WW1 Saffron  Walden

Saffron Walden War Memorial now and in 1921

The war memorial was designed by the architect, T J Weatherall of Loughton in 1920. It was built by the firm of Whitehead and Day of Saffron Walden. Two of the late Mr. Osborne Whitehead’s sons’ names, Archibald and Osborne, are included on it. It was unveiled by General Lord Horne, G.C.G, K.C.M.G, G.O.C. EasternCommand. Standing thirty feet high it is octagonal in construction, erected upon a platform ten feet sixteen inches across. The platform is surmounted with three steps, upon which is a tapering pedestal upon which are eight sunk panels fitted with bronze tablets upon which are the names of the 159 fallen in raised lettering. (Interestingly, on its unveiling there were only 158 names. If you look at the bottom of one of the panels now you will see the addition of an extra name - George King. (I believe he was originally omitted because of some confusion with Alfred George King).

There are carvings on four sides :-

1. On the side facing down the High Street, a wreath of a wild rose, surrounding shield with St. George in relief.

2. On the side reverse to No.1, a wreath of English oak, surrounding shield with the arms of the County of Essex.

3. On the side towards London Road, a wreath of Saffron crocus, and a shield with embattled walls, enclosing three Saffron crocus flowers.

4. On the side towards Audley Road, a wreath of bay leaves, enclosing the old town seal of a lion rampant and fleur-de-lys in relief, in a sunk panel enclosed by a septfoil.

There are drip labels over the panels and carving. The base stone, on the top of the pedestal is carved with a large bay wreath. The shaft is tapering, with a moulded cap, mounted with a cross. The whole is worked in the finest brown whitened Portland stone.

The inscription says, ‘For perpetual remembrance of the men of Saffron Walden who laid down their lives for their country in the Great War, 1914 - 1919.’

A summary extract from “The Victor Heroes” tells one of their stories:-

“...Corporal James John HALLS, D.C.M. (5093) 1st. Rifle Brigade, killed in action 1st. July 1916, aged 20. Buried in Sucrerie Military Cemetery, Colincamps, France, Plot 1 Row Grave 16. In late December James had been slightly wounded in the foot, but in May 1915 he was to be found in trenches near Mousetrap Farm in the Ypres Salient. It was a group of buildings surrounded by water on high ground north of Wieltje overlooking St.Julien and the valley of the Steenbeck. On the 13th. there was intense bombardment and the enemy attacked bidding for control of the remainder of the Frezenberg Ridge...”

Total Great War dead of Saffron Walden listed on town memorials - 159.

Total of Great War dead not commemorated on our war memorial but who enlisted in the town - 247 (approx).

Totals killed by year -

1914 - 8.

1915 - 17.

1916 - 38.

1917 - 49.

1918 - 43.

1919 - 4. TOTAL - 159

Day with highest number of deaths -

July 1st. 1916 - 4.

Months with the highest number of deaths - July 1916 - 13 : April 1917 - 10 : April 1918 - 8.

Youngest to die - Rifleman A.J. Brown and Pte. W.A. Crabb aged 18. Eleven others died aged 19.

Oldest to die - Pte. J. Pearson and Pte. A.S. Rushforth aged 42.

Average age of death (estimated) -

28 years 3 months.

Deaths by Regiment -

Essex Regiment 43.

London Regiment 11.

Middlesex Regiment 11.

Royal Fusiliers 8.

Dominion Forces -

Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) 6 :

New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) - 1.

“The Victor Heroes” is the story of men who lived in my road, our town ; men who were far from Classical heroes; far from supermen; not perfect or idealised, just caught in a moment of time where they felt they had to do their duty out of patriotism, or fear, love, necessity, under duress - who knows ? I have tried not to romanticise them, war is not romantic, but it is the human story of the men who fought in what was then known as the Great War.

It is also the story of the human suffering it embedded in the fabric of this small East Anglian market-town. For those who lost a loved one, a light had been extinguished, never to be rekindled. For many of those who did return had physical and psychological scars. These could not fade away - they were the legacy of a war that ended only with their deaths or the deaths of those who loved them. ‘What can the world hold afterwards worthy of laughter or tears?’

There were 743,000 British dead alone, this book deals with 159 individual tragic tales that resonate in our mind. Familiar images and echoes of that conflict still reverberate in our con-sciousness, casting a shadow over nearly one hundred years later, and will, perhaps, forever.


It is perhaps pertinent to look at some statistics that highlight the overwhelming impact of the Great War on Saffron Walden, in particular & the world in general, then & since:-

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“A tapestry depicting human waste and personal sacrifice”

Sir Alan  Haselhurst

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