Lt. Garth Smithies Taylor, a Leicestershire officer killed in October 1916, aged 20 (Photo: University of Leicester Special Collections)

Leicester University remembers fallen soldier commemorated with its founding

Posted on on 15 October 2016
Share |

The University of Leicester has revealed the story of a British officer whose death on the Somme played a part in its foundation as a 'living memorial' to local men killed during the First World War.

The sacrifice made by Lieutenant Garth Smithies Taylor, of the 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters, inspired one of the first donations to establish the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland College - forerunner of the university - in 1921.

Lt. Taylor was killed in action during the latter stages of the Battle of the Somme on 15 October 1916. He was mentioned in despatches.

Centenary blog

Leicester University PhD history student Liz Blood has published a blog to mark the Centenary of Garth Taylor's death. She's been researching his story, drawing on a privately printed book of letters, diary extracts and family photographs recently gifted to the University Library.

"The day Lt. Taylor was killed, he was with his company near Le Transloy," she explains. 

"Already by very early morning, the men were 'digging in’ in front of the enemy gun pits, and attempting to take German trenches. Many casualties were incurred through machine gun fire and sniper action, which forced men to dig in further, without taking their targets.

"The commanding officer asked Brigade for two platoons and two Lewis guns as reinforcement. The situation continued to be difficult, and Lt. Taylor is amongst three named officers that were killed, a further three named officers having been wounded."

Two donations are recorded in Lt. Taylor's memory towards the founding of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland College, from his uncle and parents:  

*Dr F. W. Bennett ('To the Honour of Garth Taylor, killed in action') £500

*Capt. & Mrs. T. Smithies Taylor ('In memory of their son, Lieut. Garth Taylor, Sherwood Foresters') £100

First World War memorial tablet at Leicester University's Fielding Johnson Building (Photo: University of Leicester Special Collections)

Liz Blood continued: "Records in the university archives record a number of donations towards the founding of the University College made in memory of nine young men who were killed in the conflict. 

"The names of those soldiers are inscribed on a memorial tablet at the entrance to the Fielding Johnson Building on the university campus. Among those remembered on the tablet is Garth Smithies Taylor, who was killed in action on 15 October 1916 at the age of just 20."

"All of us who work and study here should reflect that the university we are so familiar with is a tribute to Garth Taylor and his generation. We can all remember this when we see the university’s motto Ut Vitam Habeant - 'That they may have life', life that so many of their predecessors were denied."

Read Liz Blood's account of Lt. Garth Taylor’s life, death and significance to Leicester University here.

Source: University of Leicester

Images: University of Leicester Special Collections

Posted by: CN Editorial Team