The Brotherton Memorial: Leeds University Roll of Honour, 1914-1918

Unveiled in 1951, the Brotherton Memorial flanks the main entrance to the Brotherton Library. Located in the Parkinson building this Roll of Honour commemorates staff and students of the University who served and died during the First World War.

Names are listed alphabetically rather than by rank or social status in a mark of respect to the equal sacrifice made by each man, with the recipient of a Victoria Cross sitting between a Lieutenant and a Private.

In the early years of the twentieth century, the University was home to staff and students from all over the world, as it is today. Although emphasis is often placed on conflict in Europe and the Western Front, the First World War was a global conflict causing men, and sometimes women, to travel great distances. This is reflected in the stories of three of those listed on the Brotherton Memorial.

Private Jogendra Nath Sen, 15th West Yorkshire ‘Leeds Pals’ regiment

Born in India in 1887, Jogendra ‘John’ Nath Sen migrated to Britain in 1910 where he enrolled at the University of Leeds to study engineering. After graduating from the University in 1913 with a Bachelor of Science, Sen remained in Leeds working at the Leeds Corporation Electric Lighting Station as an assistant engineer.

Leeds Pals, Jogendra Sen far right, Image courtesy of Laurie Milner

Leeds Pals, Jogendra Sen far right, Image courtesy of Laurie Milner

At the outbreak of war in September 1914 he applied to be an Officer in the British Army but as an Indian was not accepted and so joined the newly formed Leeds Pals as a Private; Sen was one of the first to volunteer. Arthur Dalby, a veteran who served with Sen, described him as the best educated man in the battalion and being able to speak several languages. His contribution to the war effort was recognised by his commanding officer:

His loss is felt very much through the whole of the company. He always showed himself to be a keen and upright soldier, and myself and the officers of the company thought a great deal of him.”

Private Jogendra Nath Sen died from shrapnel wounds on 22 May 1916 whilst on active duty in France.

Major Edgar Geoffrey Sawer, 4th Australian Machine Gun Battalion

Born in Bradford in 1875, Edgar Geoffrey Sawer enrolled at the University of Leeds with an entrance scholarship and graduated from the Textile Department with a BA.

After graduation, Sawer worked in Bradford as a worsted manufacturer before joining the Royal Irish Rifles in 1902. He saw service in India and Burma, before being seconded to the Australian Imperial Force in 1913. He married Edith and they had two sons. At the outbreak of war the family were living in Hobart, Tasmania, and he enlisted in the 10th Infantry Battalion AIF. He was later transferred to the 12th Machine Gun Company in March 1916 where he was appointed Lieutenant.

Sawer saw service in Gallipoli, Egypt, and Flanders and was mentioned three times in despatches, the oldest form of recognition of gallantry within the British Armed Forces. He was also honoured with the Military Cross for distinguished services on the field in 1917 and was promoted to Major. His service record provides evidence of the toll of his service on his health. After contracting jaundice in Gallipoli he was hospitalised with a stomach ulcer the following year, aggravated by the ‘strain and stress’ of war service. He died shortly after returning to Australia on 31 May 1918, aged 43, with the death certificate citing ‘exhaustion’ as one of the causes of death.

He was buried with full military honours in Brighton cemetery, Melbourne.

Lieutenant Alexander G. Rosamond, Canadian Light Infantry

Born in 1873, Alexander G. Rosamond came from a wealthy Canadian family who owned woollen mills in Almonte, Canada. No doubt attracted by its reputation in textiles he came to the Yorkshire College (now the University of Leeds) to study textiles. He was the first resident pupil at Lyddon Halland and at one time was the captain of the University football team.

After graduating he returned to Canada and became president and managing director of the Rosamond Woollen Company. He married Mary Eleanor, daughter of the late Major-General Cotton, Inspector-General of the Canadian Forces, and they had four daughters.

At the outbreak of the war Rosamond happened to be in England on business having sailed to Liverpool from Montreal that summer, and although aged 40 he volunteered for the British Army. He enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers (1st Sportsman Battalion) on 28 October 1914, and was gazetted a lieutenant in the Canadian Infantry on 16 June 1915.

Lieutenant Alexander G. Rosamond was killed in the Battle of the Somme on 15 September 1916 leading his company into action. Shortly before his death he left a bequest in his will for a memorial to be erected in Almonte, and the memorial. This was erected after the war and features a statue of a mature officer entitled ‘The Volunteer’, modelled on Rosamond.