Albert and Mary Elizabeth Horne (neé Gill). Albert Horne was born in Leeds in 1863 (J/F/M Hunslet), the son of James and Jane Horne (neé Kellett). In 1891 Albert (28) a pianist, was living with his parents and siblings in Wakefield. Mary Elizabeth Gill was born in Wakefield in about 1871 (age varies on census). Albert and Mary were married in 1896 (O/N/D Wakefield) and had three children who were all born in Wakefield: Leonard b. 24 May 1897 (J/A/S Wakefield) bap. Sandall Magna parish church 27 June 1897, Doris b. 6 May 1898 (A/M/J Wakefield) bap. Sandall Magna 25 September 1898 and Edna b. 27 October 1899 (O/N/D Wakefield) bap. Sandall Magna 31 May 1903. Leonard and Doris' baptism registrations give their parents' home area as Belle Vue, Wakefield. Albert's occupation was given as musician in 1897 and as labourer in 1898. In 1901 Albert (36), a commission agent's clerk, and Mary (27) were living on Denmark Street, Sandall Magna, Wakefield with their two daughters, Doris (2) and Edna (1). Their son Leonard (3) was with his paternal grandparents, James and Jane Horne, at 14 Gordon Street, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire on the night of the census. Albert probably died in 1902 (J/F/M Wakefield) and Mary Elizabeth married Arthur Copley a widower on 16 April 1910 at St Catherine Sandall Magna (A/M/J Wakefield). The following year Arthur (39) a coal miner hewer, and Mary (40) were living on Oxford Street, Belle Vue, Wakefield, with Mary's three children, Leonard (12) a stone labourer, Doris (12) and Edna (11). According to Leonard's RM record his mother was his next of kin; she was living at Middlebrook near Jacksdale, Nottinghamshire, when Leonard enlisted in September 1914. Her husband Arthur was a miner as was Leonard when he enlisted so it is possible they moved from Yorkshire to work in the Nottinghamshire coalfield.
He was a stone labourer in 1911 and a coal miner when he enlisted in 1914.
29 Feb 1916
3036705 - CWGC Website
Enlisted Nottingham
HMS Alcantara Royal Marine Light Infantry
Leonard enlisted in the RMLI in Nottingham on 7 September 1914. He was a miner and 17 years 3 months old. His service record noted that he was 259 days under-age ie under 18 years old, and his service from 7 September 1914 to 23 May 1915 did not qualify toward his service, good conduct badges or pension. He joined 'D' Coy, Depot, RM Deal on 7 September 1914 and served there until 31 December 1914 transferring to Portsmouth ('A' Coy) 1 January 1915. He joined HMS Alcantara on 22 April 1915. He was killed in action on 29 February 1916 when HMS Alcantara was sunk by the German raider SMS Greif, masquerading as a Norwegian flagged ship. Both ships were sunk in the engagement with large loss of life. Leonard's body was not recovered for burial and he is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. He qualified for the 1915 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal. His medals were issued to his mother. On February 29th 1916, the auxiliary cruiser HMS Alcantara became engaged near Norway in a fierce battle at close quarters with SMS Greif, a German warship masquerading as a Norwegian steamer bound for Rio de Janeiro. As the British lowered boats for an inspection, the Greif unmasked her guns and opened fire. The first discharge struck the Alcantara's bridge which caused heavy damage and destroyed the communications equipment. Further shots hit and sank some of the boarding party's boats and also knocked out the Briton's steering gear. HMS Andes assisted Alcantara by disabling Greif’s steering gear. Greif hit Alcantara with a torpedo as both ships fought to a standstill and sank. Alcantara’s surviving crew were in the water for about twenty minutes before being picked up. An estimated 187 Germans perished along with seventy-two Britons, five officers and 120 Germans were rescued and taken prisoner by the Andes and Munster.
PO/17862 Private James William Unwin joined the RMLI in September 1914; he served in HMS Alcantara from 2 May 1915 and was also killed on 29 February 1916. James lived in St Ann's, Nottingham, and there is no surviving memorial with his name. He is commemorated on this ROH on a memorial devised for those known to have lived in St Ann's: 'St Ann's Nottingham - Parish and Congregation War Memorial.' The war gratuity (£8) was paid to his mother, Mary Elizabeth Copley.
Remembered on


  • HMS Alcantara and SMS Greif in mutually destructive combat.
    - HMS Alcantara and SMS Greif in mutually destructive combat.
  • HMS Alcantara casualty list
    From The Times 27/3/1916 - HMS Alcantara casualty list