Forward the Tigers............
The story of St. Martin's Church at war...........
On the 28th June 1914, in the Bosnian Capital of Sarajevo, Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofia were shot dead by Bosnian Serb - Gavrilo Princip. This started a political crisis is Europe.
The night of 3-4 August 1914, German Forces invaded Belgium and on 4th August 1914 Great Britain declared war on Germany.
At this time Leicester was not a city, it was still a town and St Martins was a parish church and like most parishes suffered great losses.
A view of St Martins from New Street.
(Authors own image/postcard)
On Wednesday 12th August 1914 the 4th Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment had a splendid send off as they left for the front.
The proceedings began with bringing the Regiments Colours from St Martins Church – escorted by ‘B’ Company’s Captain Neville, Lieutenant Parr carrying the Kings Colours and Lieutenant Brice carrying the Regimental Colours; music was provided by the Boy Scouts.
The Companies of the Battalion marched into the parade ground from the schools where they were billeted and formed into double lines. The Duchess of Rutland was present (whose son, the Marquess of Granby was a lieutenant in the Battalion) along with the Bishop of Peterborough, and the Mayor of Leicester.
The Mayor of Leicester spoke on behalf of the town and wished the recruits Godspeed and that the town of Leicester had every confidence in them.
The streets were lined from the Magazine Square in the Newarke to the Midland London Road Station.
As The troops arrived at Platform 1, music hall songs and up to date rag time music was played with the soldiers standing at ease for about 10 minutes.
The train which was longer then the platform left Leicester Station at 3.15pm. A couple of young ladies persisted in kissing more then one young man as the train steamed out the station and were told –
“Now then, don’t make a fuss of them!"
When the steam engine pulled out of the station on 12 August 1914, the 4th Leicester’s went onto train at Luton and then Bishops Shortford. At the end of February 1915, the Leicester’s went with the whole of the North Midland 1st division to France. After being held in reserve at Neuve Chapelle they went into the trenches at the beginning of April near Armentieres. After two months the young men moved to the Ypres Salient for three to four months then to Hill 60 – holding the important part of the trench which was under constant shell fire. At the end of September 1915, they moved south and with the rest of the division made an attack on Hodensollem (ho wen zollund) on 13th October 1915.
The 4th Battalion were in the first line and lead the attack. The strength went in with between six hundred to seven hundred men.
At roll call the next morning - only one hundred answered.
On Friday 10th December 1915 a service was held at St. Martins Church in honour of the officers, non-commissioned officers and the men of the 4th Battalion who fell in France and Flanders during the present war.
One hundred and thirty men of the 4th Leicester’s who returned home were present.
On the right-hand side of the Nave were the Civics and Military. The troops were placed on the side of the aisle where the tattered remnants of the former Leicester’s colours hung.
The greater portion of the church was filled with friends and relatives of the fallen. A large percentage were ladies.
The Bishop of Peterborough’s address came from Hebrews: Chapter 11, verses 34 – 40
“Who through faith waxed valiant in fight…. that they without us should not be made perfect”
As well as the Duke of Rutland and the Mayor of Leicester and Clergy from all over Leicestershire, a Rev Henry Sylvanus Biggs and his wife Clara were also in attendance. The Rev Biggs had been Principal of Lutterworth Grammer School and Assistant Principal of Wyggeston Boys school which was next door to the Church. His wife Clara’s father, Thomas Holyland was a former Church Warden of St. Martins. Clara Biggs was also the cousin of Frank and Sydney Warren, whose names you can see in the Golden book.
The golden book lists eleven thousand soldiers from Leicester who fought and died in WW1.
Frank and Sydney Warren were two young men from Western Road in the town and both died on the same day - 13 October 1915 at Hodensollem.
Frank was born in 1892 and worked as a hosiery hand. He was a keen footballer and in 1910 when he was 18 yrs old he was fined 2s 6d for playing football on Eastern Boulevard. He was 22 yrs old when he died.
Sydney was born in 1897 and was employed as a shoe hand. In the May of 1915, a letter appeared in the local Leicester Daily Post from Sydney, thanking the people of Leicester on behalf of the signallers of the 4th Leicester’s for their gifts of tobacco and paper. Four months later, Sidney was killed in Action aged only 18.
