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James William Sawyer – Killed in Action 1917

TYNE COT MEMORIAL, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium

James William Sawyer served with the 12th battalion of the King’s (Liverpool Regiment). James was reported missing in action, at the battle of Lancmarke, on 15th August, later presumed killed in action. James was aged 21 and the son of Alfred and Jane Sawyer of 329 Liverpool Rd, Birkdale, Southport, Lancashire. At the time of his death his two brothers were also on active service.


Battle of Langemarck

The Battle of Langemarck (16–18 August 1917) was the second Anglo-French general attack of the Third Battle of Ypres, during the First World War. The battle took place near Ypres in Belgian Flanders, on the Western Front against the German 4th Army. The French First Army had a big success on the northern flank from Bixschoote to Drie Grachten and the British gained a substantial amount of ground northwards from Langemark to the boundary with the French.

The attack on the Gheluvelt Plateau on the right (southern) flank captured a considerable amount of ground but failed to reach its objectives. German counter-attacks recaptured most of the lost territory during the afternoon. The weather prevented much of the British programme of air co-operation with the infantry, which made it easier for German reserves to assemble on the battlefield.

An unusually large amount rain in August, poor drainage and lack of evaporation turned the ground into a morass, which was worse for the British and French, who occupied lower-lying ground and attacked areas which had been frequently and severely bombarded. Mud and flooded shell holes severely reduced the mobility of the infantry and poor visibility hampered artillery observers and artillery-observation aircraft. Rainstorms and the costly German defensive success during the rest of August, led the British to stop the offensive for three weeks.

In early September, the sun came out and with the return of a breeze, dried much of the ground. The British rebuilt roads and tracks to the front line, transferred more artillery and fresh divisions from the armies further south and revised further their tactics. The main offensive effort was shifted southwards and led to success on the Gheluvelt Plateau on 20, 26 September and 4 October, before the rains returned.

Below are details of the battle in which James William Sawyer was killed. These accounts come from the diaries of the 12th battalion of the Kings Regiment written at the time of the battle. (You will need to expand some parts to read the accounts in full).

War Diaries – August 1917

Near PROVEN 1-2/8/1917

Battalion in Camp at E. 16. a. 9.5. (Sheet FRANCE 27. Extremely inclement weather prevented extensive training being carried out.


2 Officers and 100 other ranks at work under 84th Field Company, RE. Remainder of Battalion continued training Programme.


Battalion entrained at PROVEN for forward area, detraining at ELVERDINGHE STATION. Marched, through heavy rainstorm to Bivonac camp between DAWSON’S CORNER and MORDACK CROSS ROADS.


Area Shelled by H.V. Guns throughout the night. In early morning whole Battalion employed carrying duckboards from CANAL BANK to PILCKEM. At 6.0pm, Battalion marched, by Coys) to dug-outs in EAST CANAL BANK, relieving 4th Batt. Seaforth Highlanders (51st Division).

CANAL BANK 6/8/1917

In reserve in CANAL BANK.

“H” Camp 7/8/1917

Relieved at 10.30 am by 11th Batt. K.R.R.C. (59th Batt), and marched to “H” camp. Camp reached at 2.15 p.m.


Assault training and specialists classes.


Working parties totalling 1 Officer and 101 other ranks. Battalion Sports held.


Enemy Bombing planes active. 4 officers and 200 other ranks. employed at night carrying for “Q” special Coy RE


at night, 2 offs. and 100 other ranks per Coy (under orders of 2nd in Command) taken in busses to MARENGO causeway . Employed carrying material forward to advanced Divisional Dump beyond PiLCKEN.


Parties returned to Camp at 2. 15 a. m. on 13th.

Near ELVERDINGHE. 14/8/17

Battalion (less” Details”) moved to MALAKOFF FARM CAMP at 3.0pm Details to “G” Camp

STEEN BEEK RIVER. 15/8/1917.

Battalion marched to assembly Positions on Western side of the SEENBEEK River, starting at 9.0 pm.


Attacks on LANGEMARCK. ZERO hour at 4.45 am on 16th. Objectives taken. Detailed narrative of operations, and sketch, attached.

Near PROVEN 18/8/1917

Battalion relieved by 15th Batt. Welsh Regt. (38th Divn). Relief complete at 2.45 am. 1 officer and 2 other ranks killed and 1 officer and 5 other OR wounded during relief. Marched to  MALAKORF FARM area (sheet 28) via AU BON GATE and STRAY FARN. Batt entrained at ELHERDINGHE STATION as 2pm. Detrained at PROVEN and marched to camp at E. 16. a. 9.5 (sheet 27).


