b. 22/01/1904 West Ham, London. d. 22/09/1940 Ilford, Essex.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 21-22/09/1940 Ilford, Essex.
Leonard James Miles (1904-1940) was born on 27th September 1904 in Upton Park, West Ham, East London, the son of John Roston and Elizabeth Miles (nee Jonathan). His father worked as a maker of gas meters. He had two older siblings, Roston (born in 1899) and Ris (born in 1900). Little is known of Leonard’s childhood and schooling, and there are various accounts on his working life prior to the Second World War. One source states he was the librarian of the Seaman’s Institute, whereas another stated he was a builder and contractor. By the outbreak of the war, he had married Constance Louis Bartley, and they had a son, Colin Roston in c. 1938. When the bombing began in the East End of London, Constance and Colin were evacuated to Devon, and Leonard remained behind, living in Hainault, Essex.
In early 1939, Leonard had joined the Air Raid Precautions in Ilford, Essex, and later that year found himself as Section Warden at Post 19, New North Road in Ilford. His role was to provide advice to his neighbourhood on precautions that could be taken. In wartime, he would also provide basic first aid and advise the specialist services with any help or information on their arrival.
On the evening of 21st September 1940, in Ilford, he was warned of the imminent danger of an explosion nearby. He could have taken to the public shelter only a few yards away,but instead his sense of duty forced him to run towards the scene to warn members of the public he knew to be in their houses. He had succeeded in warning some of the residents when the explosion occurred, inflicting serious injuries that would prove fatal. While lying awaiting the ambulance, he continued to instruct his colleagues to help others.
Sadly, he succumbed to his injuries 24 hours later in the King George Hospital, Goodmayes, Ilford. One of his colleagues, Warden Read was so moved by the incident that he submitted a report on his actions. This instigated the process of a recommendation for a posthumous award, and duly, on 17th January 1941, the London Gazette reported the award of the George Cross. Constance was presented with his GC by King George VI at Buckingham Palace on 14th October 1941. She was one of eleven widows receiving the GC that day.
Leonard was cremated at the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium and his ashes scattered. There is no memorial there to him, though he is remembered in the Book of Remembrance in Redbridge Central Library, and at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. His GC is held by the Worshipful Company of Skinners, though he was not a member himself. The connection is through his son Colin, grandson Thomas and great granddaughter Katie would have all been members of the Company.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: WORSHIPFUL COMPANY OF SKINNERS.
BURIAL PLACE: CITY OF LONDON CREMATORIUM, MANOR PARK.