US Navy 'jack-the-lad' deserter turned WW1 military hero
The story of a US Navy deserter who later joined a UK regiment and won the Military Medal during World War One has been uncovered.
"Jack-the-lad" Leroy West was in the 1/4th Battalion, the Northamptonshire Regiment, in what was Palestine.
The sniper was awarded the medal after the Second Battle of Gaza on 19 April 1917, which resulted in the battalion's single biggest loss of life on one day.
West survived the war but then disappeared from records.
David Parish, from the Northampton branch of the Western Front Association, said the "jack-the lad" probably did not want to be found and no photos of him exist.
He said: "His real name was Henry Clarence John Holscher, he was born in 1888 in Auto in Texas, he qualified as a civil engineer and jumped ship in Liverpool."
Alison Butler, who has written a battalion history with Mr Parish, said they gleaned the private's history from his service record.
"It's full of his insubordination - he didn't like taking orders, he didn't like saluting and he didn't like discipline," she said.
West, who claimed to be Canadian when he joined the Northumberland Fusiliers in 1915, was court-martialled, jailed, escaped and recaptured while serving in Egypt.
After six months' hard labour, he was released into the care of 1/4th Battalion and it appears he found his niche.
Miss Butler said: "They sent him on a scout's course and he became a sniper.
"He was in no man's land, scouting up to the enemy's trenches, no one was telling him what to do and he was in his element."
West's sentence was commuted as a result of his gallantry.
The story was discovered ahead of events to mark the 100th anniversary of the Second Battle of Gaza, in which 139 men from the battalion died.