Batt reorganized and training carried out. Specialists Classes held.


G.O.C., 2014 (Light) Division visited the camp and made an informal inspection.


Training continued.


100 men working all day on Rifle Range near Ede Hd. Qtrs. Corps Commander (xiv Corps) visited the camp.


training as usual. Short Route Marches by Coys.

HERZEELE 28/5/17.

Batt marched to Billets in HERZEELE area, via HOUTKERQUE, leaving Camp at 8.45a.m. HD Qtrs, transport lines and Stores at D. 10. a. 3.4. “A” Coy at Ferme OVERHILLE (D. 3. d. 10.5). “B” Coy. at Ferme BLAEVDET (D. 3. a. 3.8.) “C” Coy at Ferme BERTEN (D.3. a 8. 5.). “D” Coy at Ferme GALLE RENE (D. 10. 8. 8. 6.)


2 Section, platoon, company and Battalion Training extensively carried out. Practice Assaults upon trenches and strong points. Bombing, sniping, Lewis Gun and Stretcher Bearer Classes held daily.

Lieut Colonel,

Commanding 12th Batt, The King’s Regiment,

Battle of Langemarck – Narrative of operations

The Battalion formed up at the Assembly Point by the hour named (half hour before ZERO ). Space was found for the Battalion on the Eastern Side of the STEEN BEEK, and by ZERO the whole Battalion had crossed the stream, and formed up close to the Eastern Bank

At ZERO plus 45 minutes the Battalion advanced to close behind the BLUE Line.

At ZERO plus 1 hour and 30 minutes, the Battn. advanced toward the GREEN Line. The ground between the BLUE and GREEN Lines was very difficult, and the advance very slow.

It was found necessary to discard a considerable part of the battle equipment to enable the Battalion to be on the GREEN Line in time for the attack on the RED Line.

Some disorganization also occurred. The Reserve Company lost all its Officers before reaching the GREEN Line; the Company then merged into the Front Companies, carrying with it the only other Battalion Reserve ( a sections Bombers and 1 Lewis Gun Section). When this was discovered it was impossible to withdraw them from the fight.

The RED Line was taken on schedule time, and consolidation commenced.

Early in the afternoon of the 16th, the Right Company Commander saw a considerable force of the enemy march through a gap in the line of the Battalion on his right. This enemy force surrounded the position of the Battalion on the right, which was in touch with my right company, and then moved to try and get round our right flank

To avoid being caught, the Company Commander retired his Company about 200 yards and then reported to me. I ordered him to get touch at once with the Battalion on his right.

To do this, he had to extend about 150 yards to his right, and bring back his line about another 200 yards.

The 0. C., 7th. Somerset L.I. Cave me the utmost assistance, reinforcing my Right Company with a Lewis Gun Section, a Rifle Section and 2 Lewis Guns, also sending up a company in close support.

The Right and Centre Companies got touch after this retirement, and the line was kept continuous.

About 2 am. on the 17th. Inst. I suddenly found that the Centre Company had vacated its position in the RED Line. ( I have been unable to find out the reason; at the time, all the officers and the Company Sergeant Major were casualties. The Sergeant in command of the Company was killed the same day, and the other senior N.C.0’s killed or wounded ) The line had been intact at 12 midnight.

A patrol to this portion of the RED Line found it occupied by the enemy.

By daybreak, the centre company had been retrieved and placed in position in line with the right company.

The left company swung back it’s right flank and formed a protective flank for the D.C.L.I. on the left. This left a short gap between the left and centre companies: the centre company obtained touch with the 7th. K.0.Y.L.I. on the left

During the afternoon, I received orders to attempt (in conjunction with the Brigade on my right) to regain the portion of the RED LINE which had been lost.

The portion which I was ordered to attack was from U.23.b.60.20. to U.23.b. 50.45.

The troops at my disposal were 2 companies of my Battalion (75 men), 7th. Bi. Somerset L.I. (90 men), 1 Section of 61st Machine Gun Company, and 1 Section of 61st. Trench Mortar Battery.

The attacking troops were subjected to a very heavy machine gun and rifle file as they advanced, and were unable to reach the objective.

The attack gained ground about 250 yards to the front, which was held, consolidation commenced, and handed over on relief.

