1918-2008: Ninety Years of Remembrance

Soldier Record

William Thomas Royle

Contributed by: Julie Aspin, on 2008-11-04

No portrait available
First Name William Thomas
Surname Royle
Year of Birth 1895
Year of Death 1918
Regiment East Lancashire Regiment
Place of Wartime Residence Blackburn, Lancashire

William Thomas's Story

I never knew this man - he was my great grandfather. My grandma never knew her dad either, but each year she made a point of watching the Festival of Remembrance - as a child I never really understood why - it is only now in my forties I wish she was here to watch it with me The following story is based on what I was told to me by my gran and my great gran, Billy's wife.

William Thomas Royle was born in Rochdale in 1891. In 1911 he married Mary Ann Hall from Blackburn. Billy and Polly, as they were known, settled in Blackburn and had three daughters Elizabeth (Betty), Jane (Jenny) and Sarah (Sally).

When the First World War broke out, Billy was working as a painter's labourer. As family members, friends and colleagues signed up as volunteers Billy said he was not going to fight until he had to because he had a wife and three children to care for.

One day, opening his lunch box at work, Billy found a white feather. White feathers were given to men, mostly by women, as a sign of their cowardice in not joining up.

On his way home from work that day Billy went to Canterbury St Barracks in Blackburn, signed up and went home to announce what he had done.

Billy was a member of the 4th Battalion East Lancs Regiment. In early 1918 he came home on leave. When he had left home to return to Barracks at Colchester, Polly noticed he had left his dogtag on the windowsill. Billy's brother in law, who was returning to Colchester the next day said he would take it with him. When he arrived in Colchester, Billy had gone, posted overseas.

On March 23rd 1918, in the early hours of the morning, the 4th Battalion East Lancs Regiment was in the trenches of the Somme, waiting for the order to go over the top. Billy, as lookout was one of the first to go. Billy was killed as he went on the offensive, his body was never identified and he remains missing to this day.

Billy is commemorated on the memorial to the missing at Pozieres in Northern France.

At the end of the war, when the soldiers returned to parade through Blackburn, Polly went along with her mother Sarah. She met a soldier, who from behind she thought was her Billy. He was Walter Peace. Years later Polly married him.

Other memories

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