Leonard John Bates became an NCO and was commissioned on 26th April 1916. It is possible that his engineering background and familiarity with working in hot, noisy and dirty confined spaces made him an ideal Tank Commander.
He took part in the first ever tank action in the First World War, at Flers-Courcelette on the Somme on 15th September 1916. Leonard commanded tank number 714 or “G Tank”, which supported an attack by the Guards’ Division from Guinchy. It captured its first objective, but, en route to its second objective, had to ditch in Pound Trench.
During the Third Battle of Ypres on 31st July 1917, he was Section Commander and was awarded the Military Cross for “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty”. Leonard was given his medal at Buckingham Palace on 31st October 1917 and was later posted to the Special Service Company of N Battalion, which was sent to Ireland.
His end was tragic and inglorious – he was crushed between two wagons in a siding at the Remount Depot at Ballsbridge in Dublin and died six hours later in the city hospital. He must either have been taking his tank to the city as a show of strength to Irish Nationalists or on a money-raising mission for the government.