War Memorial

At our Lea Mills home in Matlock, Derbyshire we have Memorial plaques dedicated to the employees of John Smedley that lost their lives fighting for their country during the First and Second World War. The plaques sit on the wall, immediately next to the door to Reception; this reminds all employees and any visitors of the sacrifice that those men made: ‘For your tomorrow, we gave our today’.

The WWI Memorial reads: In memory of the men who went from Lea Mills and died for their country in The Great War 1914-1918. On the Memorial the names of the men who fell are inscribed also:

Hubert Petts, died 3rd March 1916 – aged 20.
Arthur Brown, died 17th March 1916 – aged 19.
Wilfred Keeling, died 7th July 1916 – aged 21.
Fred Fox, died 5th August 1916 aged 31.
Josiah Fletcher, died 3rd September 1916 – aged 24.

 Bertram Sheldon, died 8th October 1916 – aged 19.
Harry Alfred Thorpe, died 9th October 1916 – aged 19.
John William Poyser, died 17th January 1917 – aged 20.
Charles Francis Holmes, 6th February 1918 – aged 20.
Frederick Gregory, died 24th December 1918 – aged 26.

The WWII memorial remembers the men that bravely gave their lives: ‘It is better for us to perish in battle than to look upon the outrage of our nation and our altars as the will of God is in heaven so let him do.

Alwyn Bentley, died 9th May 1942 – aged 28.
Maurice Henry Bower, died 30th July 1944 – aged 30.
Leonard Bradley, died 29th June 1946 – aged 21.
John Broom, died 14th September 1944 – aged 19.

Francis Rex Pickering, died 31st October 1942 – died aged 31.
Ivor Glyn Pattison, died 30th January 1944 – aged 23.

William Stanley Newton, died 17th June 1944 – aged 32.
Percival Johnson, died 8th November 1943 – aged 32.

During the First World War 141 men from John Smedley served their country, ten of them made the ultimate sacrifice – the average age of the men that died was just 25 years old.
George, J.B Marsden-Smedley’s son, fearlessly gave his life for his country in the Battle of Guillemont Station, 1916.

J.B Marsden-Smedley was the Managing Director of John Smedley during the Great War. He wrote letters and sent gifts of food and hosiery every six months to every man that was away from home, serving their King and country. From J.B’s letters to one of his employees, Stanley Wykes, one learns that gifts such as periscopes were sent and were highly useful: “…it’s a very good one as not only is it handy as a lifesaver but also a shaving glass when out of the trenches.”
From the letters between J.B and his employees it is abundantly clear that J.B valued his staff, not just as a workforce but as people and when writing there was a respect, but with an element of camaraderie. He would often ask regarding the wellbeing of other employees that he was not in contact with. J.B Marsden-Smedley’s benevolence to his employees at war may have stemmed from his own personal experience; he had a fine career in the forces as a Naval Officer and, tragically, he lost his son, George, to the war in August 1916.

The project to find out about the men from the Mill, from Dethick, the family estate and to learn more about my family members who served in the First World War, has been a source of interest for the present-day workforce, many of whom knew nothing about the story. I have been absorbed by what has emerged about the work of the Mill, the dedication and the caring attitude of my great-grandfather and of the huge personal sacrifices made by each and every man who served. I am proud to be associated with them and with the contribution they and this company made for the greater good.
– Ian Maclean
Managing Director, John Smedley
(& J.B Marsden-Smedley's great-grandson)