My left company, operating under the orders of the 0.C., 7th. D.O.L.I., reported that it had re taken its original position in the RED Line.

The Creeping Barrage in the first attack was very good.

18 Prisoners were captured.

After taking the RED Line, our rifle and Lewis Gun fire caused many casualties amongst the retiring enemy.

Our Casualties were officers. 4 killed 7 Wounded. Other Ranks. 41 Killed. 230 Wounded. 34 Missing.

Many of these casualties were caused by anfilade sniping and Machine Gun fire from the Right.

Lieut. Colonel, commanding 12th.(S)Bn., The King’s regt.


Operational Orders for Battle of Langemarck

OPERATION ORDERS NO. 101. By Lt. Col. A.N.Vince, D.S.0.,

Commanding 12th.(S)Bn., The King’s Regiment. 11th. August 1917.


On “Z” Day and at ZERO hour, the attack on the enemy will be continued. The 61st. Infantry Brigade will attack the objectives shown on the attached map, to be known as:

Ist. Objective. The BLUE Line.

2nd. Objective, The GREEN Line.

Final Objective for the day. The RED Line.


The 60th. Infantry Brigade will be on our Right (for the first two objectives, 6th. Oxs. & Bucks. L.I., for the third objective, the 12th. K. R. R.)


Brigade and Battalion Boundaries are shown on attached map.


On Y/Z night, the troops attacking the first two objectives will move forward across the STEENBEEK one before ZERO on to a line indicated by a tape.

The troops attacking 3rd. Objective will be on the Western Bank of STEENBEEK 30 minutes before ZERO ready to cross at ZERO.


All Platoon Commanders will reconnoitre route to Western Bank of STEENBEEK on X/Y night. Times of starting for assembly place will be notified later.

If possible, the crossing of the STEENBEEK will be commenced before ZERO. The Battalion will align on white tape as soon as the troops for the first two objectives have advanced.

The advance to GREEN Line will be, as far as possible, in Artillery Formation.

At ZERO plus 45 minutes Battalion will advance from Tape Line to 100 yards in rear of BLUE Line.

At ZERO plus 1 hour and 30 minutes will advance from this position and form up close behind GREEN Line. These advances to be in two lines :

A. C. & D. Coys. in Front Line.

B. Coy. & Hd. Qrs. in 2nd. Line.

100 yards. between lines.


The attack will be made in three bounds on a two-Battalion front, each bound passing through and over the previous bound.

1st. Bound. TO BLUE Line, on which there will be a pause of 20 minutes,

2nd. Bound. TO GREEN Line, on which there will be a pause of one hour.

3rd. Bound. The RED Line

The first bound will be made by :

2 Coys. 7th.Som. L.I. on Right.

2 Coys. 7th. K.0.Y.L.I. on Left.

For the second bound, the remaining 2 Companies of each Battalion will leap-frog over their respective half Battalions.

The third bound will be made by

12th. KING’S on Right.

7th. D.C.L.I. on Left


The advance from GREEN Line to RED Line will be made as follows :

A. Coy. on Right.

C. Coy. in Centre.

D. Coy. on Left.

each on a frontage of one Platoon. 50 yards intervals between waves and lines.

Third Platoons of each company to be Supports to their respective Companies and to consolidate line 70 yards in rear of Final Objective.

Supporting Platoons not to be used in the capture of RED Line unless required.

Road running through U.23 Central will be dividing line between A. and D. Coys. to Bend, U.23.b. 25. 25.

A. Coy. to maintain touch with 12th. K. R. R.

C. Coy. to maintain touch with  A. Coy.

D. Coy. to maintain touch C. Coy. & 7th. DCLI on Left.

“B” Coy. will be in Reserve, and will follow 100 yards in rear of “C” Coy. Reserve Company to occupy and consolidate position 100 yards in rear of Support Line.

Hd.Qrs. will move forward with Reserve Company and will be established at about U.23.B.15. 10. (if possible).

Hd. Qrs. Bombers will advance 50 yards in rear of “A” Coy., and will mop up dug-outs along Road about U.23. Central.

Companies. Objectives in the RED Line will be:

“A” Coy. – U.23.b.67.30. to U.23.b.60.40.

“B” Coy. – U.23.b.60.40.(Road inclusive) to U.23.b. 40.60.

