Mr Leonard William/Aidan Wilde

Wm Wilde, Medal card

Leonard Wilde joined the army as an officer, when he was an ecclesiastical student. He suffered from Shell Shock in July 1916 as was invalided out of the army. He then joined the Foreign Office as a Consular Official in Spain.

Capt McCormack and Lt Wilde were staying on different floors in the Gresham Hotel. The IRA unit gained access to their rooms by pretending to be British soldiers with important dispatches. When the men opened their doors they were shot and killed. A Times listing for McCormack and Wilde doesn't list any rank for Wilde, however. McCormack's killing was an IRA mistake. He was an ex-member of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, now working for the Alexandria Turf Club and was in Ireland to buy horses for the them. He was shot in bed and if the Gresham Hotel doorman was to be believed, the murderers went into the wrong room.

The fact that Leonard Wilde has been so difficult to find over the years comes down to the fact that he changed his second name from William at birth to Aidan after he left the army half way through the war. To prove who he was one needs to bear in mind that his death certificate gives him as"Leonard Aidan Wilde" and that the Times announcement of his marriage in 1919 says that he was "son of Mr & Mrs Richard Wilde of Reading". Leonard William's parents were indeed Richard Wilde and Eleanor (formerly Hobbs, nee Clarke). Eleanor Clarke married George William Hobbs in Reading Apr/Jun 1886, but George died 2 years later and Eleanor Hobbs then married Richard Wilde in Reading 4 Oct 1890 (Richard Wilde is aged 26 on marriage, a grocer by profession, living at 21 Oxford Rd, Reading, and son of Isac Wilde, a farmer. Eleanor Hobbs is a widow, daughter of Henry Clarke, deceased, a railway inspector, and she is living at 269 Oxford Rd, Reading). Their children: Leonard William, registered Reading Jan/Mar 1892 (but born 28 Nov 1891), and twins Richard Henry and Mary Elizabeth, born Reading Jan/Mar 1898. So Leonard Wilde's life can be traced:

1891 Census newly married Richard and Eleanor Wilde living at 115 Kings Rd, Reading

1891 Nov 28 born Reading son of Richard Wilde

1901 Leonard W Wilde is with his grandmother Elizabeth Clarke at Kemble, Perry Vale, Lewisham. He is shown as being born at Earley, Berks.

1901 census wilde

His mother Eleanor and the twins are living in 2 rooms at 4 Carno Rd, Lewisham in 1901 (it looks to be part of a house they are in, but she is given as "living on her own means" so she has an income.

The father, Richard Wilde, cannot be found, but is presumably still alive as Elenor is down as a wife, not widow.

His enlistment papers say he went to Reading School and University College, before going to Downside Abbey. Reading School cannot find him in their records, but suggest that, this could be The University Extension College at Reading. 1892 a University Extension College was established in Reading, based upon the local Schools of Science and Art and upon an earlier Oxford University Extension Centre. This became Reading University many years later.

1911 Leonard Wilde is now a bank clerk and is visiting Charles and Eugenie Burkhardt (a hotel chef) who are Swiss and French. They live at 128 Lambeth Road, London S E.

His mother is living with Eleanor's widowed mother Elizabeth Clarke in 283 Oxford Road Reading. Eleanor herself is down as married, but still no sign of her husband Richard. She has had 3 children, the 3 we know about.

1913 Feb. Leonard Wilde, born Reading UK c.1891/2, occupation teacher, 5'8" , brown hair and eyes, lands at New York en route to "c/o H.S.Chown, Ringbert College, Cuba". Horace Stanley Chown (born Wandsworth 1880) is a teacher/professor who travels back and forth between Cuba and the UK via New York several times between 1913 and 1945. He was author of Spanish and French language courses (Hispanophone: Method for Learning Spanish and Francophone: Method for Learning French in the 1930s). Wilde travelled on the White Star ship the Oceanic,and left Southampton 26 February 1913

It may be just coincidence, but an ancestor of Horace Chown married a Rabbitts from Wiltshire in the 1840s. I couldn't find any positive link to Frances' father (who was born and bred in Ohio anyway), but Rabbitts is a very rare name. It could have been how she met Wilde through Chown.

