Alan Richard Leatherdale was born in London on 8 May 1897, the youngest child of George Fenning Leatherdale, a journalist, and his wife Mabel. He had two older brothers, Basil and Donald, and an older sister, Phyllis.
On 1 August 1913, when he was 16 years old, Alan went to work for London County & Westminster Bank as an apprentice at its Stratford branch in East London. The following March he transferred to Andover branch.
When war broke out in August 1914, Alan was still only 17, but his brother Donald, being 15 months older, joined up immediately. He initially joined the Artists’ Rifles, and was later commissioned into the Queen’s Own West Kent Regiment.
Alan turned 18 in May 1915, and immediately joined the volunteer force. Hoping to become an officer like his brother, he applied to the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps, but was rejected on health grounds.
Soon afterwards, the Lord Mayor of London began efforts to raise a Pals’ Battalion drawn from the employees of banks and insurance offices in the City of London. Alan answered the call, joining what became the 26th (Bankers’) Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. At this early stage in the war, the bank did not support such young men volunteering, and so Alan forfeited his whole salary of £60 when he joined up.
During Autumn 1915 Alan trained with his new battalion at High Beech Camp in Essex and at Marlow in Buckinghamshire. When the Battalion reached its full complement in November, it moved to Aldershot and became part of the 124th Brigade of the 41st Division. Alan was promoted to the NCO rank of Corporal.
Alan Leatherdale arrived in France with the Bankers’ Battalion on 4 May 1916. His brother Donald was also serving there, and on 22 July 1916 was killed while leading his men into action at High Wood on the Somme.
Less than two months later, and only two miles away, the Bankers’ Battalion was called into battle for the first time on 15 September, at Flers-Courcelette. This battle is most remembered today for the combat debut of tanks. The Bankers suffered serious losses in the battle, which continued for a week; over 260 of its number were killed, wounded or declared missing. Among them was Alan Leatherdale, killed on 18 September 1916. He was 19 years old.
Alan’s widowed mother had lost two sons in barely eight weeks. In recognition of her difficult financial circumstances, London County & Westminster Bank made a payment to her of £40 – a sum equivalent to eight months of her son’s bank salary.