“D” Coy. – U.23.b. 40.60. to U.23.b.25.70. –

The true bearing of the attack is 55°


 The attack will be made under cover of : –

(a). A creeping barrage, moving at the rate of 100 yards in five minutes.

b). A standing barrage.

(c). A distant heavy artillery barrage.

(d). A machine gun barrage.

Details of these barrages will be issued when received.


A Strong Point will be commenced by 0.0., Reserve Company (as soon as objective is obtained) .at U.23.b.00.25. It will be of “cruciform” design, wired for all-round defence, and garrisoned by a Platoon detailed by 0.C., Reserve Company.


Liaison by means of 1 N.C.0, and 3 men will be maintained with 60th. Brigade at each of the following points:

By “B” Coy. at U.23. c. 95.55. (Road Junction).

By “A” Coy. at U.23. b. 50, 40.


The RED Line will be consolidated in conjunction with 60th. Brigade and 7th. D.C.L.I.

Line to be consolidated :- 0.30. a 30.92. – U.23.b. 67.30 –

The Front Line will be irregular in shape, and as inconspicuous as possible.


On obtaining the objective (RED Line), outposts will be thrown forward by each of the Front Companies, covering points established, and active patrolling carried out.


Contact patrols will, weather permitting, fly over the front at :

ZERO plus 40 minutes.

ZERO plus 1 hour and 40 minutes,

ZERO plus 3 hours and 10 minutes,

and at 11.0 a.m., 2.0 p.m., 4.0 pm. and 7.0 p.m.

The leading troops will show their positions, when called for, by :

(a). KLAXON Horn,

(b). A series of white lights fired from plane. Instructions are given in Appendix “A” attached.


ZERO hour will be notified later.


Watches will be synchronised, at Battalion Hd. Qrs., at hours to be notified later, on “X” and “Y”-days.


(1). ZERO minus 30 minutes. – CHIEN FARM.

(2). ZERO. – U.28.a.8.1.

(3). ZERO plus 45 minutes. – U.28.b.3.5.

(4). ZERO plus 1 Hour and 30 minutes. – U.23. C.6.4.

(Signed). J. E. B. PLUMMER

Lieut. & Adjutant.

Copies issued to :

1. 0.C. “A” Coy, 2. 0.C. “B” Coy, 3. 0.C, “C” Coy. 4. 0.C, “D” Coy, 6. Capt. Heatley, 5. 2nd. in Command,

7. Medical Officer, 8. H.Q. Officers, 9. Adjutant, 10. Quartermaster.,11. Transport Officer, 12. War Diary.


1. Line of tape for marking the line of advance.

At 10 pm on 1/2 night, a party of R.E. consisting of 2 officers and 4 0.R. will lay a tape line along the whole Brigade Front, at Right angles to the line of advance, 125 yards short of the opening barrage and with short lengths of 10 yards running out at Right angles to point the line of advance.

This tape will be the mark on which the leading lines of the attacking troops must be drawn up before ZERO.

2. Dress and equipment.

(a) Will be as laid down in S.S. 135. Sect. XXX. The additional equipment to be carried (see para. 5, Sect. xxx.) will be picked up when moving to the line at Bn. Dumps made under Brigade arrangements, and located at about B. (SOLFERINO FARM).

(b). The following variations and additions will be made to instructions contained in S.S. 136, Sect. 3. XXX.

1. One red flare will be carried for every two men.

2. Billhooks. Four per platoon.

3. Notice Boards. Twenty per Battalion (further details later

4. Compasses. Every officer must carry a compass and use it.

5. Tools. 375 shovels and 125 picks will be provided for each Battalion. These are to be carried by those who will use them, and not by special carrying parties; any surplus being left at the dump and the number notified to Bde. H.Q. The riflemen and the bombers of the leading platoon of each company will NOT carry tools. The remainder will carry tools in the proportion 5 shovels to 1 pick.

6. S.O.S. Lights. 75 Green Very Lights per Bn. will be provided for distribution in proportion of 15 per Coy. and 15 at Battn. H.Q. “As these are more perishable than grenades and the supply is limited, they should be treated as carefully as possible.

7. Lewis Gun Drums. In each L.G. Section, Nos. 1. 2. and 3 carry one drum in the haversack. Nos. 4. 5. & 6. carry 1 drum in the haversack and 4 in carrier. Any extra drums considered necessary must be taken forward by special carriers. Each Company will detail two men for their surplus, or from their HD.Qrs. to carry 4 drums each.

