Category Archives: Memorials

Frank Washbourne Earley

Frank Washbourne Earley
Private 200566 ‘D’ Company
1st/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment

 Earley FW and bros photo

Frank  Earley was the son of Harry and Margaret Earley, of 12 Manchester Road, Reading. Harry worked at the biscuit factory. Before the war he worked as a cleark in the Borough Accountant’s Office and his brother Jack who enlisted in the same regiment worked, for the County Council. It is not known exactly when Frank and his brother joined up but they enlisted in Reading.

The 1st/4th battalion the local territorial force,  arrived in France in March 1915. Several of Frank’s letters were published in the Reading Chronicle. In his first letter published in April 1915 Frank writes:
‘We are sleeping in barns, and have moved several times since we have been over here.’ 

Frank’s experiences at Ploegsteert (know by the British soldiers as Plugstreet ) illustrate what life was like in this largely ‘quiet sector’ where the ‘Saxons’, in the trenches opposite, had a mild reputation and sniping and firing on working parties was their main preoccupation:

 “We have been in action and are having a rest at the present time. We were in the trenches 24 hours and I was on outpost with two other of our chaps. It was a bit of an experience, as we were only about 100 yards from the Germans. They send up flares at night and light up the surroundings just like daylight, and if you move your foot or any part of your body you get a shower of bullets round you. The worst part of trench fighting, I think, is getting in and out of the trenches, as once you are in it is fairly safe except, of course, if they shell the trenches accurately. Then it must be hell upon earth. They tried to shell us with lyddite, but they did not find out our trench, although they found out one of the others.”

Frank served throughout the Somme campaign and during the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917. No information has been found to indicate that Frank was wounded during any of these campaigns and it must be assumed that he got away unscathed. Having spent a bloody time at Ypres during the summer and autumn, the men were preparing for their next action which they thought would be at Cambrai. They were all surprised when the 48th Division was directed to Italy. Various actions took place during their time in Italy which cannot be gone into in the space available here however, generally the time was fairly quiet. In June 1918 the Germans stirred up the sleepy Austrians opposite the 48th Division to launch an attack which in the event turned out to be the last serious attack for the division. However, whilst the fighting raged, Frank Earley, veteran of so many famous battles, died, not on the battlefield but in a hospital bed of the deadly influenza virus that was sweeping through the ranks. Frank had been ill about four days before his death.

Frank had been home on leave at Easter just a few weeks before his death. Frank was aged 21 or 22, depending on the source of the information, when he died on 13 June 1918. He is buried in the Montecchio Precalcino Communal Cemetery Extension, Italy, location Plot 2, Row C, Grave 3.

Frank had three older brothers and it is believed that they all survived the war because only Frank’s name is recorded on local war memorials. Jack  (real name John )reached the rank of Lance Corporal and was mentioned in despatches by General Plummer.  Brother  Albert who was 12 years older than Frank served in the Royal Engineers and Alfred, 10 years older, served in the Royal Naval Air Service.

Frank was a popular young man and an active member of St. Bartholomew’s Church. He sang in the choir and was a member of the Church Lads’ Brigade, he is remembered on the church war memorial.

Reginald Charles Earle Gatehouse

Reginald Charles Earle Gatehouse
Private CH/19258
“Zeebrugge” Battalion
Royal Marine Light Infantry

Gatehouse pict Gatehouse headstone


Reginald Gatehouse was born the 27 August 1897 the eldest son of Earle and Alice Gatehouse of, 6. Clarendon Road, Reading. In 1911 the family were living at 42. Clarendon Road. Earle Gatehouse’s occupation was given as a stableman jobmaster. Reginald then aged 12 and noted as being at school; he had two younger brothers and a baby sister. His maternal grandmother was also living with the family.

The Reading Standard of the 5 May 1918 outlined his service career. Reginald enlisted in the Royal Marine Light Infantry in October 1914, at the age of 16 years. After a period of training at Deal and Chatham he was placed on a monitor, the H.M.S. Roberts:

‘He spent 12 months in the Dardanelles, where he had many thrilling experiences and several miraculous escapes. On one occasion twelve of his comrades, who were on his ship at the time, were blown up by a shell, he being the only one uninjured. Later he was sent to Russia for special service and subsequently took part in the shelling of the Belgian coast by monitors’.

We are also told that he had been to France with his officer, who was engaged in a series of experiments and that Reginald had assisted him. We can only speculate on the nature of these experiments.

