Leslie Barnabas Brighton

Leslie was born on 20 January 1895 in Saxlingham Nethergate, Norfolk to Eliza and Barnabas Brighton. His father was a bricklayer and they lived near Saxlingham Green. He was baptised in St Mary’s Church, Saxlingham on 7 April 1895.

He had two sisters and a brother,

Althea born 1892

Adelaide born 1896

Wallace born 1898.

In 1911 he was still living with his parents. He was aged 16 years and was working as a domestic gardener. His sister Althea was in London working as a nursery maid for a family.

During the First World War he enlisted in the Machine Gun Corps, his service number was 99784. His medals indicate that he did not enlist at the beginning of the war and none of his service or pension records have survived.

However he is mentioned in records for Military Hospital admissions in 1918. From these records it can be surmised that he was fighting in the Cambrai area of France at the beginning of 1918. On 14 January 1918 he was being treated by the 1/3rd Highland Field Ambulance for pyrexia of unknown origin (High temperature). The records of the 1/3rd   Highland Field Ambulance state they were in the Cambrai area from April 1917 till March 1918. On 16 January 1918 he was transferred from them to 35 Ambulance Train. It is not known if this train was in France or England.

Ambulance train. Photograph courtesy of National Railway Museum

These trains were built to be mobile hospitals. They could carry 500 service men and 50 crew members and were often up to a third of a mile long. They had wards, surgical dressing rooms and dispensaries as well as accommodation for the nurses and other staff. The men were in three storey bunks, which had little head room and often felt cramped. Those with broken bones found the jolting painful.

Each train had three medical officers, three nurses and 3 chefs. The remainder of the staff were orderlies who changed dressings, carried water and fed the wounded.

Inside of Ambulance train. Photograph courtesy of National Railway Museum

 The original photographs of the trains show bunks with pristine linen but in reality the state of the wounded meant that the train was often dirty and smelly and the staff risked being infected with lice and disease.

Ward on Ambulance train . Photograph courtesy of National Railway Museum

The men were triaged on the train so that their needs could be dealt with accordingly. Those given a red label needed urgent treatment.  Lives were saved by the treatment they received whilst being transported to other hospitals in Britain. The staff often worked for 24 hours at a time and lived on the trains.

There is no record of the outcome of Leslie’s illness or treatment. It is not known where he went in Britain or if he returned to France after recovering.

 He left the army on 15 October 1919.

After the war he returned to live near Saxlingham Green. His father died in 1919 and his mother in 1921.

By 1933 he was running The Stores at the bottom of Pitts Hill, Saxlingham.

 In December 1937 he married Dorothy Ruth Porter, who was born 28 September 1901 in Norwich.

In 1939 Register he is listed as being a grocer and general dealer. He was also the ARP warden and the Stores was Norfolk County Council First Aid Post. Also living with him and his wife Dorothy, was his sister Althea Brighton, who worked as a shop keeper. She never married.

Leslie Brighton on the steps of the village shop, Saxlingham Nethergate.

Leslie and his wife do not seem to have had any children.

He died on 4 June 1963 at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, Norwich. His address was still The Stores, Saxlingham Nethergate. Administration was granted to his widow Dorothy Ruth Brighton. His effects were £581 2s.

Dorothy died in 1991 aged 90 years old.



England & Wales, Birth, marriage, death index 1837-2005

UK Census Collection

British Army Medal Roll Index cards, 1914-1920

1939 Register- www.findmypast.co.uk

Norfolk Electoral Roll, Absent Voters List, Saxlingham Nethergate, Norfolk 1918-1920

Norfolk, Church of England Diocesan Baptismal Records, Saxlingham Nethergate.

England & Wales, National Probate Calendar 1858-1995

Military Hospitals Admissions & Discharge Registers WW1  www.forces-war-records.co.uk

Kelly’s Directory, Norfolk, Saxlingham Nethergate, 1933

War Time Memories Project. 3rd Highland Field Ambulance


www.railwaymuseum.org.uk  History of the Ambulance Trains.