The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville
Memorial 10 in the series….
This is a remarkable and unique War Memorial commemorating one small group of volunteer farmworkers who served in the Great War. They were all employees of Sir Mark Sykes a local landowner and Member of Parliament for Central Hull who during the war commanded the 5 Yorkshire Regiment. In 1912 soon after the Territorial Army had been formed he asked Waggoners from his estate to volunteer. Their job would not be to fight but to transport food, ammunition and other supplies to front line units if war broke out. When war did break out in 1914 some 1100 went to serve in France and Belgium together with their horses and wagons. They were to perform with heroism from the Battle of Mons onwards. Sir Mark was very proud of his men and as the war drew to a close in 1918 was determined to erect a special memorial in their honour.
The memorial stands today by the main road just outside the village of Sledmere. It is some 120 feet high and built of Portland Stone. Cylindrical in shape it stands on a stepped base supported by four columns. All are inscribed with numerous carved reliefs somewhat reminiscent of the famous Trajan Column in Rome. The Waggoners are shown saying farewell to their families, crossing the Channel and going into action. Other panels depict the Retreat from Mons and German atrocities in Belgium and the Battle of the Marne. The memorial was sculpted by Carlo Magnoni of London.
A plaque underneath states ‘Lt Colonel Sir Mark Sykes M.P. designed this monument and set it up in remembrance of the gallant services rendered in the Great War 1914/19 by the Waggoners Reserve A Corps of 1100 drivers raised by him on the Yorkshire Wold Farms in the year 1912.’
Sadly Sir Mark Sykes did not live to see the memorial completed. He died in the influenza epidemic in February 1919 whilst attending the Versailles Peace Conference. The memorial was unveiled over 2 years later in September 1920 by Lt General Sir Ivor Maxse, C in C Northern Command.
Regular reunions of the Waggoners were held until August 1988 when the last five survivors were invited as guests of honour to Sledmere House.
Christmas Edition 2012
© Copyright N T Stobbs