Remembering one of the lives taken at Battle of the Somme

Pte Samuel Reginald Sawford
Pte Samuel Reginald Sawford
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The memory of a young soldier will live on as the centenary of the battle which claimed his life approaches.

Samuel Reginald Sawford was born in Irthlingborough in November 1896, but his family also lived at addresses in Earls Barton, Stanwick and Higham Ferrers.

One of the letters

One of the letters

However, when he left his home in 1915 to head to France, neither he or his family knew if he would ever return.

A series of letters sent by Pte Sawford to his family back home chart his day-to-day life while out in the field, including being ‘somewhere behind firing lines,’ in the trenches amd being taken to hospital in Rouen for treatment of his frostbitten feet.

Richard Gell of Higham Ferrers decided that this year, which is the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, was the perfect opportunity to go through all the letters, pictures and memories of his wife’s uncle.

He has pieced together all the material from the young soldier’s life and put it into chronological order so others can read and learn about his story in years to come.

Pte Sawford

Pte Sawford

Mr Gell said: “It is the anniversary this year so I decided I would try to tidy everything up and put it together.”

The letters are exchanges between Pte Sawford and his mother as well as his siblings.

They reveal him being under shell fire in May 1916, not getting much to eat in June 1916 and being back under shell fire in late June that year.

But with the Battle of the Somme starting in July, Pte Sawford had just days to live.

Samuel in his younger days

Samuel in his younger days

The last letters he sent were to his mother and his young brother Walter, which were sent on July 10.

Just nine days later, Mrs Sawford received a letter informing her that her son had been missing since July 14.

She also had a letter she had sent to him on July 13 returned to England, but it was not until several months later that official confirmation of the heartbreaking news came.

A letter sent to Mrs Sawford from the War Office dated November 3, 1916, said Pte Sawford of the 6th Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment had died of his wounds on July 14 at a place not stated.

Pte Sawford's 'Dead Man's Penny'

Pte Sawford's 'Dead Man's Penny'

Numerous letters of sympathy for Mrs Sawford followed, including a letter from the Salvation Army which had been in regular correspondence with her while she tried to get information about her son.

The letter from the Salvation Army said: “My dear Mrs Sawford, I received your letter and am so sorry to learn that your dear boy has died; how I wish I could lessen the heartache, but I do offer my prayers on your behalf, that in this dark hour and sad bereavement you may be upheld by God.

“He was a brave boy, and died nobly for his country.

“God bless and comfort you dear Mrs Sawford.”

As well as the letters and pictures, Mr Gell has Pte Sawford’s tag which was returned to the family and his memorial plaque, also known as a ‘Dead Man’s Penny.’

Pte Sawford’s name appears on the war memorials in both Higham Ferrers and Stanwick.

Memories of Pte Sawford's life

Memories of Pte Sawford's life

The Battle of the Somme was fought during the First World War by the armies of the British and French empires against the German Empire.

It took place between July 1 and 18 November, 1916, on both sides of the upper reaches of the River Somme in France. It was the largest battle of the First World War on the Western Front, with more than one million men wounded or killed.

One of the letters to Pte Sawford

One of the letters to Pte Sawford