Category Archives: Royal Berkshire Regiment

Godfrey Lewis Allum

Godfrey Lewis Allum
Private 203413
5th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment.

G L Allum headstone


Initial research revealed that Godfrey died on 26 August 1918 and was buried at Péronne Road Cemetery, Maricourt, location IV. E. 34.   Godfrey Allum was remembered by his parents, brothers and sisters in the Reading Standard 1919 although the ‘In Memoriam’ supplied little information about the circumstances of his death and his age wasnot given.

An search of  Ancestry UK revealed that his parents were James Allum and Eliza Pendygrass Allum. In 1911 Godfrey’s second name is written as Louis on the census form. He was then aged 18, his year of birth is given as about 1893 and that he was born in Henley upon Thames; his occupation is given as a printers apprentice. His father was a labourer at a corn merchants and his mother is recorded as being a dressmaker.  Only rarely at the time were women recorded as having an occupation. Godfrey had an older sister, Olive, then 21 and working at the biscuit factory, and a younger sister Myrtle aged 14 and younger brother Cyril aged 12 who were presumably still at school. The family were living at 13. Elgar Road, Reading. Godfrey would have been about 25 when he was killed.

Colin Fox in ‘Their Duty Done’ gives an account of the 5th Battalion battle at Carnoy on 26 August 1918 and Godfrey Allum is numbered among the thirty-seven casualties of the battalion who were killed during the action. The fighting took place during the British advance to Péronne. The battalion orders for the day were to prepare for an attack between 4am and 4.30am:

 ‘They marched by compass bearing and only reached their forming-up position at 4.45am, thus losing their barrage which was now falling some 1,500 yards a head of them. Their attack was made on both sides of the village and was met with heavy artillery and machine gun fire that caused a large number of casualties. The survivors managed to reach a spur, which was their first objective, and the leading troops were able to fight their way to German trenches on a forward slope beyond the village facing the strip of woodland called Talus Boisé, west of Maricourt. A line was established late in the afternoon. On the following day the battalion moved forward and took up a position beyond Talus Boisé with its right on the small copse immediately to the east known as Machine Gun Wood. From here they moved back to Carnoy which had been meanwhile secured by other units and stayed there until the end of the month.’


William Arthur Ayres

William Arthur Ayres
Private 14328
8th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment

and Sapper 243961 Royal Engineers


William Arthur Ayres was the son of  William Reynolds Ayres and Minie Ayres of
9, St. Edwards Road, Reading.  William was the eldest of their five children. The 1911 census has him recorded as  13 years old and still attending school, this would give his year of birth as 1898. His brothers and sisters were: John 12, Harold 8, Elsie May 10 and Gladys 4.  William’s father’s occupation was given as a carpenter and joiner. Living with the family at that time was Phoebe age 85 who is recorded as an aunt.

William’s military papers are also available through Ancestry UK. He attested to the Royal Berkshire Regiment on 7 September 1914. William gives his age as 19years and 1 month and his occupation as a brass finisher.  Local newspapers give his age at death as 19 or 20 years. From the evidence available it seems that William lied about his age and enlisted at the age of 16. His attestation papers record him as ‘head’.

William served just under 3 years.  As the information below shows William was injured at Loos. Whilst recovering was put on a charge for breaking out of camp and remaining absent for 3 days and 15 hours. What he was doing during his absence is not stated. His punishment was loss of 4 days pay and 14 days confined to barracks. In 1916 he was hospitalised for an appendectomy. When he had recovered he returned to France where he transfered to the Royal Engineers.  The Reading Standard ‘In Memoriam 1919’ states ‘Killed in Action.’ where as grave registration states died of sickness. William’s military papers confirm that he did indeed die of sickness. His records provide comprehensive notes of the cause of death which is given as menigitis. This developed because of  previous operation for a mastoid. The original problem with his ear was given as being due to the  effects of the guns and shelling whilst serving on the Somme.

This text which follows is taken from the authors unpublished manuscript – “The School, the Master, the Boys and the VC.” which is about the men named on the Alfred Sutton School War Memorial. It gives further details about William Arthur Ayres military service.

William Ayres took park in the Battle of Loos in September 1915.  Although injured he  survived the severe machine gun fire of the battle and found himself on the outskirts of Hulluch village near the Lens-La Bassée road. He was in a signalling section of his unit and part of a small scouting party sent to reconnoitre the village. William’s  own account of his experiences in front of Hulluch was published in the book Responding to the Call authored by Colin Fox et al:

“We had captured three lines, most of the enemy not waiting for the bayonet.  We signallers had two wires across to the almost captured village (of Hulluch). Corporals Giddings and Shirley took another wire across.  We were in sight of the village and they were
trying to stop us: three men with a quick fire gun.  The shells did not hit but the sniper did and
put one through my shoulder, mess can, coat and everything.  My two mates dropped down, put a field dressing on my wound and ran on. I believe they got the wire across. I lay low
‘till the sniper in the trees had wasted most of his ammunition and then I made
a bolt for it and got to the field dressing station.”

