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Sergeant Leonard Ronald Warrilow 7536446

Born in Sheffield during the last year of WWI, Leonard enlisted in September 1939, just days before his 21st birthday. He applied for registration in the medics and was later drafted into the army dental corps. Following weeks of intense training, including many lectures, regimental drill, stretcher bearing and hospital work, Leonard was enrolled into active service abroad; destination unknown, his only clue being the tropical kit he was issued with... 


In January 1940, after a long journey by sea and rail, a short stay in Malta and Egypt, Leonard sailed to Gibraltar which became his base for the next three years. Here, he worked alongside the dentist and dental mechanic, but more than just dentistry, their work involved treatment of facial injuries, broken jaws, eye and nasal injuries as well as work carried out in the hospital theatres.

The dental centre was near the hospital, built on the site of the Rock. There were no natural resources on the Rock, not even water; everything had to be imported. As there was no airport as such, the main transport was by well-armoured Sunderland flying boats.

By November 1942 the general position had changed somewhat following the Battle of El Alamein and this gave Leonard an opportunity to return to the UK. There was no regular shipping but a hospital ship was set to take the seriously wounded home from North Africa and Malta, if Leonard was prepared to do nursing duties on board he could get back home to England. The voyage began and the ship was in convoy with thirty other ships and escorted by destroyers. It bore the usual Red Cross markings which gave it protection under the Geneva Convention although there was still risk of attack.

In an attempt to avoid U-boat attack, the convoy went very far west before heading north somewhere near the Azores. It was soon picked up that a pack of sixteen U-boats were poised waiting to attack... subsequently the commander of the convoy gave orders for the ships to go 'full speed ahead'. But Leonard's hospital ship hadn't the power of the other ships and could only travel slowly. It was soon left behind, on its own... But God's hand was over Leonard and his shipmates. A violent storm arose forcing the U-boats deep down from the surface and from there they could not fire. They had a very battered ship but Leonard and his shipmates survived. Leonard said "the storm saved my life and that of many others". Finally after three weeks at sea, they arrived at Gourock, UK, and he managed to get two weeks leave to go home to Sheffield.

He was then stationed at various dental laboratories around the country before being transferred, in August 1943, to a field dental laboratory in North Africa with the US 5th Army. He also served in Algiers and Boufarik and as they were now a total field unit, they had to carry all their equipment wherever they went, setting up and operating as required.

They later moved north to Naples. Their field army was now positioned within five miles of the 8th Army Advance HQ (front line). They were constantly on the move, each time having to dismantle and re-erect the field hospital tent which was a ten-man job; it was often in situ for as little as two weeks. A huge issue they faced here was landmines which had to be cleared before they could proceed with their work.

Leonard moved location a number of times during this period of the war. When the war ended he was in Riccione and whilst waiting to be demobbed he was sent to Rome. As he had now reached the rank of Sergeant he was granted two weeks extra leave which he was able to spend with friends in Italy.

He was discharged on 14th May 1946.

The picture below shows Leonard in Italy with other army members.


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0114 255 3459 (Sheffield)

01246 586 056 (Chesterfield)
0113 426 4320 (Leeds)
01709 379 092 (Rotherham)

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