Frank and Sydney had another brother who served in WW1 – Albert who fought with the Leicester’s and lost a leg in the Somme.
The other Warren listed ‘Frederick’ is no relation. His family had moved to Leicester from Arbroath in Scotland. Frederick was 19 when he died.
The window in Christ the King Chapel is the St Martins War Memorial and was dedicated at a special service on St Martins day 11th November 1920 and designed by Mr C Whall
The top is the sun, symbolic of the power which rules the universe and the new day that is hoped may arise upon the world when war clouds have passed away.
The rays of the sun penetrate the entire window and are met by a second great system of light radiating from the Vesica Nimbus where Christ, enthroned in glory blesses the new world.
Both systems melt into surrounding crowds of attendant spirits, the upper one with seraphim and cherubin and lower with ministering angels.
The centre represents deposition from the cross
On the left is the Virgin Mary – protectoress of the orphans of war and on the right is St. John – acceptance of his great trust and care of the virgin
In the Centre of the window groups
St George for England
St Michael for Belgium
St Joan of Arc for France
St Martin patron saint of soldiers.
In the upper part of St Martin is the Tower Cloth Hall in Ypres in the snow and in the upper part of St Joan of Arc, who also stands for all women who died in the war has the Tower Cloth Hall burning behind her.
As well as the WW1 memorial window there is a memorial board dedicated to those soldiers who died in the war and who are connected to St Martins Parish.
Dr Everard Harrison whose name appears on the board worked at the Volunteer recruitment station opposite the Cathedral at ‘The Hollies’. A house owned by ‘The Flude’ family. A name you will see on plaques around the Cathedral. The Hollies is now being renovated into a Hotel.
Everard also lived next door to the Church at Number 7 St Martins East (the green door). He was killed in action on 18th April 1918 and left behind a wife and a 1yr old daughter.
Everards brother Shirley married Ella Bennion whose father Charles Bennion gave Bradgate Park, the childhood home of Lady Jane Grey to the people of Leicestershire.
Although there are no war memorials in St Katherine's Chapel to the fallen, the chapel is also known as the Herrick Chapel. A William Montague Curzon-Herrick born in 1892 enlisted into the Royal Garrison Artillery. An impressive 6ft 3” tall, William was 26 years old.
He married Lady Kathleen Plantagenet Hastings, Eldest daughter of the Earl of Hastings and they lived at Beaumanor Hall nr Loughborough.
William suffered from neurothemia. A WW1 term for shell shock. Sufferers of this condition were considered cowardly. Although in the case of Herrick his symptoms steam from 1905 when he was at Eaton and not the army. He was described in school as ‘shy, self-conscious and a little dull’.
On 3rd July 1915 the marriage of Sergeant-Major Shirley Bradshaw Templer and Elizabeth Warbuton took place in St Martin's. When leaving the Church the wedding party passed under a double row of crossed swords.
Mr Templer joined the 1st volunteer Battalion in 1897 and served in eight units, one of the greatest numbers in which a man has served. Shirley went to the 3rd Matilia and in 1898 posted to the 2nd Matilia and sent to Egypt. Egypt to India and then back to join the 2nd Matilia in Ireland. In 1914 he was transferred to Colour Sargent Instructor of the 5th Territorials and then later to the 4th. He went through the war with three of the service battalions – 1/5th, 2/5th and 3/5th as well as the Yorkshire Dragoons. Shirley Templer remained in Cologne until 1922 when he retired to England, took his discharge and moved to the village of Wigston Magna in South Leicestershire until he died in 1946.
St Georges chapel is enclosed by a carved wooden screen, was reconstructed in 1921 and contains memorials to the men of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment. Here, the battle honours of the Regiment and the names of those killed in the Crimean, South African and two World Wars are recorded and remembered.
Newly installed is a plaque in memory of four soldiers from the Leicester Regiment who received the Victoria Cross. Three of those men served in the first world war.
William Edward Buckingham from Glen Parva in Leicestershire was born in 1886 and was a Private in the 1st Battalion. He received the Cross for his “conspicuous acts of bravery and devotion to duty in rescuing and remaining with the wounded whilst exposed to heavy fire himself”. William was himself wounded in Neuve Chappelle in early March 1915.
