Born in Lancashire in 1877, Nicholas Leadbetter was the eldest of the four children of fisherman and merchant Isaac and his wife Elizabeth. He was quick to follow in his father’s line of work and set up his own fish shop in St Anne’s-on-the-Sea (nowadays known as Lytham St Anne’s).
Nicholas married Alice Griffiths in 1900, and their first child – Isaac – was born that Christmas.
Living near the station in Lytham, the young couple took on boarders to supplement Nicholas’ work. By the time of the 1901 census they had Dionysius Howarth, a chemist’s assistant, and Edgar Charles Randolph Jones, a grocer’s assistant, staying with them.
The Leadbetters don’t appear on the 1911 census, but from later records it is evident that they moved from Lancashire to the South West, where Nicholas ran a fish, game and poultry store in Yeovil. By this time, they were a family of four, as a daughter – Alice – was born in 1906.
Nicholas moved his family across the border to Sherborne, where he continued to ply his trade as a fishmonger and poultry dealer.
War broke out and, at the age of 39, he enlisted in the fledgling Royal Air Force, serving in France for the remainder of the fighting.
Serjeant Nicholas Leadbetter was demobbed in February 1919 and returned home to his family on Valentine’s Day. A local newspaper picks up his story from there.
He was feeling unwell at the time and immediately went to bed. Double pneumonia set in, and, despite the best medical aid, he passed away on Tuesday, leaving a widow, one son, and one daughter to mourn their loss.Western Gazette: Friday 21st February 1919.
Serjeant Leadbetter’s funeral was a fitting one:
[It] was of military character, members of the Sherborne detachment of the 1st Volunteer Battalion Dorset Regiment being present. The coffin, which was covered with the Union Jack, was borne by members of the detachment, and at the Cemetery a firing party fired three volleys over the grave, and the buglers of the Church Lads’ Brigade sounded the last post.
There were many floral tributes. Mrs Leadbetter wishes to return thanks for the many letters of sympathy received from kind friends, and which she finds it impossible to answer individually.Western Gazette: Friday 28th February 1919.
Serjeant Nicholas Leadbetter lies at peace in Sherborne Cemetery.
For the stories of more of the fallen from the Great War, take a look at my Commonwealth War Graves page.