This week we respectfully remember the sacrifices made by the millions of individuals involved in the First World War. At 11.00pm on the 4th August 1914 Britain went to war with Germany and this year marks the 100th anniversary of this momentous event.

The Lea Mills Roll of Honour

Inspired by the defining words of the then Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime” – the UK took a moment to mark the anniversary and turn off their lights and light a single candle. Homes and iconic buildings all over the country faded into darkness as we nostalgically remembered the courageous individuals that fought for our nation.

John Smedley sent 144 workers to fight in Europe, all of whom were divided up into dissimilar regiments. The chairman at the time, Mr John Bertram Marsden-Smedley, was keen to uphold communications with the men and regularly sent them packages containing John Smedley underwear and groceries. The men were delighted with these parcels and to this day there remain numerous letters, within our extensive archive, from grateful soldiers thanking Mr Smedley for his constant support.

Life at our factory in Lea Mills continued throughout the war, producing goods for domestic use as well as providing a range of jerseys, vests and drawers for the military. During the war, yarn was in short supply and subsequently John Smedley worked closely with the War Office to ensure that enough yarn was available to manufacture sufficient garments for the war effort.

A Lea Mills Roll of Honour was later created in 1916 displaying the names and photographs of all of the men who participated in the First World War. This Roll of Honour was recently on display at Lea Mills for the Queen to view during her visit to the factory with the Duke of Edinburgh on the 10th July 2014. The image presented above shows a collage of the photographs featured within the Roll of Honour. Being able to visualise the John Smedley employees that selflessly fought in the war enables us to develop a small but poignant insight into their experiences. One thing is certain, we at John Smedley will never forget these men, their extraordinary sacrifice, dedication and fortitude – may they rest in peace.

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