Saffron Walden remembers: Town to commemorate First World War centenary with parade and service

Bill Lofts stands proudly at the Saffron Walden war memorial.

Bill Lofts stands proudly at the Saffron Walden war memorial. - Credit: Archant

This man will stand in Saffron Walden Market Square, on Sunday, and proudly read aloud the name of his uncle.

Lt Owen Bennett Goold Johnson

Lt Owen Bennett Goold Johnson - Credit: Archant

Today, the Reporter asks YOU to join him.

Poppies will rain down from the rooftops as Bill Lofts, 92, and the rest of the town unite to remember the 159 Saffron Walden men who perished during the First World War.

One hundred years have passed since the outbreak of the Great War but we must never forget the bravery, selflessness and courage our ­ancestors showed.

Men such as Bill’s uncle, Petty Officer Stoker James Lofts, who drowned in the North Sea at the age of 33. His ship, HMS Hawke was torpedoed by a German submarine on October 15, 1914.

Pte Harry Kidman

Pte Harry Kidman - Credit: Archant

Bill followed in the footsteps of his uncle and father by enlisting in the Army ahead of the Second World War. He served as a Gunner in the 33rd Indian Corps and saw action in the Battle of Kohima, in Burma.

“I know the people of Saffron Walden will turn out because they always do,” said Mr Lofts, who was born in Radwinter Road and still lives in the town.

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Speaking about his uncle, Mr Lofts said: “The trouble is I never knew him because he was killed 10 weeks after the war started and I wasn’t born until 1922. I’ve never even seen any photographs of him.

“But Sunday will be an emotional day for me. I admire the soldiers of today, too, and I shall be proud to stand next to them at the service.”

The centenary of the First World War will be honoured on Sunday.

The centenary of the First World War will be honoured on Sunday. - Credit: Archant

The list of names inscribed on the town’s memorial – 159 men – will be read out at an emotional ceremony to commemorate the First World War centenary.

Let’s line the streets from the war memorial to the Market Square to show that this ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten.

The parade

Soldiers at Carver Barracks will lead off an emotional day by parading through Saffron Walden on Sunday.

Troops from 101 and 33 Engineer Regiment, based in Wimbish, will be taking part in a service to honour the centenary of the First World War.

The day will begin at 11.30am when the soldiers step off buses at Uttlesford District Council’s offices on London Road and march by the war memorial on their way down High Street.

Officers and men from the bomb disposal unit regiments, as well as the Band of the Royal Engineers, will then head down King Street towards Market Place.

A service will take place at 12pm, led by the Rev David Tomlinson, before the soldiers march into Market Street, Hill Street, Cates Corner and Common Hill.

Troops will also be accompanied by elements of the Air Cadets and Royal British Legion.

Mayor Sandra Eden told the Reporter she was hopeful that the town would be filled with people to honour the occasion.

She said: “A lot of work as gone into preparing for the First World War commemorations because we wanted to make sure the centenary was honoured properly.

“Members of Saffron Walden Town Council will be in their robes on the day and we hope people will join us by lining the streets along the parade route.”

Saffron Walden MP Sir Alan Haselhurst also urged residents to turn out on Sunday.

He said: “I think it would be a great way for the community to commemorate the memory of those who died and the sacrifice they made.”

Road closures will be taking place to facilitate the parade and, although delays will be kept to a minimum, some traffic disruption is expected.

Police are requesting that residents and visitors to the town avoid parking on the route between 9am and 1pm on Sunday.

Remembering the Fallen

Other events planned include an exhibition at Saffron Walden Museum from August 1, a short vigil by the Royal British Legion at the war memorial in the High Street between 10-11pm on August 4, and a ‘drop-in’ day organised by Saffron Walden Initiative.

This will be held between 10am-4pm on Saturday, August 2 and will give those who had friends and relatives in the conflict the chance to share memories and artefacts.

It is not restricted to combatants but also to families left behind and soldiers who returned.

Finally, until August 5, certificates from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) showing the names of each of the fallen and where they are resting will be on display in the Town Hall.