8. Distinctive Badges. All distinctive badges will be worn, especially men carrying wirecutters. Pack mules of 61st. Brigade will have a short yellow streamer attached to each side of their head collars.

(i). Storage of Packs and kit. Packs and kit will be stored at “G” Camp, A.16.a.6.4. on the morning of the day on which units move up to the line


(a). The unexpended portion of the days rations will be carried on the man when moving to the CANAL BANK on X Day. The T.0. will deliver rations for Y. and Z. days at the CANAL BANK on X Day.

(b). Water carts will accompany the Battalion on X Day.  Petrol tins to be carried on water carts.


The T.0. will comply with Brigade Instructions, which have already been issued to him.

The Brigade will endeavour to deliver rations and water at Bn. H.Q. on “Z” Day, also to dump wire, pickets, S. A. A., and GRENADES bear Bn. H. Q.

4. Carrying parties.

1 Pioneer per Coy. & H.Q. – 5.

1 Cook per Coy. & H.Q. – 5

1 Off’s. Svt. per Coy. & H.Q. – 5

under L/Cpl. WESS of “D” Coy., will report to Lieut. JAMES at NORMAN JUNCTION at ZERO plus 1 hour and 5 minutes. L/Cpl. Wess will reconnoitre route to NORMAN -JUNCTION on Y. Day..


After ZERO, all traffic West of the STEENBEEK will be along the Northern Boundary of Brigade Area, that is, roughly, along the line of the Railway. The Areas in U.27.C. and U.28.C. will be occupied by Machine Guns for barrage purposes. These positions will shortly be shown by red screens, and all troops, runners and transport must be warned not to attempt to pass in the danger zone.

6. Prisoners of War.

In the case of isolated prisoners, they should be collected into small groups on the way down to reduce the number of the escort. These groups will report at one of the Stragglers Posts, where the escort can again be adjusted. The following rules must be made known to all ranks :

(1). The documents of captured officers will be removed as soon as possible after capture AND HANDED OVER TO THEIR ESCORT. Documents must invariably accompany the officer on evacuation.

(2). No documents, private letters, postcards, or papers of any description will be removed from N. C.0’s. or private soldiers unless they attempt to destroy them, in which case will be removed and handed to their escort. Retaining documents as souvenirs is forbidden. Private letters and picture postcards are particularly valuable to the Intelligence Service.

7. Company H. Q.

The position to which Companies intend to move their Hd.Qrs. when going forward must be notified in advance to Bn. H.Q.

Any change must be notified. When the position is fixed, a runner must be dispatched to Bn. H.Q.

Company Flags must be carried and erected free from enemy observation.

8. Maps.

All officers will carry on ZERO Day :

Sheets. 20 S. W. 4. 1:10000.

28.N.W.2. 1:10000.


(Signed) J. E. B. PLUMIER

Lieut. & Adjutant, 12th. King’s.


Reference para. 12.,0.0.NO. 101 of 11.8.17.

ZERO hour will be 4. 45 a., 16th instant

(Signed) J. E. D. PLUSIER

Lieut. & Adjutant.

The King’s (Liverpool Regiment) – 12th Battalion

The Regiment was first formed in 1685 by Lord Ferrars of Chartly as ‘Princess Anne of Denmark’s Regiment of Foot’ after King James II’s second daughter (later Queen Anne).  It was formed in response to the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685 when, James Scott the 1st Duke of Monmouth (the oldest illegitimate son of Charles II and James II’s nephew) unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow the unpopular King.  His small force was swiftly put down at the Battle of Sedgemoor.  The Regiment was under the command of James FitzJames, 1st Duke of Berwick; the illegitimate son of King James II.  In 1688 James II fled to France when Prince William of Orange was invited by the English Lords to become King William III.  The Duke of Berwick decided to follow his father into exile and was replaced by Colonel John Beamon as the commanding officer of the Regiment.

In 1881 the regiment was renamed The King’s (Liverpool Regiment) and in 1921 became The King’s Regiment (Liverpool). The Regiment is one of only four Regiments associated with a city, unlike most British infantry Regiments, which are associated with a county.  The Regiment went on to serve during the Third Burmese War (1885), Second Boer War (1899-1902), and two World Wars.  In 1958 after 273 years of continuous existence, the Regiment was amalgamated with the Manchester Regiment, and became The King’s Regiment (Manchester and Liverpool).  In 2004 the British infantry was restructured once again and the King’s Regiment was merged with King’s Own Royal Border Regiment and The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment to form The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (King’s, Lancashire and Border).

