Archaeologists uncover historic graffiti marking start of WWI

Graffiti carved into a stable door revealing what life was like the day World War One started has been uncovered by archaeologists in Lincolnshire.

As well as showing the date the war started – 4 August 1914 – the graffiti also showed children’s drawings of horses, a bicycle, two ploughs and names and initials.

The discovery was made by independent archaeologist Neville Hall whilst recording the historic buildings as part of a barn conversion in the Fens, near Quadring.

“With help from the farm’s previous owner, we have been able identify the children  who created the graffiti – William Bristow and John Leusley – and trace the poignant story of their families during the war,” said Ian Marshman, historic environment officer at Lincolnshire County Council.

William was the youngest son of the family who then owned the farm, whilst John Leusley was the eldest son of the landlord of the pub next door. Both boys survived the war, but not unscathed.

It is believed that William stayed to help his widowed mother and elder brother Fred on the farm, producing vital food supplies exempting him from conscription. Meanwhile, John served with the Cheshire Regiment and was injured in France.

John’s brother Richard was not so lucky. He was shot in the arm whilst fighting in France with the Lincolnshire Regiment in August 1917. He recovered enough to return to the front line but was killed in action on the 1st January 1918, aged 21. His body was never found. His sacrifice is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial near Passchendale in Belgium, and on the village war memorial in St Margaret’s Church in Quadring.

On the same day as Richard’s death was reported in the local paper, and on the very same page, another article announced the good news that youngest Leusley, William, had been awarded the Military Medal for “gallantry and devotion to duty under fire”.

Ian added: “For us, this is an amazing discovery and a real reminder of what Lincolnshire childhoods – of horses, bicycles and making your own fun – on the eve of war.

“The door will be preserved by the descendants of the Bristow family, but the research on the farm and graffiti will be added to the county council’s Historic Environment Record, where it will be available to future researchers.”