Researched and written by Anne Wright
Captain H F B Ryley
1st Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
Killed in action, 2.11.1914
Herbert Frank Brownlow Ryley was a career soldier just like his father. He was born at Dalhousie, Bengal, India on 11 September 1878 to Captain Frank and Laura Mary (nee Poulter) Ryley. Herbert was baptised six days later. He had an older sister, Eleanor Mary, who was also born in India, in 1876 and a much younger sister Dorothea Marie who was born in England in 1895. Their parents had married on 6 October 1875. Herbert’s early years were peripatetic: in 1881 the family were at the home of Herbert’s paternal grandfather, Thomas Ryley, a county Justice of the Peace in Lewisham; ten years later he was boarding with John Leader a retired Surgeon-Major and his family in Tenby and this lifestyle was set to continue when he was commissioned into the army as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1899.
Herbert was educated for a short period in 1889 at Victoria College, Jersey at which time his home address was Claremont Court on the island followed by several years at Rugby School. He then started his military career and by 1906 had risen to the rank of Captain. Herbert served in Malta, Cyprus, Crete, Gibraltar, South Africa, Mauritius and India from where his regiment returned to their Preston Depot at the end of 1913. They were among the first divisions of the British Expeditionary Force to go to France arriving at Le Havre on 13 August 1914. The Loyal North Lancs. Regiment was on the fringes of the Battle of Mons just ten days later but fully involved in the desperate retreat which followed ending for them on 5 September at the village of Bernay. Then they counter-attacked leading to the Battle of the Marne on 9 September where they sustained their first casualty, he was soon joined by many others at the Battle of the Aisne including 14 officers and 400 other ranks. Their war had begun.
When Herbert joined his battalion on 25/26 October they were at Ypres. The next day, according to the diary of a fellow officer, believed to be 2nd Lieutenant Hyndson, he had a narrow escape when a shell exploded close to them killing two horses and seriously injuring his servant. Herbert was flung to the ground but was unharmed and his companion sustained a superficial head wound. On 28 October they moved forward to Gueluvelt south-east of Ypres. Protecting this strategic city was essential as all major roads in the area converged there and it was linked to the Channel coast by rivers and canals. By the time they started to dig trenches on the western side of the Menin road it was dark and raining. Herbert and his diarist companion created a dug-out of sorts and managed to pass ‘a tolerably warm evening’ under blankets borrowed from a neighbouring farmhouse. The following day they advanced again under heavy shell and machine-gun fire only to have to retreat and dig fresh trenches. They suffered 25% casualties and were forced to leave many of the wounded in the open. The 31 October was the worse day yet; the bombardment commenced at dawn and Herbert and his comrades moved off at 9 am in an attempt to move through Gueluvelt but they were enfiladed by machine-gun fire. Major Carter then ordered Herbert to locate the machine-gun. His fellow officer’s diary entry that evening recorded that Herbert was not seen or heard of again. His official date of death was given as 2 November. He had died in the First Battle of Ypres having spent just eight days at the front. Ypres was not taken by the Germans.
Herbert has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres (now Ieper) and also on the headstone of his parents’ grave in the churchyard of St. Thomas a Becket church at Pulham in Dorset. At the time of his death his widowed mother and younger sister had been living in Weybridge since at least 1902. Their home was at Buriton, St. Albans Avenue. A silken Union Jack and White Ensign was donated in his memory to All Souls Chapel in St. James’ Church.
The Book of Remembrance of the Great War, Victoria College (Jersey), http://www.historyalive.je/2016/11/01/the-book-of-remembrance-of-the-great-war-victoria-college/
British India Office Ecclesiastical Returns – Births and Baptisms, https://www.findmypast.co.uk
England & Wales, National Probate Calendar ( Index and Administrations), 1858-1966, 1973-1995, www.ancestry.co.uk
Diary of a Second-Lieutenant, The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. 1914-1918, www.loyalregiment.com/soldiers-stories/
UK, British Army Lists, 1882-1962, www.ancestry.co.uk
UK. Hart’s Annual Army List,1908, www.ancestry.co.uk