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Leonard Rookes

Leonard Cyril Rookes was born in the third quarter of 1926 and his birth registered in the Malton area. He was the son of Thomas W. and Nora E. (nee Cuthbertson) who married in the Scarborough area in the third quarter of 1917. He was one of nine children born between 1919 and 1935 and they lived on Westgate, Old Malton.


Leonard would have received his call-up papers on or about his eighteenth birthday towards the end of 1944 and chose to enter the army, joining the 1st Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment. After service in the Western Desert, including Tobruk, Malta and one company fighting with 7th Armoured Division in Italy, the 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment had returned to the UK, sailing up the Clyde on 6 January 1944. The following day they were based at a camp outside Grimsby. Later the Commanding Officer was told to proceed to Essex to prepare for a new role (which never came to fruition) and later still, to proceed to Plymouth for fresh orders, which turned out to be to prepare for the invasion of the Channel Islands - as part of a single Infantry Brigade - (which again, never came to fruition). They remained in the UK until embarking at Tilbury for action in NW Europe on 10/11 February 1945, as part of the 115th Independent Infantry Brigade. They took over part of the line from the Americans somewhere between Ooijen and Broekhuizen on the River Maas.

 On 6th April 1945 they were moved into Germany as part of 11th Armoured Division.  The 11th Armoured had been held in reserve until 28 March, when it crossed the Rhine at Wesel. After crossing the Dortmund-Ems canal on 1 April, the 11th Armoured was heavily engaged on the Teutoburger Wald heights. Further east, the wooded hills were defended by companies of NCOs, who savagely counter-attacked the 3rd Monmouthshires. The opposition was overcome but 3rd Monmouthshire, already weakened during previous campaigns, had to be replaced by 1st Cheshires.

They continued toward the Osnabrück canal and after crossing via a captured bridge, moved towards the Weser, arriving there on 5 April.

 A week later,on 12th April as the 11th Armoured acted on an agreement reached that day with the Germans, and advanced to  liberate the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen. Leonard was killed in action  and  was buried at Buchholz. In 1946 his body was exhumed and reburied in Becklingen War cemetery.