1915 Jun 7. He joined the 7th Battalion, The Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment); His enlistment questions show him to be an ecclesiastical student at Downside Abbey at this date. He went to Reading School and University College before that. He was 5ft 8inches tall. To be Second Lieutenant : Leonard William Wilde. Gazette . The 7th Battalion was already in France when he joined them. Oddly his own arrival in France is not reflected on his medal card. His service record is available.

1915 Aug 30. The 7th battalion War Diary records that 2nd Lt Wilde joined the battalion and is allocated to D Coy. They are in dugouts near Verbranden Molen.

1915 Sep 1. Battallion move to trenches at Verbranden Molen.D Coy are in trenches 32 And 32s

1915 Sep 10. After 10 day in the trenches they are relieved and move to billets in Busseboom. There is sporadic bombardment.

1915 Sep 16. Move back to the trenches. D Coy in support dugouts 31R and 32R

1915 Sep 23. Battalion is Brigade Reserve in dugouts on Canal Bank.

1915 Sep 28 Return to trenches. D Coy in 32 and 32S

1915 Sep 30. Enemy explodes mines under trenches 29 and 33 and shell 31R. They are relieved later that day and march to Transport Lines at Busseboom

1915 Oct 2. Train and march to Bethune.

1915 Oct 4. Move to the trenches at Vermelles

1915 Oct 5. Battalion ordered back to Mazingerbe

1915 Oct 6. Battalion in rest billets at Fouquereuil

1915 Oct 7 2nd Lt Wilde "evacuated to base sick."

1915 Oct 10. A note on his service record says that he embarked for UK from France on this date. He gives his address as Downside Abbey while in the UK on leave.

1915 Oct 14. Medical note shows him unfit for General Service for 5 months and for UK service for 3 months. Leave was given until Jan 13, i.e. 3 months

1916 Jan 24. Joined regiment for duty. It appears that he served again in the army until July, when he was granted leave again.

1916 Jul 21. He was suffering from Shell Shock (neurasthenia) and this is the date given in his army reports as when his disability leave started. He did not serve in the army again.

1916 Oct 31 Army List. The Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Regiment) 7th (Robin Hood) Battalion (Territorial). 2nd Lieutenant Wilde L W 7 June15 (posted to 3rd Battalion). 3rd Battalion, a reserve battalion, moved to Sunderland in May 1915.

1916 Nov 21. Medical Board recommends his discharge on medical grounds - shell shock.

1916 Nov 28. Relinquishes his commission due to ill health. He later takes up the duties of a salaried consul in Spain. This was approved by the Army. Wilde then re-appears in Barcelona as Vice Consul and is mentioned in a number of papers in FO 185 / 1405 to FO 185 / 1414.

1916 Dec 11. Wilde appointed Vice Consul in Barcelona. In the letter of appointemnt, he is referred to as Leonard William Aidan Wilde.

1917 Jan 29. A letter signed by Charles Stewart Smith , consul general Barcelona, to Foreign Office,  London. Vice consul Aidan Wilde given a complete tour of Benedictine monastery at abbey of Montserrat , following a report the monks were using an illicit wireless transmitter. No wireless installations there ; Wilde a catholic , developed excellent relations with them. They did have a radio receiver to get the correct time from Paris , but said they would delay installation of it now until after the war.

1917 Jan 30. Draft cipher telegram to Aidan Wilde in Barcelona from Embassy Madrid and headed ' Letter given by Mr Walter to Mrs Millar " [ John ] WALTER [ of the Times , also press bureau of embassy ] gave a letter to a lady [ Mrs MILLAR ] for ' the Doctor ' [ one of the passport control officers ]  and sent him [ WILDE ? ] one , endeavoring to trace letter [ given to Mrs MILLAR ] ; * initialled as seen by Sir Percy Loraine [ LORAINE was the secretary at the embassy responsible for trade inquiries about firms suspected of trading with the enemy, among other things ]