Five weeks before he was killed Reginald had been home on leave. On his return, preparations were in hand for the forthcoming strike at the German U-boat bases of Zeebrugge and Ostend. Described as a ‘Brilliant Naval Raid’ in the Chronology of War, Peter Liddle is much more circumspect in ‘The Sailor’s War 1914-1918’. German U-boats presented a considerable threat to shipping in the English Channel and in 1918 Vice Admiral Sir Roger Keyes was determined to strike a blow at the German U-boat bases. Unfortunately the raid on Zeebruge did not go quite according to plan.

During the attack Reginald Gatehouse was believed to have been on board HMS Iris, which, with HMS Daffodil, was one of  two Mersey ferries being used in the attack. The HMS Iris came to the aid of the Vindictive and ensured the cruiser reached its objective by ramming it into the Mole at Zeebrugge. However, in the process HMS Iris  drew heavy fire and of the platoon of forty-five men on board only twelve men were able to land.

An official Admiralty report described the raid:

“ with the exception of covering ships the force employed consisted of auxiliary vessels and six obsolete cruisers. Five of these filled with concrete, were used as blockships…and, in accordance with orders, were blown up and abandoned by their crews. Two blockships were sunk in the entrance to the Bruges Canal at Zeebrugge and a third ship grounded on the way in: storming parties landed on the Mole, which was much damaged by the blowing up of a submarine loaded with explosives. A German destroyer was torpedoed and other craft damaged. One British destroyer and two motorboats were lost. At Ostend two blockships were blown up. Storming parties were landed from ‘Vindictive’.”

Everyone concerned wanted to believe that there had been a great victory but in the event the attack was less decisive than was reported to the public. The blockships had sunk but not quite in the correct position and the gallantry of those who lost their lives or were wounded had achieved little. It was not too long before the U-boats were back in operation harassing the channel. However, the depressing events of the German spring offensive on the Western Front meant morale at home and at the front was low, so it was important to put a positive gloss on the Zeebrugge attack and much was made of the ability of the navy to strike decisively at the enemy.

The total casualties for the attack amounted to 16 officers, 86 men killed; 5 officers and 121 men wounded. Young Reginald Gatehouse was amongst the dead. He was 19 years old when killed in action 23 April 1918.

Reginald was brought home for burial, which took place at St. Peter’s Church, Earley. The funeral was a significant occasion and well attended by those who knew him. A picture of the scene at his funeral was published in the local paper.

Gatehouse funeral

Frank Lloyd

Frank Lloyd
Private 28670
1st Battalion Kings Shropshire Light Infantry
(formerly 8/11985 Devon Regiment)

It was not until the closing stages of writing the book “The School, the Master, the Boys and the V.C.” that evidence was found to suggest the identity of this soldier. The CWGC web site revealed many F. Lloyds but all lacked family details that would link them to Reading. However, some research carried out on the War Memorial tablet of St. Peter’s Church, Earley, revealed the name Frank Lloyd. Using the Soldiers Died in the Great War a Frank Lloyd, born in Basingstoke and enlisted in Reading was revealed.

More recently, in 2014, with access to Ancestry UK, it has been possible to obtain more information. Frank Lloyd was born 19 December 1899, the son of Frank and Harriet Lloyd. In 1901 the family lived at 24 Sun Street, Reading. Frank senior was a labourer at the biscuit factory. Frank had two sisters Leila aged 2, and Florence Moth, his stepsister aged 8. By 1911 the family had moved to Swansea Road. Frank now had two younger brothers Edgar and George and Florence was no longer living at home. Frank senior was now a labourer in a timber yard. No occupation was given for any of the children so it is assumed that both Leila and Frank at 12 and 11 years were still in school.

Ancestry UK also has military records for Frank Lloyd but although they are with entries for Frank Lloyd junior they are in fact his fathers pension records. Frank senior, attested 28 July 1915 aged 34 as a member of the Royal Berkshire Regiment. The family were then living at 59. Brighton Road. He was discharged as no longer fit for war service on 9 November 1917, he held the rank of sergeant. His papers reveal that daughter Leila was a cripple.  Frank’s military conduct and character were described as very good.

It is  not known when the family moved to Brighton Road but this would certainly have enabled Frank junior to attend the Wokingham Road School and for the family to have worshiped at St. Peter’s Church, Earley.

Frank Lloyd junior was killed in action on 17th October 1918 on the day when the British and American forces began a massive attack along the River Selle north of Le Cateau.  A CWGC search indicated that he was buried in the small Vaux-Andingy British Cemetery, Aisne, which holds sixty graves. The village, which lies between St. Quentin and Le Cateau, was captured in the attack. Originally the cemetery had also held German graves but these were later removed and thirty-five graves from the communal cemetery re-interred there after the Armistice. Frank Lloyd’s grave is located in Row C. 8