The Regiment formed 49 battalions and were awarded 58 Battle Honours and six Victoria Crosses, losing 15,000 men during the course of the war.

12th (Service) Battalion
Formed at Seaforth in September 1914 as part of Kings 2nd battalion and attached as Army Troops to 20th (Light) Division.
January 1915 : transferred to 61st Brigade in same Division.
27 July 1915 : landed at Boulogne.

The history of 20th (Light) Division

This Division was established in September 1914 as part of the Army Orders authorising Kitchener’s Second New Army, K2. Early days were somewhat chaotic, the new volunteers having very few trained officers and NCOs to command them, no organised billets or equipment. The units of the Division first assembled in the Aldershot area with brigades at Blackdown, Deepcut and Cowshott. Artillery was particularly hard to come by; 12 old guns arrived from India in February 1915! When in the same month the Division moved to Witley, Godalming and Guildford, the artillery had to go by train as there was insufficient harness for the horses. Another move was made, to Salisbury Plain, in April 1915.

The Division was inspected by King George V at Knighton Down on 24 June 1915, by which time all equipment had arrived and the Division was judged ready for war.

On 26 July 1915 the Division completed concentration in the Saint-Omer area, all units having crossed to France during the preceding few days. Early trench familiarisation and training took place in the Fleurbaix area.

The Division served on the Western Front for the remainder of the war, taking part in many of the significant actions:

The Battle of Mount Sorrel, a local operation in which the Division recaptured the height with the Canadians
The Battle of Delville Wood*
The Battle of Guillemont*
The Battle of Flers-Courcelette*
The Battle of Morval*
The Battle of Le Transloy*
The battles marked * are phases of the Battles of the Somme 1916

The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line
The Battle of Langemarck**
The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge**
The Battle of Polygon Wood**
The battles marked ** are phases of the Third Battles of Ypres
The Cambrai Operations

The Battle of St Quentin+
The actions at the Somme crossings+
The Battle of Rosieres+
The battles marked + are phases of the First Battles of the Somme 1918

The Division was withdrawn after the heavy fighting of the Somme battles, moving on 20 April 1918 to an area south west of Amiens. During the summer months it received many new drafts of men.

The Battle of the Selle^^
The Battle of Valenciennes^^
The Battle of the Sambre^^ and the passage of the Grand Honelle
The battles marked ^^ are phases of the Final Advance in Picardy

The Division was in the area between Bavay and Maubeuge when the Armistice came into effect at 11am on 11 November. Late in the month the units moved to the Toutencourt-Marieux area. demobilisation began on 7 January 1919 and the final cadres crossed to England on 28 May..

In all the 20th (Light) Division had suffered the loss of 35470 killed, wounded and missing.

Personal Life of James William Sawyer

James William Sawyer was born in 1896 to Alfred and Jane (nee Simmons) Sawyer at  Birkdale, Lancashire, England. At that time he had 3 brothers and 2 sisters , Alfred  , born in 1882, Walter, born in 1888, John, born in 1899,  Margaret, born in 1891 and  Jane, born in 1895, all in Birkdale, Lancashire, England. His father was a Road Labourer On District Council.

James was age 4 and living with his parents in the 1901 UK Census on 31 Mar 1901 at Shaftesbury Road in Birkdale,, Lancashire, England.

James later had three other sisters born Birkdale, Lancashire, England, These were Rebecca born in 1900, Ethel born on 10 Jun 1903 and Florrie born in 1905.

James was age 14 and living with his parents on the 1911 UK Census on 2 Apr 1911 at Liverpool Road in Southport, Lancashire, England.

James served in the military Regiment: The King’s (Liverpool Regiment); Rank: Private; Service number: 25462 in 1917.

James was reported as missing in action on 15 August 1917, at age of 21 years, and is commemorated on Panel 31 to 34. the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.

His father died on 7 Oct 1932 at age of 80 years and his mother died on 18 Jun 1930 at age of 70 years both in Southport, Lancashire, England.

His sister Ethel died on 30 Aug 1912 aged 9, and his sister Margaret died on 9 Oct 1918 aged 28.

His brother Walter (SS104467) served on HMS Vivid from 1907. As reported on 1 July 1915, in the Southport Visiter, Walter Sawyer is the son of Mr & Mrs Sawyer of 230 Liverpool Rd, Southport. He went through the bombardment of Antwerp and is in the Dardanelles. He died from Influenza on 29 October 1918 and is buried in Oldham Cemetery.

