Mike Royden's

Royden Family History Pages


 

Bombardier Charles Royden D Battery, 18th Brigade R.F.A. (1881-1918)

A Biography - by Mike Royden

When I first began reseaching the history of my family as a school project in the early 1970s, I could only get a far as my Great Grandfather, Charles Royden. He had died in the Great War many years earlier and all family memories of him seemed to have died with him. It took me several years to learn the methods of family research and to make an effective approach into Charles family and ancestry.

Over the years I have researched his life and movements during the First World War, which have also included numerous visits to the battlefields of Belgium and France to discover more about his war experience and finally where he was killed in action.

This now part of a larger work covering his sister and brothers who were also badly affected by the war. For the full version click here.

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They shall not grow old
as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn them.
At the going down of the sun,
and in the morning,
we will remember them.



 


War Medals and Plaque

British and Commonwealth servicemen and servicewomen were awarded a wide variety of orders, medals and decorations for their service in the First World War. These included medals for gallantry, distinguished service and those bestowed by Allied governments. General service during the First World War was recognised by the issue of the 1914 Star (or the 1914-15 Star), the British War Medal 1914-1920 and the Victory Medal 1914-1919.

The usual trio of awards, the 1914 Star (or the 1914-15 Star if appropriate) together with the two service medals became popularly known as ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’ after characters in a Daily Mail cartoon of the period.

The R.F.A. Cap Badge

Princess Mary's Gift Fund and Gift Box 1914

There was a fund set up by Princess Mary in 1914 to provide a gift for a all serving personnel for Christmas 1914. Her original intention had been to pay, out of her private allowance, for a personal gift to each soldier and sailor. This was deemed impracticable and a proposal was made that she lend her name to a public fund, which would raise the necessary monies to provide the gift. Eventually, it was decided to send an embossed brass box, one ounce of pipe tobacco, twenty cigarettes, a pipe, a tinder lighter, Christmas card and photograph. Non smokers would receive the brass box, a packet of acid tablets, a khaki writing case containing pencil, paper and envelopes together with the Christmas card and photograph of the Princess.

Click the photograph to visit the Imperial War Museum pages, where the full story of the Gift Fund is told.

The 1914/15 Star

This Star, sanctioned by the King in 1918, is similar in design to the 1914 Star. However, there are differences in detail. The dates 1914-15 appear on the central scroll, while the smaller scrolls bearing the words 'Aug' and 'Nov' are omitted. The ribbon is identical to that of the 1914 Star. Individuals in possession of the '1914 Star' were not eligible for the award of the 1914-15 Star.

Those eligible for the 1914-15 Star were as follows:

All officers, warrant officers, Non Commissoned Officers and men of the Army including the Territorial Force; the Royal Flying Corps; Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service and the Territorial Force Nursing Service who actually served in a theatre of operations.

The British War Medal

This medal was approved by King George V in 1919 to commemorate the services rendered by His Majesty's Forces and to record the bringing of the war to a successful conclusion. Eligibility for the award was later extended to cover the years 1919-1920, while post-war mine clearance at sea continued, as did service in North and South Russia, the Eastern Baltic, Siberia, Black Sea and Caspian Sea.

The medal, which is silver, hangs from its ribbon by a straight suspender bar without swivel. The obverse bears the coinage effigy of His Majesty the King with the legend GEORGIVS V:BRITT: OMN:REX ET IND:IMP:. The reverse depicts a male figure mounted on horseback, trampling underfoot the eagle shield of the Central Powers and the emblems of death, a skull and cross-bones. Above is the risen sun of victory. The male figure was chosen because men had borne the brunt of the fighting.

The design symbolised the mechanical and scientific advances which helped to win the war. The silk ribbon has a central vertical stripe of gold with stripes of white and black at each side and borders of royal blue. It is not thought that the colours have any particular significance. The medal was designed was W McMillan, and struck by the Royal Mint. The recipient's name, rank, service number and unit are stamped on the bottom edge of the medal. Those awarded to Army officers, with the exception of the Royal Artillery, omit the name of the regiment or corps.

Eligibility : THE ARMY - The medal was issued to those who either entered a theatre of war on duty, or who left places of residence and rendered approved service overseas, other than the waters dividing the different parts of the United Kingdom, between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918 inclusive. The next-of-kin of those killed on active service received the medal whether or not the casualty completed the requisite period of service.

The Victory Medal

The medal was authorised in 1919 to commemorate the victory of the Allies over the Central Powers.

The medal is laquered bronze and bears on the obverse the classical figure of Athene Nike, the goddess of Victory. On the reverse is an inscription, THE GREAT WAR FOR CIVILISATION. The silk ribbon is red in the centre, with green and violet on either side shaded to form the colours of two rainbows. The medal is suspended from a plain ring.

Anybody who received a Mention in Despatches was authorised to wear, sewn on to the ribbon, a single emblem of oak leaves in bronze. When the ribbon alone was worn, a smaller version of the emblem was fixed to it.

The medal, designed by W McMillan, was authorised to obviate the exchange of Allied Commemorative War Medals. It was struck by the Royal Mint.

Eligibility: THE ARMY - The Victory Medal was granted to all officers, warrant officers, NCO's and men of the British, Dominion, Colonial and Indian Forces, members of women's formations who had been enrolled under a direct contract of service with His Majesty's Imperial Forces, civil medical practitioners, nursing sisters, nurses and other employed with military hospitals who actually served on the establishment of a unit in a theatre of war and within certain specified periods.

