My World War One Stories

The remembrance of World War 1 (1914-1918) has featured a lot in the last few months, not only in TV programs but social network media, blogs and a large variety of dedicated WW1 websites such as and  It has caused me to think about my relatives who fought in that war, so I have revisited the family trees I have been compiling on Ancestry.

My Grand Uncle : William Aloysius Taylor (1877-1915)

On my mother’s maternal side are the Taylor’s, a very large family from Liverpool, so this is where I started.

William Aloysius Taylor was born in 1877 to Thomas (Tom) Taylor and his second wife, Anne Gilbertson.  Tom had 3 wives, 2 predeceased him, and a total of 15 children – a good Catholic family!

William married Mary Gertrude Fox in 1910 and from the information I have I gathered they had at least two children, the last of which, Jane, was born in 1914.  It must have been hard for William and Mary at that time with a newborn, when he joined the 5th Battalion Prince of Wales Volunteer (South Lancashire) Regiment and went off to France.  I’m not an expert but assume that he was not conscripted as he joined a volunteer regiment as an officer.

On 11 May 1915 William died in hospital in Boulogne following injuries received at Ypres. His grave, which I found on the War Graves Commission website, is in the Eastern Cemetery Boulogne and the war graves index reads:

Taylor, William Aloysius (Capt) died 11 May 1915 from wounds received at Ypres on 8 May 1915


The Second Battle of Ypres

The Germans released a batch of chlorine gas on 24 April, directed against Canadian troops situated north-east of Ypres. They gained ground against the unprotected Canadian troops, and the fighting was fierce.  The German infantry sustained heavy losses from the defending Canadians, who were relieved by arriving British troops who arrived on 3 May.

Fighting renewed around Ypres on 8 May, the same day William received his wounds, and continued until 13 May.  Poor William, it would appear that he was only in France for 5 days before being wounded.

Thomas had two grandsons, Cyril Adderley Taylor and Oswald Acton Taylor from his son, James William Adderley, whose mother was Tom’s first wife. They were both officers in the Liverpool Regiment and they were lucky enough to survive.

My grandfather Claude Charles Riches (1900-1981)

I know quite a lot about my paternal grandfather Claude Charles Riches because my Dad is still alive and has photos of him during WW1.   Grandpa was born in 1900 but lied about his age when he joined up.  On 31 July 1914 he was 14 and the call to enlist was in August 1914, so I am not sure if he joined up then or a year later, but he must have told them he was 19, the legal age for signing up.   There were approximately 250,000 underage boys who lied about their ages.  The criteria was that they should be at least 5ft 3ins with a minimum chest measurement of 34 inches.  The recruitment officers were paid 2s/6d (about £6 in today’s money) and they often turned a blind eye to these young lads.


Grandpa joined the 5th Battalion London Rifle Brigade and went on a signallers course.  It was only because he did so exceptionally well on this course and they found out his age, although it didn’t stop them from sending him home, it was decided not to send him to France.  Had he gone, it could be that we would not be here to tell this story.

My father gave me another photo of Grandpa with 1916 written on the back, he was 16, and you can see the crossed signallers flags on his left sleeve.  I don’t think he looks anything like 19 do you?


There is also a Leave on Duty ration book, dated 20/12/1918 to 31/12/1918 and I guess this meant he went home for Christmas.  The ration book has unused ration stamps, one for lard – LARD!! – and one for tea.

Grandpa survived both the First World War and Second World War – but that is another story.

Do you have any WW1 family stories?  Please share them here.

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  1. This is a very interesting post Ronnie, I have wanted to research my great grandfather who was involved in the First World War for some time now. After the war he spent a period of time in a home where gardening played a massive part of his recuperation. Your grandpa looks no more than 14, never mind 19, I am glad to hear he survived both wars.


  2. Thanks for researching and sharing! Very interesting. Read a great mystery series by Anne Perry set in World War I (1st book is No Graves As Yet) and she truly brings it alive … your reference to Ypres had me recall the images she creates in her books. And, no, your Grandpa barely looks 12 in that photo!


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