William was lucky to reach the dressing station and obtain treatment and evacuation to safer territory. The survivors of the battalion were less fortunate with many of them suffering from thirst and hunger until they were finally relieved on 28 September.

William Ayres was hospitalised in Warrington but within a matter of months he found himself back at the front. Having recovered from the wounds received at Loos in autumn 1915 William found himself back with his unit during the Battle of the Somme. The 8th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment was essentially in support during three separate engagements, 14 July, 18 August and 3 September. The battalion arrived in the battle zone on 9 July and went into action for the first time early on the morning of the 11 July; orders had been given to hold, at all costs, the village of Contalmaison, in the area of Mametz Wood. The area was one of destruction, the village had changed hands several times and not a house was standing. However, the battalion managed to consolidate the line. On the evening of the 12 July patrols were sent out and preparations made for an attack on the 14 July that, in the event, was very successful for the Fourth Army of which the battalion was a part. It was during this period that William Ayres won the Military Medal. The London Gazette 1 September1916 records the citation ‘for good work and bravery.’ The action was ‘mending a telephone line at great risk,’ also commended with him was Private R. Slyfield of Reading. (Details about R.Slyfied, Robert, and his brother also R.Slyfield, Richard, who is buried in the cemetery can be found on this site.)

It is not clear what other actions he was involved in but, having survived the Somme campaign, the coldest winter for many years and the early actions of 1917, which included the Battle of Arras, he transferred to the Royal Engineers. The Royal Engineers had a major responsibility for signalling and, initially at least, he is believed to have continued his work as a signaller. This was a dangerous and vital job. Communications with the front line were often broken and the signaller had the job of effecting repairs under the most trying of circumstances.”

William died in France on 22 July 1917 and is buried at Merville Communal Cemetery Extension, location I. B. 43.   The town of Merville is situated around a waterway ‘crossroads.’  The River Lys, runs from west to east, the Canal de la Nieppe runs from the north to west skirting the Forêt de Nieppe; the Canal d’ Aire runs to the southwest. It is not known exactly what  William’s work was but he was serving in the Inland Waterways Salvage Unit at the time of his death.

William was also a puzzel in other ways. William’s family were atheists and his headstone does not bear the usual cross and has the following commemoration:


However, Local newspapers at the time of his death stated that prior to the war William was employed in the Signal Works department of the Great Western Railway whether this has anything to do with being a ‘brass finisher’ as given on the attestation papers is not known.

William was a member of Reading University College and is commemorated on that war memorial.  His father, William Reyolds Ayres was an ardent socialist and trades unionist; he was the first Labour member of the Reading Town Council.



William Marshall

William Marshall  M.M.
Lance Corporal
2nd Batt. Royal Berkshire Regt.
Old Contemptible

 Division 17

Marshall W photo CIMG2190


Lance Corporal William Marshall  was considered by his friends to lead a charmed life and had many narrow escapes whilst doing service at the front.  At the battle of Fromelles he was carrying two boxes of bullets when one of them was hit by a bullet.  Writing to his mother in July 1915 he simply talks about the weather.  “We are having very unsettled weather again, and we are in the trenches.  We got wet through going on, and there was another wet night last knight.  It makes everything a mess”.

 At the outbreak of war he was serving in India but went to France towards the end of 1914.  This earned him the right to be called an “Old Contemptible”.

Marshall W + brothers photo


He was one of four sons, all of whom served with the forces, of Mr. Joseph and Mrs Mary Marshall of 32. Pitcroft Avenue, Reading. His father and older brother Joseph worked in the biscuit factory and William worked as a butcher before join the regular army. His brother Sidney, aged 19 years, was a machine gunner who was killed in action on Easter Monday  24/4/1916. 

William Marshall was awarded the Military Medal in 1916 for rescuing a machine gun.  He served at the front for most of his time in France although eventually due to a problem  with his foot he was given work behind the lines in Havre. 

In 1917 he married Christobel and they had six daughters and one son. In WWII  son Ted served in the Army and William worked as an ARP warden. His daughter Marion said that her dad never spoke about his war service. When William  died in 1963 aged 72 years he was given a military style funeral by the Old Contemptibles Association. He is buried with his wife and two daughters in the Reading Cemetery.  His grave is unmarked except for the marker of the  “Old Contemptibles”.