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Kent Remembers: Lawrence Le Fleming

Monday 8th November 2021

Men’s First Team

Born: 3.06.1879, Tonbridge. Died: 21.03.1918, Maissemy, France
Kent 1897-1899

Like his, elder brother Jack, Lawrence Le Fleming played cricket for his school, Tonbridge, albeit for only one year, 1896 when he scored over 400 runs and headed the averages.

In 1897, he hit centuries for the Tonbridge club against Bluemantles and Crystal Palace and followed in August with 97 on his first appearance for Kent Second XI, against Sussex at Tonbridge.

This brought an invitation to play for the First Team in the final game of the season, against Middlesex at Lord’s where he impressed with 40 in the first innings, one of only two Kent batsmen to achieve double figures.

This proved to be the high point of Le Fleming’s county career. He played eight games in 1898 and two in 1899 but passed 20 only three times with a top score of 32, a gutsy performance in a low scoring game against Yorkshire at Bramall Lane.

Army service left little room for cricket after June 1899, although he managed one more first-class match, for the Army vs. the Royal Navy at Lord’s in 1912.

As well as Tonbridge, Le Fleming played for Band of Brothers and Free Foresters. Although never approaching his brother’s skill as an all-round sportsman, he also played hockey and golf.

Lawrence Le Fleming had a distinguished, ultimately tragic, Army career.

He entered the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was commissioned as a subaltern into the East Surrey Regiment on the day the Second Boer War broke out in 1899. He was promoted to Lieutenant (1901), Captain (1905), Major (1915), and Brevet Lt Colonel (1917). He served with the Second Battalion in South Africa throughout the war, gaining the Queen’s medal with five clasps and the King’s medal with two clasps.

He was with the Battalion in India from 1902 until 1909 when he returned to England to take over as Adjutant to the Regiment’s Territorial Battalion in Wimbledon.

In 1912, he re-joined the Second Battalion, now in Burma, but in 1913 was appointed an instructor at the RMC Sandhurst.

Re-joining the Battalion on the outbreak of war, he was severely wounded in the jaw at La Bassée in 1914 and, on returning in 1915, was shot again, this time in the leg, again severely, near Zonnebeke.

A respite came on appointment as General Staff Officer, Sandhurst but this ended when, as a result of his own intensive lobbying, he returned to the sharp end in April 1917 on assuming command of the East Surrey’s Ninth (Service) Battalion.

He suffered a personal tragedy in October that year. In December 1914, he had married Frances Loulo Frendat (born 1891 in Argentina) at the Parish Church, Tonbridge. There were two daughters, Diana (born April 1916) and Joan (born June 1917). In December 1917, his wife was taken ill and he was summoned back to England but she died before he arrived.

In March 1918, Le Fleming’s Battalion was in 72 Brigade, 24th Division, of the hard-pressed Fifth Army.

On the opening day of the German March offensive, the Battalion was ordered to counter attack a German breakthrough.

He was killed by machine-gun fire while carrying out a personal reconnaissance, his second of the day, accompanied only by his second-in-command.

He was one of 28 Fifth Army battalion commanders killed, wounded or taken prisoner on that day.

Although his body was recovered, the position was overrun next day and he has no known grave. He is remembered on the Pozieres War Memorial.

Le Fleming was twice Mentioned in Despatches for ‘gallant and distinguished service’. In the Tonbridge School journal, one of his officers wrote ‘The best CO in the world gave his life for the Battalion’. Another added: ‘Everybody felt they had great leader and also a great friend. Although he was so nice and kind to everybody, the discipline was splendid. At a word from the dear old Colonel, anyone would have gone through hell to please him’.

Profile adapted from Derek Carlaw’s ‘Kent County Cricketers: A to Z, 1806-1914’

Previous profiles of Kent Cricketers that fell during both World Wars include:

Colin Blythe

Gerry Chalk

Arthur Du Boulay

Eric Hatfeild

Kenneth Hutchings

David Jennings

Lawrence Le Fleming

Geoffrey Legge

Lionel Troughton

George Whitehead