Leonard Arthur Tilney was born in Liverpool and was baptised on 10 June 1895 at ‘All Hallows’, Allerton, Lancashire. He was the eldest son of Robert Henry Tilney and Frances Mary Tilney. The family moved to Tattenhall when Leonard was a young boy and they lived at Millbank House on Burwardsley Road. His father was a Liverpool Stocks and Shares Broker.
Millbank House, formerly owned by the Bolesworth Estate, was a substantial property with at least 28 rooms, together with 3 separate rooms over the stables. On the night of the 1911 Census, it is recorded that not less than 15 people were present in the house and a further 3 single men occupied the stable block. The total number of individuals enumerated, therefore, comprised Robert and Frances Tilney, their 14 year old daughter (Susan), their 3 year old son (John), 2 visitors from Cheshire, 9 servants and 3 grooms (in the stable block).
It is unlikely that Leonard Arthur Tilney spent much time in Tattenhall other than during his long school holidays. His early years were spent at boarding schools in the south of England. Interestingly too is the fact that Leonard Arthur Tilney was not at home on the night of the 1911 Census which was recorded on 2 April. By then he was a boarder at Eton College Public School and he is recorded on the School’s Census Return, aged 15. For Leonard Arthur Tilney, like many of his contemporaries, war was on the horizon.
Father and son were both on active service during The Great War and in February 1918 they were decorated by the King with the DSO (Distinguished Service Order) and MC (Military Cross) respectively. Leonard Arthur Tilney gained a commission in his father’s regiment, the Duke of Lancaster’s own Yeomanry, then transferred to the Household Cavalry but was seconded owing to his having been attached to the Royal Flying Corps since January 1915. He was awarded his Aviators’ Certificate (No 1445) having completed his training in a ‘Maurice Farman Biplane’ at the Military School, Farnborough, on 2 March 1915.
He later became a Squadron Commander with the Royal Flying Corps, obtaining his ‘wings’ in record time. In February 1917 he received command of 40 Squadron which he led with distinction, gaining the Military Cross and the Belgian Croix de Guerre. He was also made an Officer of the Order of the Crown of Belgium.
Leonard Arthur Tilney was killed in aerial combat over enemy lines in France on 9 March 1918. It would appear from archival records that ‘Gefreiter* Wilhelm Hasenbein’, of identical age, was responsible albeit that his Commanding Officer ‘Paul Billick’ appears to have claimed the ‘victory’. Gefreiter Wilhelm Hasenbein was born in Lilienthal in 1896 and transferred to Flight Squadron Jasta 52 on 15 January 1918. Leonard Arthur Tilney was flying in an ‘SE5’ of 40 Squadron when he ran into a dogfight with Gefreiter Wilhelm Hasenbein who was flying in an ‘Albatros biplane’. In the melee, Hasenbein appears to have jumped Lieutenant Leonard Arthur Tilney and shot him down at approximately 06.00hrs. (* During WWI the term ‘Gefreiter’ relates to Lance Corporal rank).
Gefreiter Wilhelm Hasenbein survived the war and settled in the USA before returning to Germany in 1930. He ran an auto-repair shop in Bremen and designed two light sport aircraft engines. At the outbreak of WWII, he became a mechanic with the Luftwaffe’s Luftzeugamt. He continued to service German aircraft throughout the occupied countries of Eastern Europe. At the end of the war, he returned to the life of automobile repair in Bremen. He died in 1982.
A number of obituaries dedicated to Major Leonard Arthur Tilney appeared in the Liverpool press, not least because of his father’s connections with the well-known Liverpool firm of RJ Tilney and Company, Stocks and Shares Broker, Castle Street, Liverpool.
A memorial service was held at St Alban’s Church in Tattenhall on Tuesday 26 March 1918 at 3.30pm, the focus of which was ‘Per ardua ad astra’ (‘Through adversity to the stars’) – the motto of the Royal Flying Corps.