A local hero
At Givenchy on 25 February 1915 Lieutenant Leonard Terrance Despicht of Kew was leading several soldiers in a storming party at Givenchy. He was buried by the explosion of a shell, dug out, but immediately shot. Despite his wounds, Leonard crawled to a position to continue conducting the operation. He was awarded the Military Cross for his actions.
In response to the First World War centenary celebrations, Leonard’s descendants donated his archive to the Museum of Richmond. As well as his medal, the archive included many letters written by Leonard to his family, diaries, maps and other material.
These tell the story of Leonard’s service on the Western Front until his death in action on the River Ancre on 11 February 1917, aged just 26.
Leonard’s experiences are soon to be the subject of two animation films currently being develop by the museum’s Young Curators Group.
Infinitely less heroic, in another theatre of the war, in the Spring of 1915 the Turkish government began the forced deportation of Armenians from Turkish territory. Over the course of the war, an estimated 1 – 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Turkish troops or starved or died of thirst in the Syrian Desert, in what became known as the Armenian Genocide.