One of the men he rescued was a German Soldier who was lying some distance away with one of his legs blown off. Hearing his cries for help, William Buckingham went out amid a hail of bullets, administered first aid and took him to a place of safety.
On he third day of battle, William was severely wounded in the chest with a machine bullet. The missile went partly through a packet of postcards he was carrying and caused superficial wounds in the chest and finally landing in his left arm.
After being discharged from hospital, he stayed at the Countesthorpe Children's Cottage Homes where he was brought up.
It was here, while staying at his childhood home he found out he had been awarded the Victoria Cross. Shortly after, a subscription fund was opened on his behalf and was given a cheque for £100, which he invested in the War Loan. William spoke at recruiting meetings and when resuming training he was promoted to rank of Sargent but relinquished his stripes to get to the fighting line.
William was killed in action on 15 September 1916. He fell wounded in the thigh by a machine gun bullet and was killed instantaneously by a second bullet which hit him in the head. He was 30 years old.
Lieutenant Colonel Philip Bent was educated at Ashby Grammar School and enlisted as a private in the Edinburgh University Battalion. Philip received a commission in the Leicestershire Regiment in November 1914 and rose to rank of Major in 1916. He was killed in the fighting around Ypres in October 1917 in Polygon Wood.
In accordance with his wishes his sword was hung by the Lady Chapel in Ashby Parish Church where he received his First Communion. The young hero fell when leading the Leicester’s in a successful counter attack. Lieutenant Colonel Philip Bent went ahead of his men waving his revolver and shouting “Forward the Tigers”. He died aged 26.
John Barrett served in the 1/5th Battalion and received the Victoria Cross for his bravery and devotion during the attack on Pontruet.
On the 24th September 1918 in the darkness and smoke, a considerable number of men lost their way and Lieutenant Barrett found himself advancing towards Forgan’s Trench. A trench of great strength, containing numerous machine guns. Without hesitation he collected all available men and charged the nearest group of machine guns. In spite of being wounded he gained the trench and attacked the garrison, personally disposing of two machine guns and inflicting many casualties. Again, John was severely wounded, but he managed to climb out of the trench to fix his position and locate the enemy. This he succeeded in doing and despite exhaustion from wounds, he gave detailed orders to his men to cut their way back to the battalion which they did. Lieutenant Barrett was again wounded, this time so seriously he could not move and had to be carried out. Even with his newly acquired wounds he managed again to fight on. It was due to his coolness and grasp of the situation that his party were able to get out alive.
John Barrett died on the 7th March 1977, aged seventy-nine. He was cremated at Leicester Crematorium.
As well as flying the colours of the Leicestershire Regiment in St Georges Chapel, one of the greatest artefacts of the First World War is on display in a cabinet. A silver cross rescued from the burning ashes of St Martins Cathedral in Ypres by Private Herbert Orton.
Not much is known of the brave soldier, but research suggests he was Herbert Ernest Orton, born in 1892 and a driver in the Royal Horse Artillery. He was the son of a carriage builder and before enlisting he too was a carriage builder who lived at Thornleigh Cottages, Countesthorpe.
During the Middle Ages, St George’s Chapel was the chapel of the Guild of St George. The effigy of England’s national saint, on a horse, was kept here and carried through the streets annually on 23 April in a procession known as ‘riding the George’.
A Eucharist for Peace and Justice is held in the Chapel every Wednesday at 1pm and evening prayer is said in St Georges every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 5.30pm.
Leicester Daily Post. Thursday 6 August 1914
Leicester Daily Post. Thursday 6 August 1914
Picture: Pinterest c. 1914 Leicester Midland Train Station
Authors own image/postcard
Sydney Warren (Standing)
Albert Warren (seated)
(All three photographs: Warren Family collection)
Leicester Daily Post October 1915
(Authors own collection)
(Authors own collection)
(Authors own collection)
(Authors own collection)
All three images: Authors own collection)
Authors own collection
Leicester Daily Post. 27 Novemeber 1915
Authors own collection
(All three images: Authors own collection)