1917 Feb 5. Wilde is sent to inspect the warehouse of a British man called Eduardo Schierich suspected of shady dealings in rubber. Vice consul Aidan Wilde was used repeatedly to make inquiries by Smith , for example to examine books and warehouses of people suspected of commercial dealings with the enemy

 1917 Feb 22. Edward Hope Vere [ ? head of chancery ] at Madrid Embassy to Aidan Wilde marked private " sending an article by Monsignor Bickerstaffe Drew entitled " Catholics and the War " which he may want to translate and 'give it to some of your clerical friends'. 'I was much interested at seeing the useful effect of your visit to the Bishop and the Abbot reported on some time ago by Mr. Smith.' make use of article as you see fit 'in your capacity as a Catholic' 'I hope to come to Barcelona later on and to make your acquaintance.'

 1917 Jun 22. Madrid writes to Consul Genaral in Barcelona saying - I hear that there is some reason to suppose that on certain grounds Mr. A. Wilde 's continuance in his present position may not be suitable. I should be glad to know whether you think there is any ground for this and if so whether you recommend any action.'

1917 Sep 14. Foreign Office in London send a telegram to the Consul in Barcelona terminating Wilde's sevices

1917 Sep 17. Wilde left Barcelona for Paris by train. It appears the Wilde read the "private" telegram to the consul and withheld it until he had left the consulate. Even going to the subderfuge of getting the messenger boy to alter the time of receipt of the telegram. Wilde appears to have left a number of debts behind, but the letter does not say why Wilde was dismissed.

1917 Dec 5. Deciphered telegram from Barcelona Consul, Smith to Madrid Embassy reporting that Aidan Wilde owes in Barcelona about 3500 pesetas to tradesmen , 6600 pesetas borrowed from different individuals , and £32 to Banco Hispanio-Americano for dishonoured cheques.

1917 Dec 11. St George D'Arcy Evans appointed vice consul Barcelona as a replacement for Aidan Wilde

1918 Jul 2. We pick him up next in Paris when he applies from Paris for another commission in British Army, but the Army reply saying that he was permanently invalided out of the army as unfit for any further service. However they add that they have no objection to him preceeding to the United States to take up whatever employment he might be offered.

1919 Feb 12, Married Miss Frances Rabbitts in Notre Dame in Paris. His bride, Frances Rabbitts, had spent a year in France between June 1909 and June 1910 and had a 'diploma' from the Sorbonne. In late 1917 she went to France as a voluntary hospital worker with the French Red Cross and worked at Hopital Auxiliaire 521 in Paris. Her father was postmaster, an attorney and journalist in Springfield, Ohio.

Wilde Rabbitts wedding

1919 Apr 18. He writes to Smith, the British Consul in Barcelona. The letter shows that Wilde is staying in the Palace Hotel, the most expensive hotel in Madrid. Wilde tells Smith that he is "anxious to make proposals for the repayment in full of all my creditors" and adds that "I was married 3 month ago to an American lady, well known in the United States and we are quite happy. The one thing I desire is to pay my outstanding debts, all of them

1919 Apr 22. The Consul in Barcelona is unimpressed by Wilde's remorse, and advises Lord Hardinge, Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, that the Consulate had had to pay £544 to settle Wilde's debts, and that Wilde needed to repay the Consulate rather than individual creditors. He adds that "Wilde is now in Madrid. He must have passed the Military Control and his presence appears to have been known to Mr Faba, late Admiralty Secret Agent here"

1919 Jun 16 Mrs Frances Wilde arrived at New York as a passenger aboard the SS Espagne from Le Havre. She gave her age as 30 and was going on to Springfield, Ohio which was where she was born. Her last place of permanent residence had been in Madrid and she gave as the name and address of a near relative or friend in the country from whence she came as ' Husband - Madrid - Spain'. This ties in with Wildes Protection cert saying that he was a foreign representative on Consular Duties in Spain. But glosses over the fact that he had been dismissed the consular service in Sep 1917

1920 Aug 8. For some reason he is issed with the standard "Protection Certificate". He has returned to the UK. His address is given as Palace Court Hotel which still exists today. And Interestingly a local estate agent says Bayswater is famous for its writers: WH Smith lived in Sussex Square, Thomas Hardy wrote his first novel ‘ The Poor Man and the Lady’ at Westbourne Park Villas, Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley lived at The Palace Court. Oscar Wilde died in1900, so one has to ask if this connection is fortuitous, or whether the Wilde family had some connection to the hotel, and that Leonard was indeed related to Oscar.

1920 Nov 18 He writes a letter from Dublin, published in the Times of 23rd November, which has a report of a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party which took place the previous evening during which Arthur Henderson read out a letter he had received from L A Wilde that morning:

Wilde's letter to the Times

1920 Nov 20 He is murdered at the Gresham Hotel in Dublin by the IRA on Bloody Sunday. Mr Leonard Wilde was found lying face down on the floor of his room. The medical examiner noted that he ‘was lying in a pool of blood and there was part of his brain lying in front of his head’. There was another bullet in the back of his right leg. His only other testimony was that the dead man seemed well nourished and appeared to be about thirty-five. The Times described Wilde as an innocent victim, publishing one of his letters to Arthur Henderson, secretary of the Labour party, asking how this simple ‘Roman Catholic ’ could best consecrate his life to Labour’s ‘magnificent fight for real democracy’ in Ireland. Others said he was an adventurer, a relative of Oscar Wilde. Archbishop Clune told the manager of the Gresham Hotel that he was nothing but a British spy who had been thrown out of Spain. The men who shot him did not seem to care.

Townshend's Paper

McCormack had come to Dublin to purchase horses and was probably shot by mistake. James Doyle, manager of the Gresham Hotel at the time, was one of many who thought that he was a pointless casualty. "At about nine o'clock on the morning of Bloody Sunday," Doyle said, "I was in bed in my room and awakened by noise. It was a muffled kind of thing like the beating of a carpet. The porter called up to my room afterwards and I asked him what the noise I had heard was. He said that Captain McCormack , who was occupying a room quite close to me, had been shot dead. I got out of bed and entered Captain McCormack's room and I saw that he was then dead. The worker also told me that another man had been shot dead in a room on the next floor over Captain McCormack's. I went to this room also and saw the dead man. His surname was Wilde. I was totally ignorant of what took place or why these men were shot at the time. I questioned the porter and he told me that a number of armed men had entered the hotel and asked to be shown to the rooms occupied by these two men."The Gresham's manager said that McCormack had been staying in the hotel since September and had been buying race horses: "He had booked his passage back to Egypt for December on the Holt Line. Although he had been a veterinary surgeon with the British Army there would appear tohave been grave doubt as to his being associated with British intelligence. While he was here I never saw him receiving any guests. He slept well into the afternoon and only got up early when a race meeting was on. When I found him shot in his room, the Irish Field was lying besidehim."

James Doyle, the Gresham Hotel Manager, however seemed confident that the suspiciously-named Wilde was indeed a spy, having being told that Wilde was thrown out of Spain because he was well known there to be a British agent.

Hansard reports. Gresham Hotel, Sackville Street. Two murders. Here a party of fifteen to twenty men entered the open door of the hotel, held up the boots and the head-porter with revolvers and forced the latter, Hugh Callaghan, to lead them to rooms occupied by Ex-Captain Patrick McCormack, formerly a captain in the Army Veterinary Corps, and Lieutenant L. E. Wilde. The party, one of whom carried a huge hammer, knocked first at Room 14 occupied by Mr. Wilde. He opened the door and asked, "What do you want?" By way of answer three shots were fired into his chest simultaneously. The party then moved to Room 24, which they entered and found Mr. McCormack sitting in bed reading the paper. Without any communication five shots were fired into his body and head as he sat there. The bed was saturated, and the body, especially the head, was horribly disfigured.

Leonard Aidan Wilde, born 1881, was registered for his death in the Dublin North Registration District in the October-December Qtr of 1920. Vol 2 , p 346

Cairo Gang