Captain, Leopold Profeit, Killed in Action

8th Shropshire Light Infantry, 25th April 1917

Captain Leopold Profeit, photograph from the Aberdeen University Roll of Service.

Aberdeen University Roll of Honour

An extract from Aberdeen University Roll of Honour states:-

Profeit, Leopold: Captain, 8th Battalion Shropshire Light Infantry; son of Dr. Alexander Profeit, Commissioner to Queen Victoria at Balmoral; born Crathie, 7 April 1877; educated privately; graduated M.A., 1896.  After graduation he went on the stage, playing with Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson and the late James Welch.

At the outbreak of war Profeit was home on holiday from America, where he had been for some years, and he at once joined the University and Public Schools Corps.  In December 1914 he was commissioned in the Shropshire Light Infantry and about a year later was sent to France. Afterwards he was transferred to the Salonika Front, where he fell near Lake Doiran on 25 April 1917.  The attack in which he met his death had been planned by himself and, though fatal to its leader, was successful in attaining its objective.

Military

Leopold Profeit was born on 7 April 1877 at Crathie, Aberdeenshire. His father Alexander was a doctor who during his career was Surgeon and Estate Manager to Queen Victoria at the Balmoral Estate.

Leopold was to become an actor performing in London and on Broadway from 1899 to about 1913. His address in the 1908-09 Electoral Register was shown as 91 Harvard Court, Camden, Hampstead. He is shown as having performed in two plays on Broadway, ‘Everyman’ in March 1913 and ‘A Scrape o’the Pen’ from September to December 1913. It is probable that he made other performances due to some of the trips he made, as displayed below.

He is shown in some passenger lists as:-

  • On 15 August 1904 departing Sydney, Australia to Southampton onboard the ‘Garcon’
  • On 11 June 1913 departing Boston Massachusetts to Liverpool on White Star Line ship the ‘Arabic’
  • On 13 August 1913 departing Southampton for New York on the ‘R.M.S. Olympic’
  • On 15 May 1914 arriving at Southampton from New York onboard the American Line ‘St. Louis’.

He enlisted into the army in December 1914 and on 2 August 1915 he married the actress Dorothy Rundell at St.Saviour’s Church, Paddington, Middlesex, who was 26 years old at the time, 9 years his junior, her father was a solicitor and her address was given as 20 Clifton Road, Maida Vale.

Captain Profeit entered the Salonika Theatre of War on the 31 October 1915 and he was later killed on the 25 April 1917 at the Battle of Dorian (present day Macedonia) fighting against the Bulgarians.

He was buried at Karasouli Military Cemetery, Greece.

His wife claimed probate on the 19 June 1917, her address was given as 9 Elm Avenue, Muswell Hill, Middlesex.

King’s Shropshire Light Infantry Cap Badge similar to the one which would have been worn by Captain Profeit.

Battle of Dorian

The battle for a breakthrough in the Bulgarian positions began on 22 April and continued intermittently until 9 May 1917. The assault began with a bitter four-day artillery barrage in which the British fired about 100,000 shells. As a result, the earthworks and some wooden structures in the front positions were destroyed. The Bulgarians also opened fire from the batteries between Vardar and Doiran. Vladimir Vazov ordered fire day and night on the Allied positions. The initial several-hour struggle between the British and Bulgarian batteries was followed by a one-hour Bulgarian counter-barrage in which 10,000 shells were fired.

The British infantry began its attack on the night of 24–25 April – 12 companies attacked the Bulgarian 2nd Brigade and after a bloody fight managed to take the “Nerezov”, “Knyaz Boris” and “Pazardzhik” positions. After a Bulgarian counter-attack the British were repulsed with heavy casualties and by 8 pm had retreated.[5] The British assaults on the right and central fronts were also repulsed with heavy casualties after help from the Bulgarian artillery.

photograph (Q 32265) Battle of Dorian. Transporting British wounded from motor ambulance to hospital ship. Salonika, August 1916. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205297824

The British attacks in the next two days were defeated by constant Bulgarian fire and counter-attacks. Due to this fire the British withdrew to their initial positions on 27 April, the Bulgarians immediately started to reconstruct the destroyed fortifications.

Due to criticism by their high command, the British made new attempts at a breakthrough. On 8 May, after a long artillery barrage, they began another attack. The main assault started at 9 pm with five waves of British troops attacking the Bulgarian positions. After four attacks during the night of 8–9 May the British were defeated and suffered enormous casualties. A ‘Times’ correspondent wrote that the British soldiers called the “Boris” point “the valley of death”

The artillery duel continued until 9 May but due to heavy casualties the British had to abandon all attacks. They lost 12,000 killed, wounded and captured of which more than 2,250 were buried by the Bulgarian defenders. The losses of the Ninth Pleven Infantry Division were 2,000 of whom 900 died from disease and wounds.

Family

In the 1881 Census his family was shown as living at House of Abergeldie Mains, (which is beside Balmoral) Aberdeenshire and in the 1911 Census he is shown as residing with his brother Alexander and sister-in-law at Manor House, Winterborne Zelston, Blandford, Dorset.

His family is listed as:-

  • Mother – Isabella Profeit, born at Logie Coldstone, Aberdeenshire c.1842
  • Father – Alexander Profeit, born at Towie, Aberdeenshire c.1835
  • Brother – Robert A. Profeit, born at Logie Coldstone, Aberdeenshire c.1869
  • Brother – Charles W. Profeit born at Tarland, Aberdeenshire c.1871
  • Brother – Alexander Profeit born at Tarland, Aberdeenshire c.1873
  • Brother – George W. Profeit born at Tarland, Aberdeenshire c.1875
  • Brother – Albert Profeit born at Crathie, Aberdeenshire c.1876
  • Brother – Erskine G. Profeit at Crathie, Aberdeenshire c.1879

Medals

Following his death, Leopold Profeit was awarded the 1914-15 Star, Victory and British War Medals.

Memorials

Captain Profeit is honoured and remembered on the Green Room Club War Memorial, which was once positioned in Westminster, London, however, the Memorial was later sold and it is unknown where it is currently held.

The Green Room Memorial – © John Frearson (WMR-58031)

Links to Additional Information

Conflicting Information

There is some conflicting information in relation to the Theatre of War which Captain Profeit was first involved in. In the ‘Aberdeen University Roll of Service’, it states that he was sent to France and then later to Salonika, however the Medal Index Card states that the first Theatre was Salonika. After further investigation I am of the belief that his Battalion landed in France for a short time without being involved in the conflict before leaving for the Salonika Front.

References

  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission
  • Medal Index Card
  • Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-19
  • Shropshire Light Infantry Medal Roll – 1914-15 Star
  • Shropshire Light Infantry Medal Roll – British War and Victory Medals
  • Register of Soldiers Effects
  • 1881 Census
  • 1901 Census
  • London and Surrey, Marriage Bands and Allegations 1597-1921
  • England and Wales National Probate Calendar 1858 – 1995
  • London, England, Church Marriages and Banns 1754-1932
  • 1908 Elector Register
  • 1909 Elector Register
  • Aberdeen University Roll of Service

Groups

Contributors:-

  • Vincent Stuart
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