In 2018 the ‘Naseby 11’ went on tour.
‘The Naseby 11’
Naseby is a rural village in the district of Daventry, Northamptonshire, close to the border of Leicestershire. It is 6 miles from the place of my birth and several of my relatives live there still. In the centre of the village is the ‘Naseby Lion’, a war memorial paid for by subscriptions from the villagers and erected in 1921 to honour the eleven local men who died in the First World War. It consists of a single couchant lion in the style of Landseer’s four lions for Trafalgar Square. Carved in stone, it is atop a pedestal with the inscription,
‘TO THE GLORY OF GOD
AND IN THE MEMORY OF THE NASEBY MEN
WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE GREAT WAR. 1914-1919.’
This project was inspired by the lifetime of research, and eventual, posthumous publication in 2014 of ‘Naseby Lion- Naseby’s soldiers and their village remembered’ by my late uncle, Michael Westaway. In this book he closes the opening dedication with ‘It is to these men that this book is dedicated in the hope that they will be remembered well into the new Millennium.’
I am fascinated by the real people and the impact their death had on their loved ones and the village community. One of the eleven was Harry Westaway who was Michael’s father’s brother, so the memorial had a personal connection for him. I feel this monument is representative of those in so many English villages that are now covered in moss and barely acknowledged, while to those left behind a hundred years ago they were more than their army service number or a name inscribed in stone.
When I started this project it was an attempt to try and answer many questions. My main concern was to consider the impact of trying to imagine what it must have been like to be in the village and hearing name after name of those who died. Wondering who might be next. Feeling guilty in hoping your own loved ones would survive? For some families the list of fatalities encompassed multiple siblings, parents, children, relatives or even a spouse. Therefore the order of the soldiers is chronological by the date of their death rather than the alphabetical order described in my uncle’s book.
The more I researched the more I realised most of what I thought I knew about WW1 was wrong. We place flowers on a grave and a poppy wreath on a memorial. This is an attempt to create more individual and personal remembrances of those soldiers. Our memories are imperfect things. Exaggerations, mistruths, ‘alternative facts’, and wilful reimagining blend in with accurate historical research. The work has layers of surfaces and has undergone many manifestations whilst being cut up, patched, pieced and reassembled. Some of the limbs trail onto the ground, whilst the bottom of every ‘body bag’ has a tribute to a specific soldier and the date of his death. Ultimately these are just eleven men of the 100 or so who saw active service from a village with a population of approximately 800 people, they act as a small representation of the 6 million who served and the 700,000 soldiers from the UK who died. 11.5% of soldiers died in the War so the 11 dead from Naseby are slightly above the national average.
For poor Timothy Ashley there is not a single known photograph in existence for us to remember him by.