Sawyer, Percy

Sawyer, Percy       1914 Oct 30th         Tilshead


Three Canadians Dead


Kicked by a Horse


As announced in last weeks Times, a second Canadian soldier has died shortly after his arrival at the camp on Salisbury Plain. But whereas the first, Private W H V Hartley was found dead by the roadside, having apparently been suffocated by sleeping face downwards on some weeds, the second, Gunner Percy Sawyer (of the Headquarters Staff, Divisional Artillery) died as the result of a kick from a runaway horse.


An inquest was held at West Down North Camp, Tilshead, on Friday afternoon by the Coroner for South Wilts (Mr F H Trethowan).


Albert Sawyer, driver in the Ammunition Column, 2nd Brigade Divisional Canadian Artillery, said that Gunner Percy Sawyer was about 20 years of age, and was stationed at West Down North Camp. His home was at Oxted, Surrey. He had arrived in the Quebec Garrison Artillery.


Shoeing Smith James Edgar Buck stated that about 11 o’clock on Wednesday morning he was working at his forge in the lines when he saw a horse galloping and dragging a man behind it on the ground, with a rope which was attached to his wrist. The rope belonged to the horse’s neck strap. He saw the horse kick the man and run down the hill. Several men tried to stop the horse but without success. Witness left his forge and caught the animal at the bottom of the hill. The horse was crazy and kicked at him, but he managed to hold him. Another man came up and tried to take the rope of the deceased’s wrist, but could not do so, and witness told him to cut it. He then looked at Gunner Sawyer. He was on his stomach, and witness turned him on his back. He breathed a little, but was obviously dying, and then he was taken charge of by the doctors.


Major John McCrae, medical officer attached to the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery, said he went to see Gunner Sawyer in the lines on Wednesday morning. He found he was dead. He examined the body, and the injuries with the kicks from a horse mentioned by the last witness. Part of the scalp was completely removed from the skull, there were contusions and abrasions of the face and chest, and the left wrist had marks made by strands of a rope, some of the skin being torn out. Death was due to fracture of the base of the skull and hemorrhage of the brain.


The Coroner said it was very sad that a Canadian who had come over to this country should lose his life in this way, without having the opportunity he desired of fighting for his country. He added that he felt sure the jury would appreciate what Shoeing-Smith Buck had done. It was a rather plucky thing. Others who had tried to stop the horse could not do so, but Buck succeeded.


A verdict of “Accidental Death” was returned, and the foreman said the jury quite agreed with the Coroner’s remarks respecting Buck’s plucky action.


5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Paul Traynor on July 15, 2015 at 7:02 pm

    Mention of Percy Sawyers unfortunate death was made in my Grand fathers War diary on page 2. I’ve always wondered about Percy and think of him on Nov 11 as well as times when I think of this war.

  2. Posted by noel on May 9, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    Even more sadness. He emmigrated to canada in 1911 from england and joined the canadian military in 1914 . His fitness report signed off by the same john mc Crae

  3. It makes me wonder how much experience he had had of handling horses, and, of course, there were so many temporary camps around Salisbury Plain and many thousands of men in a strange place. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Posted by Angus on November 10, 2017 at 11:38 am

    Percy was my great uncle & Albert Sawyer was my grand father who survived the war (served in France and invalided out and remained in the UK). Both brothers had been resettled in Canada from a children’s home to work on farms.

  5. Another newspaper item featuring out-of-control horses is here,
    It took place at Baddesley Common near Romsey, but shows how very many horses the British Army relied on at the time, Best wishes.

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