Leavesden memorial

Written and read by Stephen Liddell on 11 November 2017 for the Leavesden Memorial Remembrance Service:

“If you’re anything like me, you’ll walk past this memorial quite often. It doesn’t matter if you go by every day on the way to school or work. Or if you pass by only on weekend walks or summer bike rides. You’ll probably stop and take a glance at the names listed here and think about them for a moment or two.

100 years on, they might be just names to us as the memorial only gives the briefest but most important information, that these brave heroes all died fighting for their country and their family and friends; and for us.

Back then Leavesden was a very different place than it is today and the clues are still there if you know where to look. 100 years ago, this whole area was peaceful, rural farmland. Just a few dozen people lived here and they all worked on farms and lived in isolated little cottages.

Before the war they had jobs that revolved around the farms. Many looked after horses or cows. Ernest Farley whose father was the vicar of Leavesden, was a chauffuer whilst Albert Martin made a living by hand painting coaches. Captain John Neligan was a doctor from Dublin and he served on a hospital train, dying from Dysentry in Egypt.

Most of them won’t even have been to London but a century ago, they left their houses and headed to war, never to return. Like Private Sharpe who lived on the end cottage and who fought and died in the Machine Gun Corps. or Alfred Moore who served around the world in Egypt, India and South Africa.

Most of the men listed here are buried far away but it is possible to visit three of them quite easily. Sidney Stevens was a Lance Corporal in the army, he was injured in action and was brought back to England. He died in Bristol hospital and is buried in the cemetery at All Saints Church in Horshoe Lane. A few metres away lie Corporal Sapsed of the RAF and Bertie Coster.

Like others on the memorial, Bertie wasn’t the only sibling to die in WW1, his brother Harry looked after cows on the farm but was sent to a different unit and he is buried in France. Another brother George also died but had moved away from Leavesden just before the war so is memorialised elsewhere.

It’s worth also thinking about those left behind such as Martha Bradley. Her husband Albert had already died before the war and her sons Harry William Bradley and Walter Henry Bradley died separately on the Western Front. Martha lived until she was 77 and died just before the start of WW2.

Over 16 million people died in WW1 around the world and not including countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa, 887,858 died from the U.K. and colonies. It changed the world forever, not least in little, peaceful Leavesden where 27 men left to go to war and 27 heroes never returned to a “Land Fit For Heroes.”