Armistice Day: Remembering Royston soldiers who fought for our freedom

PUBLISHED: 12:01 11 November 2017 | UPDATED: 07:18 13 November 2017

Some of the Royston soldiers from the Battle of Passchendaele. Picture: Royston's district museum

Some of the Royston soldiers from the Battle of Passchendaele. Picture: Royston's district museum

Archant

After the Battle of Passchendale was marked at a special exhibition at Royston’s parish church this week, the Crow has taken a special look at some of the soldiers from Royston who faced the horrors of war to protect our freedom.

Private Wrenford Rayment. Picture: Royston's district museumPrivate Wrenford Rayment. Picture: Royston's district museum

Research doctor Captain Harold Akroyd had already seen service as a doctor in the Somme campaign in 1916, for which he was awarded the Military Cross and was nominated for a Victoria Cross several times.

Between July 31 and August 1, 1917, at the start of Passchendaele, he ran through sniper fire in order to save his men.

Ten days later Captain Ackroyd – who lived in Royston around 1912 – walked along the firing lines to search for casualties and died immediately after being shot in the head. He is remembered on the Royston War Memorial in Melbourn Street.

Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Charles Malcolm Phillips was born into the family of Royston brewers in 1883, and joined the Hertfordshire Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment in 1902.

Private Tom Weston. Picture: Royston's district museumPrivate Tom Weston. Picture: Royston's district museum

He was deployed to France in 1914 – the first year of the war – and served as a Captain and Major until 1917, when he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

He was injured in battle in January 1918 by shell fire, and was held as a prisoner of war until December that year.

One month before he was released, the Armistice treaty which called an end to fighting, was signed.

For his services, