With many thanks to Richard Devonshire, who grew up in Leedstown, Cornwall, for uncovering this story and expanding on its military background.
Leonard Sara was a striking young man, five foot eight inches tall with red hair and blue eyes. He was also exceptional in other ways and his arrival back in Troon in July 1916 from the battlefields of the Western Front would have made quite an impression. He had already seen the worst of war, losing a close friend. At the time of the visit, he had only weeks left to live himself.
He had emigrated to Canada in 1913 and joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1914 after war broke out. Aged just 23, he signed up in Edmonton, where he had gained a position as a teacher.
He had been a brilliant scholar and came from a well-established family in Troon. His grandfather, Thomas Harvey, who had died just five years earlier in August 1911, had been a founding member of Troon Chapel.
His mother, Emily, had been headmistress at Trewergie Infant School, Redruth, before her marriage. After that she ran a grocer’s shop on Laity Road while bringing up her children as her husband, John Clymo Sara, worked overseas as a miner.
Leonard Sara, the eldest of her three sons, won a scholarship at the village school. After studying at Redruth County School from 1910-12 he went to Reading University College, soon to be Reading University. He was a member of Reading University College Officers’ Training Corps (RUCOTC) and a Committee member of the Students’ Christian Union from 1911-12.
This was exceptional at the time for a student from his background and there was another student there at the same time from Camborne: Francis (Frank) F. Eathorne who had been at school in Redruth with Sara and like him was a member of the RUCOTC and Students’ Christian Union.
A teaching job was Sara’s goal. There were miners in his family, too, but he had seen the toll this had taken on his father, John, who had worked extensively abroad leaving his young family behind in Troon. He returned from India in 1899 after a stay of three years, his health severely weakened. On his return he was ‘only able to undertake the lightest of industries’ .
John Clymo Sara had had to set off overseas again in 1905, this time to Nevada  and eventually his second son William Melville (two years younger than Leonard) followed him across the Atlantic, moving to Seattle in 1912.
Emigrating to Canada
But from there, like many young Cornishmen at the time, he was attracted by the idea of a new life in Canada and gained a position as a teacher in Edmonton, Alberta.
When he left Liverpool in March 1913 on the Cunard liner RMS Carmania, he could scarcely have imagined that two years later he would travel back across the Atlantic to fight a war in the very country he had taught not long earlier.
He was in Edmonton for just 20 months before he – like so many other young men in Canada – decided to fight for King and Country. He signed up on 17 November 1914, just ten days after the 31st Battalion (Alberta) Canadian Infantry started recruiting.
He assigned his monthly pay (22 Canadian Dollars) to his next of kin, his mother Emily Sara, then living at Glengarth, New Street, Troon, and stated his religion as ‘Wesleyan’.
Back to the UK
He did not have long to wait before returning to England – and Cornwall.
By May 1915, the Battalion was ready for war. It entrained as a unit in Calgary on 12 May and sailed for the UK on 17 May 1915 on the SS Northland. It arrived at Shorncliffe Army Camp near Cheriton in Kent on 29 May 1915 – a staging post for troops destined for the Western Front during World War One.
The Battalion, part of the 6th Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division, was under the Command of Lt Col. A. H. Bell CMG, DSO. From his name came the unit’s nickname – the ‘Bell-Dogs’ Battalion. It kept two War Diaries during the conflict, one Regimental and the other Medical. A reading of these documents show that it was clearly a highly professional unit, well-led, well-trained and effective under testing conditions. 
Life on the Western Front
The Battalion was in England for three and a half months before sailing for Boulogne, France, overnight on 17 September 1915. Sara arrived back on the coast just 100 or so miles from Le Havre, where he had taught before the war.
There he thrived as he seemed to have done throughout his life. He forged a strong friendship with Private Oscar Lloyd of Ontario after the two men became members of the Battalion Scout Section. Perhaps their shared Methodist background brought them together: before the war, Lloyd was training to be a Methodist minister.
They certainly needed to trust each other absolutely. In modern military parlance, the Battalion Scout Section would be called a ‘Reconnaissance/Recce Section’ and would be made up of experienced NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers) and soldiers able to act on their own initiative.  In other words, highly trusted soldiers and Leonard Sara was one of these.
It was crucial work and highly dangerous. Two thoughtful – and highly responsible – men such as Sara and his friend Oscar Lloyd planned what to do. They agreed that if one was killed in action, the other would write to his parents.
Promotion to Lieutenant
From 3 to 9 April, they took part in the Actions of St Eloi Craters in the Ypres Salient of Flanders, a military operation now viewed as something of a disaster. On 27 March, the British Royal Engineer Tunnelling units had dug six galleries under No Man’s Land and placed large explosive charges under German defences. But the action was not decisive and when the Canadian Corps took over, confusion reigned. Canadian and British troops were ignorant of which craters had been captured, as the massive mine detonations, likened to mini earthquakes, had made the landscape unrecognisable.
The Canadians counter-attacked several times, then concentrated on consolidating the front line. Constant rain, mud and incessant artillery-fire exhausted troops quickly and battalions had to be relieved after a couple of days.
It was Sara’s actions during this time that led to his appointment as an Acting Temporary Lieutenant. On 14 April, a number of NCOs and men were appointed Acting Temporary Lieutenants. By then, the unit had lost a high number of young officers and so replacements were sought within the ranks. Personnel in the Scout Section would have been highly rated: Sara was one such soldier [5). His commission was confirmed within the month, on 14 May 1916.
But it was not only the unit of the 31st that had suffered severe losses. Sara had lost his friend, Oscar Lloyd, who was killed on 6 April.
The death of a close friend
On 10 April, as promised, Sara wrote to Lloyd’s father. It is a sensitive letter and shows real affection for his dead friend, plus an understanding of the depth of the loss for his parents and the shock of an impersonal telegram arriving across the Atlantic with such terrible news.
“No doubt by this time you will have received from the War Office the sad news of Oscar’s death. Knowing that such bold statements as the War Office sends tell so little, I thought you would want to know more details, we were great friends Oscar and I. We worked together ever since he joined the scouts and promised other that in case either of us fell, the other would write his parents.”
Oscar was buried when the trench where he was sheltering was hit after prolonged shelling, he said.
“I did not know Oscar was in that dugout until we dug them out, or I should have gone into it with him,” says Sara. He then reveals the Methodist upbringing that shaped him as a man.
“No one who ever came into contact with him, could fail to appreciate his character and friendship. It is only a real sterling man who can live a Christian life and be popular and esteemed by all, and he was so cheerful and ready to help in any way.”
His nickname was ‘Jolly’ he says, as his initials were J.O.L.
“It is surprising how so few men really make an impression on us in travelling along the road of life. One can really count them on the fingers of two hands (perhaps one).
“I live in the hope of seeing him again smiling as of old, where neither wars destroy nor doubts discourage. With you I mourn, but mourn in hope, knowing that after the night, day dawns. Time passes as a dream. The morning and the awakening will come for us all.”
A last visit to Troon
The following month Sara went to a Grenade Course at the Divisional School, being trained to go forward to German lines with a small patrol of four to six men at night. The aim was to capture a prisoner for information, to observe and harass the Germans with hand grenades.
It was then, just over two weeks after this course, that he left for England on 16 July 1916 on what was to be his last visit to Troon. Leonard Sara’s youngest brother Edward Cecil, then aged 22, and his mother would have been there to meet him, no doubt as proud of him as they always would have been.
He would have missed June’s traditional Sunday School Tea Treat, but the traditions and close community of the village would have been little changed though news of the deaths of local men at the Front were regularly printed in the local papers.
Sara’s final days
On 26 July he returned the Front. Thanks to the Battalion’s War Diaries, there are clear snapshots of his movements in the days preceding his death. The following day he took part in a route march in brilliant sunshine.
“The weather was beautiful, and the distance covered was 12 miles. Although the day was hot and sultry, all ranks stood it remarkable well and there was only one man compelled to fall out. At different places along the line of march, the Battalion was observed by officers of the Brigade and Divisional staff who were very impressed by the appearance of it.”
Morale was clearly high despite the news that would have been filtering through about the terrible losses suffered further south on the Front at the Somme.
On 30 July, Sara and other Scouts and snipers attended a lecture given by the General Staff Officers of the 2nd Canadian Division at the Divisional School.
A day later, though Sara would not have known this, his Camborne friend, now 2nd Lieutenant Frank J Eathorne, fighting with the 24th (Service) Batallion (2nd Sportsmen’s) Royal Fusiliers, was reported missing in action in the Battle of the Somme and subsequently declared dead. His body was never found and he is remembered at the Thiepval Memorial. Like Sara’s mother, he had been a teacher at Trewergie School, Redruth.
Sara’s last successful action was on 1 August 1916. The Battalion’s War Diary records that a special patrol led by Sara went out to retrieve the body of a fallen comrade.
Two days later, as the War Diary reports, Sara went out on what was to be his last patrol. This was at Voormezeele near Spoilbank northwest of St Eloi.
3 August 1916
The usual patrols went out tonight but found nothing unusual. One patrol under Lt J.T.L. Sara (Scout Officer) proceeded to the enemy wire in front of Trench 17 to ascertain the damage caused the artillery in the afternoon. Unfortunately, Lt Sara was wounded.”
This injury proved fatal. He was shot in the face and died two days later at No 10 Casualty Clearing Station, Rouen.
He is buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, near Poperinghe in Belgium where his grave bears the inscription: ‘Greater Love Hath No Man’.
Remembered back in Cornwall
“He was a brave, jolly lad, clever and thoughtful. Though not yet twenty-five, his career had been a very varied and successful one.”
A memorial service was held at Troon Chapel on Sunday 13 August, 1916 and no doubt many remarked on the fact that Sara had died exactly five years to the day after his grandfather, who had played such a role in the chapel.
His mother, Emily, went out to the US to join her husband in 1924. She was 64 when she made the journey, eventually moving to Seattle where their second son, Melville, had settled. She died there on 2 October 1950, outliving her husband, John, who passed away on 19 April 1939, some 30 years after he arrived in the US. William Melville Sara died on 16 June 1963.
The youngest brother Edward Cecil Sara, who became an accountant, remained in England until he died in September 1955, leaving a widow, Mary.
 Cornubian and Redruth Times, Friday 15 September 1899
 Cornubian and Redruth Times, Saturday 17 June 1905
  and  Notes by Richard Devonshire who has studied the unit’s War Diaries.
 The 23rd and 24th Batallions, Royal Fusiliers, were among the Pals Batallions formed by the British Army in the early stages of World War One, from men who had made their name in cricket, golg, boxing, football (rugby) or the media. Source: Wikipedia ‘Sportsmen’s Batallions’