Leslie Coulson was born in London in 1889. His father had worked his way up to become a columnist on The Sunday Chronicle. Leslie started as a reporter on The Evening News before moving to The Standard in 1914. On the outbreak of war he enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers.

After training in Malta the battalion moved to Gallipoli in October 1915. After twelve weeks in and out of the lines the battalion was evacuated to Egypt. In April 1916 the battalion was sent to France and disbanded: Coulson was now a sergeant and was sent to the 1/12th Battalion – the Rangers.

On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916, the Rangers were involved in a diversionary attack north of the main offensive. From this time the Rangers were almost continuously in the trenches.  On 7 October 1916 they took part in the battle for the Transloy Ridges where Leslie was shot in the chest: he died the next day at a casualty clearing station. The manuscript of Who Made the Law was found in his possessions. His poems were published posthumously in 1917.

Vivien Whelpton says

When his poems were published in 1917, Coulson’s life, work and death lent themselves to the prevailing myth of innocent and willing sacrifice; a strain of hagiography characterises comtemporary obituaries and reviews. This idealised portrait took no account of how twenty-two unbroken months of service, and in particular, five months on the Somme in 1916, changed the man and his writing. Who Made the Law shows a comprehension of the horror and outrage of war and an awareness of evil that were growing in Coulson’s writing from Gallipoli onwards.


Leslie Coulson’s poems

Resources for Leslie Coulson

From an Outpost, by Leslie Coulson Digital Archive

Leslie Coulson: a Singer Once, by Vivien Whelpton, Cecil Woolf, 2007