Able Seaman Royal Navy H.M.S. “Invincible”
Harry Tillen was the son of Kate Allen (formerly Tillen) of 46, Crescent Road. (CWGC register gives spelling as Tillin) The 1901 census indicates that Kate had married George Stephen Allen, a gasman’s labourer and they lived at 57 Foxhill Road, Reading. Harry was the youngest of Kate’s three children who are recorded as George’s step children. The 1911 census indicates that the family hadmoved to Crescent Road and Harry was working as a grocers errand boy.
Harry Tillen was lost at sea and his name is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. His name is commemorated on the Alfred Sutton School Memorial and also commemorated on the Park Church and Institute Memorial. Harry Tillen was aged 20 years when he died.
The H.M.S. “Invincible” was among the Battle Cruisers of the Grand Fleet which was reviewed by the King in July 1914. The Britain Empire ruled the seas and was superior to any other Empire in the number of vessels at its disposal. Harry Tillen would have been proud to serve as an able seaman in this navy.
In 1916 with a stalemate on land it became the turn of the navies to try and break the deadlock at sea. The British Grand Fleet was based in the Firth of Forth, Moray Firth and Scapa Flow; the German High Seas Fleet at Wilhelmshaven. On the morning of 31st May 1916 Mary Clarke, a young nursing sister on board the Grand Fleet Hospital Ship Plassy, watched the cruisers steaming up and with the other nurses “wondered if there is really anything doing this time, there have been so many false alarms.” She recorded in her diary that “this evening after dinner two or three officers arrived in board with note books etc to find out what accommodation we had got for the wounded, how many cots, how many stretchers etc & later on we got a signal to get full steam going, so as to sail at a moments notice.” The battle cruisers she had watched in the morning had been setting out for Jutland, a Danish territory, by evening two of them had already been sunk by the German navy. The “anything doing” turned out to be Battle of Jutland, the only major sea battle of the Great War.
William Rowsell Smith
6th Battalion Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry
William Rowsell Smith was the son of Mr Frederick William Smith a hairdresser of The Arcade, Reading and Mrs Anne Amelia Smith of, Melrose, Culver Road, Reading. He was one of four brothers who served during the war.
William Smith is remembered on the grave of his parents and other family members. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, West Vlaanderen, Belgium. Panel 80 to 82 and 163A.
He was killed on 22nd August 1917, aged 21, during the very heavy fighting of the battle of 3rd Ypres.
William Rowsell Smith is also commemorated on the Park Church Memorial.
Leslie Ernest John Beard
Lance Sergeant 200528
2nd/4th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment.
The 2nd/4th battalion was formed in early September 1914 with men coming from all over Berkshire. Their first base was at Hitcham, in Buckinghamshire, on their commanding officers farm. The War Office could not spare any equipment and kit was supplied initially by the general public. In November they moved to Maidenhead from where some two hundred men were sent to the 1st/4ths in exchange for a draft of men who were not passed fit for general service or who had not volunteered for service abroad. Training at the time involved a good deal of route marching and drill.
In December the battalion numbered one thousand and their first task was the guarding of German prisoners-of-war at Holyport. By February 1915 they were in Northampton, as part of the 2nd South Midlands Division, moving in April to Chelmsford where they dug trenches for the defence of London and patrolled the Essex roads looking for spies who might use lights to signal enemy aeroplanes. It was not until 25th May 1916 that the battalion finally left Southampton for France, ending up eventually at Merville near ArmentiÀres south of Ypres. After a short period of instruction in trench warfare attached to other battalions the 2nd/4ths took over trenches near Laventie.
The battalion took casualties from their first days in the trenches and these gradually increased as the men were involved in carrying out patrols to investigate enemy wire and trenches. During the last week of June when the bombardment of the Somme was underway there was activity all along the British front line in order to keep the Germans guessing about where exactly the offensive would come. The 2nd/4ths were involved in such work loosing several junior officers and men before retiring to billets on 27th June. They went back into the front line on 6th July moving to Croix Barbee on 13th July. It was on this day that an elaborate raid on enemy trenches was carried out involving five officers and one hundred men. The objective was the capture prisoners, identification enemy units and the killing of Germans.
Officers and men were divided into ten groups some men were carrying a Bangalore torpedo which would be used to blow a gap in the wire. The company set out at midnight and formed up, five yards between each line, in front of the British wire, in No-Mans Land. When all was ready the first wave moved forward, but reaching the German wire found only a partial gap. It was decided to use the Bangalore torpedo but by this time the Germans had observed the movements and were shelling No-Mans Land. The torpedo carriers were wounded in the shelling and the fuse lost.
Four or five machine guns opened up as the first wave cut through the wire by other means and “gallantly penetrated the enemy’s first line under severe opposition”. (Commanding Officers report) The rest of the raiding party lost touch with the first wave and in a short time the signal was given for recall. Three officers were wounded and two killed: six men were killed and eleven recorded as missing, fifteen men were wounded.
Leslie Beard was one of the missing and his name is recorded on Panel 93 the Loos Memorial to the Missing sited around the Dud Corner Cemetery. Leslie was the son of Joseph John and May Beard of 95, Wokingham Road, Reading. His name appears on both the Alfred Sutton School and the Park Church memorials. He was 19 years old.