Edgar was born at 3 Green Street, Ardwick, Manchester on 5 December 1891, the youngest of three sons. His parents, James Featham Sawer and Louisa Sawer (nee Wise) had married in the Ripon area in 1885. James is believed to have been a successful businessman, probably in Manchester’s cotton trade. Certainly his income enabled Edgar to be educated at Manchester Grammar School and, by the 1890s, the family to have moved to Delta Villas, 414 Wellington Road, Heaton Chapel. James died in 1900.
Edgar later worked as a salesman in the cotton trade until he enlisted into the army on 17 November 1914. He originally joined the 20th Battalion, Manchester Regiment – the fifth of the Regiment’s “Pals” Battalions but did not go overseas with them at the end of 1915. His service file still exists at the National Archives and makes brief mention that he was 5’ 7½” tall and had a chest measurement of 35”.On 28 December 1915, he applied to become an officer in the artillery but he was rejected as not being qualified for that Corps but he tried again on 6 March 1916 and was accepted this time.
The 2nd East Lancashire Brigade of the Artillery was a pre-War Territorial unit attached to the Army’s 42nd Division. It spent the first two years of the War in Egypt and took part in fighting against the Turkish Army in Palestine in August 1916. Redesignated 211th Brigade at the end of December 1916, it was disbanded in February 1917 when the Division moved to France.
Although the War Graves Commission records Edgar’s unit as above, there must be an error as the unit had ceased to exist by the time of his death. He does not appear on the Roll of Honour of 42nd Division as having died serving with the Division and must have been transferred to another now unknown unit. At the time of writing (August 2007), a copy of his death certificate is being obtained and this may provide further information.
31 July 1917 was the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres (often known as Passchendaele). The Cemetery where Edgar is buried is some 8 kilometres north west of the town and it is almost certain that he will have still been serving with an artillery battery which will have been exchanging fire with German batteries opposite.
(Updated, September 2007……death certificate also records 402nd Battery. As indicated above this cannot be accurate but it is now unlikely that it can ever be established with which unit he was actually serving when he was killed.)