Saxilby and District History Group

November this year marks the centenary of the end of one of the most horrific wars in history.

Over the next three months, we will commemorate the 59 residents and friends who gave their lives in that conflict.

Following the invasion of Belgium by Germany, Britain declared war on 4th August 1914.

This was not an unexpected event, as there had been much 'sabre rattling' during the previous years.

Turkey had been involved in war over the Balkans against Bulgaria, Albania and Serbia.

The King of Greece was assassinated in 1913, and on 1st January 1914, Lloyd George called the build-up of arms in Western Europe 'organised insanity'.

In March, the Russian government announced an increase in the standing army from 460,000 to 1,700,000.

The trigger for war was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his wife in Sarajevo on 28th June 1914.

Several Saxilby men were already in the forces at the outbreak of war.

Driver George Walker had had four years’ service, Private E Hall nine years’ service and Gunner P Stephenson three years.

Several of the village residents were in the Navy; Petty Officer H Hill 14 years, Engine-room Artificer George Sergeant, and Able Seaman J Naylor.

Mobilisation began almost immediately; the standing forces only numbered some 710,000 men.

An aggressive advertising campaign began, including perhaps the most iconic poster of the Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener.

By the end of September 1914, over 750,000 men had enlisted; by January 1915, a million. The reasons for their enlistment can’t be pinned down to a single factor; enthusiasm and a war spirit certainly drove some, while for others unemployment and the prospect of a regular wage prompted enlistment. By early 1916, 2.67 million had volunteered.

Volunteers living or working in Saxilby numbered over 80.

The first to volunteer in the village was Cliff Garrod, the son of Saxilby's Stationmaster. He had been employed as a draughtsman at West's works on Sykes Lane.

With the French Army in dire need of relief, a Military Service Bill was introduced in January 1916, providing for the conscription of single men aged 18–41; in May conscription was extended to married men. By the end of the War in 1918, a further 2.77 million men had been recruited.

We are fortunate to have the memories of a few Saxilby men who went through the war.

Herbert Valley was a market gardener in Saxilby, working for his father.

He came unscathed through three years of war. A survivor from the battles of the Somme and Passchendaele, he was a sniper in the Royal Artillery.

In later life, Herbert wrote a poem entitled 'The Poacher's Story'. Here is an extract -

    Then came the nineteen-fourteen war,

When to Lincoln Barracks I went.

And after a few weeks training,

Over to France I was sent.

  They made me the Company Sniper,

I was always good with a gun.

So instead of knocking off pheasants,

I was taking pot shots at the Hun.

  But often at night in the trenches

Where the smell of cordite clings,

I would look for the call of a pheasant,

And the whir of partridge wings.

Herbert was a member of the Royal Observer Corps during World War II and died in 1977.

The three sons of Village Postmaster Henry Read, Arthur (age 19), Harold (17) and William (16), had all volunteered by mid-1915.

In the years following the war, William Read wrote a comprehensive record of his time throughout the conflict.

'It wasn't all patriotism that decided me to join the Army on January 1st, 1915 - the war wouldn't last long, and a bit of camp life would be a nice change, but the one thing to be avoided was carrying a pack, so it must be a mounted unit.

The Recruiting Officer said, "There's a test this morning, report to the sergeant behind a pub”. And the test was round Retford Market Square!

My first Army order was "Halt! Get off before you fall off". So, I became a driver.

William's brother Arthur had joined the Royal Flying Corps, obtaining the rank of Flight Lieutenant. During World War II he served in the RAF as a Wing Commander.

Harold Read was killed during the Battle of the Somme on 24th July 1916.

This is considered to be one of humanities bloodiest battles, where over one million men were wounded or killed.

His brother William writes -

'Actually firing the gun as no.3 gave me the greatest thrill, but it wasn't just that - having just heard that my brother Harold ('Scrim' as he was known by his nick name) had been killed on the Somme, my mental reaction was definitely Revenge, and many a time I pulled the firing lever, perhaps I even said "that's for Scrim, BANG, share that you b......".

The thought that I would never see dear old Scrim again was almost unbearable; he was only out in France a couple of months.'

Armistice between the Allies and Germany came into effect at 11am on 11th November 1918.

One of the bloodiest wars in the history of humankind had claimed the lives of nearly 10 million, with a further 8 million posted missing. Over fifty men were lost from Saxilby and district.


All memorials from the beginning of time to the present, except for the Cenotaph in London, have been erected by the local community as opposed to the Government.

The collation of names for inclusion had an element of hard graft, and was done in any number of ways, for example -

 Door to door enquiries

Leaflet through the letter box

Announcement in church

An article in the local magazine or

Word of mouth.

It is not uncommon for a name to be missing from a memorial. Some families held onto the hope that their loved ones would return.

There are some individuals commemorated despite the fact they don't come from the area.

On our memorials for example, the Saxilby fiancée of one individual who lived in Lincoln asked that he be included.

In Saxilby, a committee, formed in 1916, considered suggestions for honouring the fallen, and eventually presented a scheme at a public meeting on 19th February 1920 to purchase 7.3 acres of land from Mrs Broughton and others for a recreation ground. £950 was collected through public subscription.

The land was laid out, and an existing building converted to a pavilion. A marble tablet listing the names of the fallen (now in the Village Hall) was fixed to an internal wall.

On 20th April 1921, a procession, headed by Mr J R Jackson, the committee chairman, clergy and invited guests marched from the Ship Inn to the entrance gate where Arthur Middleton gave a resume of the project.

Presented with a golden key, Major John Molson, MP for Gainsborough ceremonially unlocked the gate. The party proceed to the pavilion, where a service was conducted by Revd Geoffrey Hillyard.

There is also a memorial tablet in St Botolph’s church.

A memorial dedicated to their lost school chums was erected in the School (now located in St Andrew's Centre) which contains additional names.

Members of the Methodist Church erected a memorial to those members of their congregation who were killed during the conflict.

Wrought iron gates and pillars bearing inscriptions for both World Wars were unveiled at the entrance to the War Memorial Playing Field on William Street on 11th January 1948.

The names of 33 men were inscribed on the original tablet. There are an additional 8 names inscribed on the School Memorial Board. A further 18 men have been found with Saxilby and District connections.