His brother John, enlisted with the 7th Kings Regiment on 2 January 1915.

Press Announcements

Southport Visiter 6TH OCTOBER 1917

Private Sawyer was the youngest son of Mr & Mrs A Sawyer of 230 Liverpool Rd, Birkdale. He was officially reported missing since the 15th August. At the time of his death, two other sons of Mr & Mrs Sawyer were on foreign service.

Census Records

Grave Details

His war grave details can be seen here.  This links to the Commonwealth Grave Commission’s website.

Remembered in Birkdale Cemetery.


Loving Memory
BORN JUNE 10th 1903,
DIED AUGUST 30th 1912,
LATE 12th K.L.R.I..
AUGUST 15th 1917, AGED 21 YEARS.

DIED OCT 9th 1918, AGED 29 YEARS.
PASSED AWAY 7th OCT. 1932,

Cemetery Details – TYNE COT MEMORIAL

The Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing forms the north-eastern boundary of Tyne Cot Cemetery, which is located 9 kilometres north east of Ieper town centre, on the Tynecotstraat, a road leading from the Zonnebeekseweg (N332). The names of those from United Kingdom units are inscribed on Panels arranged by Regiment under their respective Ranks. The names of those from New Zealand units are inscribed on panels within the New Zealand Memorial Apse located at the centre of the Memorial.

The Tyne Cot Memorial is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient. Broadly speaking, the Salient stretched from Langemarck in the north to the northern edge in Ploegsteert Wood in the south, but it varied in area and shape throughout the war.

The Salient was formed during the First Battle of Ypres in October and November 1914, when a small British Expeditionary Force succeeded in securing the town before the onset of winter, pushing the German forces back to the Passchendaele Ridge. The Second Battle of Ypres began in April 1915 when the Germans released poison gas into the Allied lines north of Ypres. This was the first time gas had been used by either side and the violence of the attack forced an Allied withdrawal and a shortening of the line of defence.

There was little more significant activity on this front until 1917, when in the Third Battle of Ypres an offensive was mounted by Commonwealth forces to divert German attention from a weakened French front further south. The initial attempt in June to dislodge the Germans from the Messines Ridge was a complete success, but the main assault north-eastward, which began at the end of July, quickly became a dogged struggle against determined opposition and the rapidly deteriorating weather. The campaign finally came to a close in November with the capture of Passchendaele.

The German offensive of March 1918 met with some initial success, but was eventually checked and repulsed in a combined effort by the Allies in September.

The battles of the Ypres Salient claimed many lives on both sides and it quickly became clear that the commemoration of members of the Commonwealth forces with no known grave would have to be divided between several different sites.

The site of the Menin Gate was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields. It commemorates those of all Commonwealth nations, except New Zealand, who died in the Salient, in the case of United Kingdom casualties before 16 August 1917 (with some exceptions). Those United Kingdom and New Zealand servicemen who died after that date are named on the memorial at Tyne Cot, a site which marks the furthest point reached by Commonwealth forces in Belgium until nearly the end of the war. Other New Zealand casualties are commemorated on memorials at Buttes New British Cemetery and Messines Ridge British Cemetery.

The TYNE COT MEMORIAL now bears the names of almost 35,000 officers and men whose graves are not known. The memorial, designed by Sir Herbert Baker with sculpture by Joseph Armitage and F.V. Blundstone, was unveiled by Sir Gilbert Dyett on 20 June 1927.

The memorial forms the north-eastern boundary of TYNE COT CEMETERY, which was established around a captured German blockhouse or pill-box used as an advanced dressing station. The original battlefield cemetery of 343 graves was greatly enlarged after the Armistice when remains were brought in from the battlefields of Passchendaele and Langemarck, and from a few small burial grounds. It is now the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in the world in terms of burials. At the suggestion of King George V, who visited the cemetery in 1922, the Cross of Sacrifice was placed on the original large pill-box. There are three other pill-boxes in the cemetery.

There are now 11,961 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in Tyne Cot Cemetery, 8,373 of these are unidentified.

The cemetery was designed by Sir Herbert Baker.

You can view the details for this cemetery on the Commonwealth Grave Commission’s website here.

Sources of Information

Commonwealth War Graves Commission.


Find My Past

National Archives

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