All those who received the Victory Medal 1914-19 received the British War Medal 1914-20; recipients of the 1914 Star (or the 1914-15 Star) received both the Victory Medal and the War Medal. However, those who received the War Medal were not automatically entitled to the Victory Medal.

The Next of Kin Memorial Plaque

In 1916 a Government Committee was set up by Secretary of State for War, David Lloyd George to consider what form of memorial should be made available to the next of kin of those who died 'on active service'. On 7 November 1916, The Times informed its readers that the cost of the memorial was to be borne by the State and that the precise form it was to take was a matter for much longer consideration though the initially accepted idea was that it should be '...a small metal plate recording the man's name and services.'

It was not until August 1917, in the midst of the Third Battle of Ypres, that the memorial 'plate' project resurfaced in the General Committee's decision that the commemoration should now take the form of bronze plaque. The announcement was reported in The Times for Monday 13 August 1917 and the public competition for appropriate designs described in extravagant detail.

The first prize of 250, for two model designs, was awarded to 'Pyramus' - Edward Carter Preston of the Sandon Studios Society, Liverpool

Production of the plaques began in December 1918 and around 1,150,000 were made. The plaques issued commemorated those men and women who died between 4 August 1914 and 10 January 1920 who had been killed on active service.

Memorial Scrolls were also sent to the next of kin and were sent out in seven and a quarter inch long cardboard tubes. The plaques themselves were dispatched under separate cover in stiff card wrapping enclosed within white envelopes bearing the Royal Arms. Both memorials were accompanied by a letter from King George V which bore his facsimile signature and read as follows:


I join with my grateful people in sending you this memorial of a brave life given for others in the Great War. George R.I.


The memorial scroll (far left) and the package which was originally sent out with the plaque. Charles Royden's plaque was given to me by my grandmother, together with a battered crucifix said to have been in Charles' hand when he died.

The full story of the Next of Kin Plaque and how it came to be issued is told here on the Imperial War Museum pages;

Next of Kin Memorial Plaque



Return to the Battlefields

In 1966, Charles' daughter Agnes received a reply to her letter to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Their letter detailed the location of her father's grave and she was able to visit the cemetery later that year. On a visit to Agnes' home during the late 1970s she gave me the letter. It had been a long wait, but I was a last able to visit the area en route to a family holiday in France a few years ago. We were due to stay in a farmhouse gite in Brittany on the Sunday, but left for France on the Friday to visit the sites where Charles fought on the Saturday, continuing our journey to Bayeux to see the Tapestry and the nearby Normandy landing beaches on the Sunday.

Vimy Ridge Memorial and Trenches

After an overnight stay in St. Omer we headed south towards Arras. The weather was glorious and soon we could see glimpses of the breathtaking Vimy Ridge memorial from the motorway. We doubled back and passed a grim looking German cemetery as we headed towards Vimy. The road wound through fenced off woodlands where the remains of trenches and craters could be clearly seen. The road climbed and opened out on the top of the ridge where the 250' memorial rose before us.

The Vimy Ridge
Canadian Memorial

The Vimy Ridge
Canadian Memorial

The Vimy Ridge
Canadian Memorial

Lewis & Liam, both in the cubs & scouts take a look at a wreath jointly lain by English and Canadian Scouts

The Vimy Ridge
Canadian Memorial

Trenches at Vimy
preserved by war veterans

Looking across to the close proximity of the German front line

Allied trench complete with concrete 'duckboard'

Front line Allied trench

The Grange crater

The Grange crater

German front line listening post

Modern track leading across German lines to the Vimy forest

Remains of original trenches

German Front Line


The Royal Canadian Artillery at Vimy Ridge

A detailed account of the Royal Canadian Artillery advance at Vimy Ridge and the memorial is given on their web site - click the flag.


Ficheux

On leaving Vimy we headed off to Arras and with the aid of a special edition Michelin map sent to us by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (marked with cemeteries under its care) we soon found the Bucquoy Road. Approximately 5km south of Arras we arrived at cemetery 100 near the village of Ficheux. The rural location was peaceful and compleletely surrounded on all sides by golden cornfields. The cemetery was immaculate and looked like it had been laid out only days previously, instead of over 80 years ago.

The original letter to Agnes gave the plot number as Plot II, Row D number 22. It was an emotional moment having waited 25 years to make the trip. It was special too, to have my sons Lewis (10) and Liam (7) able to see where their Great Great Grandfather had come to rest.

The cemetery was beautifully maintained and the visit also put into place the complete custodial care carried out by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, from the comprehensive web site and the provision of maps, videos, teaching packs to the primary role of the maintainence of so many cemeteries from so many different theatres of war. Nevertheless, the weather over time had made Charles' name rather faint on the headstone, but a dash of water soon brought out the detail for a photograph.

In the low entrance wall a small brass door was set which provided a pleasant surprise in the form of a visitors book and register. We all signed in our own entries after finding Charles' details in the register. Even the pen was still in the register file. It all added to a most pleasurable experience despite the circumstances, to finally visit the site and to discover that in such a beautiful foreign place it will be forever England.

 

Bucquoy Road Cemetery
Lewis and Liam sign the visitor's book

Bucquoy Road Cemetery

Bucquoy Road Cemetery

Mike, Lewis & Liam, behind Charles' headstone

Charles Royden

Lewis & Charles' plot

Their Name Liveth for Evermore

Register door and contents

Charles Royden's register entry

Bucquoy Road Cemetery
Lewis and Liam sign the visitor's book

Cemetery Plan
(red dot marks Charles' grave)

A 25 year wait to visit this site


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