University of Leicester remembers fallen soldier who played a part in its founding

Posted by ap507 at Oct 14, 2016 12:35 PM |
Archive material uncovers one of the stories that inspired Leicester’s ‘living memorial’

Issued by the University of Leicester Press Office on 14 October

Images of Lieutenant Garth Smithies Taylor available here:

The story of a brave Leicester officer during the First World War is being retold by the University of Leicester on the anniversary of his death on 15 October.

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 in 1921 as a living memorial to those local men who had lost their lives in the First World War.

The now University of Leicester continues this tradition and its motto 'Ut vitam habeant' ('that they may have life') stands as a permanent reminder on every publication and degree certificate issued since.

Liz Blood, PhD student in History at the University of Leicester, has been researching Lt. Taylor’s story and has published a blog to coincide with the anniversary of his death, thanks in part to a privately printed book of letters, diary extracts and family photographs recently gifted to the University Library.

Liz said: “Garth Smithies Taylor was born on 27 June 1896 in Kibworth Harcourt to parents Thomas Smithies Taylor and Mary Ellen (Nellie) Taylor (nee Bennett). He attended Stoneygate School in Leicester, then Bedales School, Petersfield, followed by Nottingham High School. His university education was in accounting at the London School of Economics.

“Garth Smithies Taylor was 18 when the War broke out, and like a lot of other very young men, he enlisted.

“The day Lt. Taylor was killed, he was with his Company near Le Transloy. 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.

“He was awarded the British War and Victory medals and mentioned in Despatches.”

Two donations are also recorded in his memory towards the founding of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland College, one which was only the second donation to be made towards the founding of the institution:

  • 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

Liz added: “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.

“Lt. Taylor’s uncle Dr F. W. Bennett entered the medical profession and went on to spend most of his career at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, where he was the hospital’s first Consulting Aural Surgeon.  He had a keen interest in Geology, because of which the Bennett Building was named after him in 1965.

“Garth Smithies Taylor, who died aged 20 100 years ago this month, had enjoyed a better education than some of his peers, but his life was cut all-too short by the First World War. 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 means “That they may have life”: life that so many of their predecessors were denied.”

Read an account of Taylor’s life, death and significance to the University here:



Notes to editors:

For more information contact Dr Simon Dixon on or PhD student Liz Blood on

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