Walter Leslie James Sawyer came from the Bedfordshire village of Little Barford. One of four children, Walter was a farm labourer.
Walter enlisted in St.Neots and arrived at Ampthill Training Camp on the May 21, 1915. He was assigned 20643 Private W.L.J. Sawyer and posted to No.1 Company at the training camp. On August, 25 Walter transferred to No.2 Company. In the October Walter and Ada J. Norman married in St.Neots.
Private Sawyer was drafted to join the 6th Bedfordshire Regiment. On July 15, 1916 Walter (23) was killed in action at The Somme, possibly at the Battle of Bazentin Ridge. The Bedfordshire Regiment War Diary for that day states:
15 Jul 1916 – Attack on POZIERES by 112th Bde. from trenches S. of CONTALMAISON, Bde. held up by hostile machine guns, established itself about 100 yds from the lisiere [comment; 200 yards south of the Pozieres village boundary] & dug in. Casualties (3 Offs Killed, 32 O.R. Killed) (25 missing) (9 Offrs. Wounded, 174 O.R. Wounded).
Records show that the battalion sustained 330 casualties that day, once the final reckoning was concluded. Source: Bedfordshire Regiment War Diary
Walter had been married for barely nine months and much of this would have been spent abroad.
Walter was awarded three campaign medals: the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, and the Victory Medal.
20643 Private W.L.J. Sawyer is buried at the Pozieres British Cemetery in the Somme Region of France. Walter is also remembered at St. Deny’s Church, Little Barford. The Parish Roll shows that twenty-nine men served in the Great War; seven did not return.
Walter’s family received a memorial bronze plate. In November 2016 I happened on the memorial plate which came with its original cardboard box and letter from the King.
BUY: Stencilling Tommy’s Footprints
This 48 page book tells the story of how Tommy’s Footprints came about and notes the many people who have contributed and connected. There are just 150 individually numbered books. A unique Christmas gift.
Proceeds will help to fund a book about the Ampthill Camp ~ profits to benefit the charity Combat Stress which was founded in 1919 to help WWI veterans deal with shell shock.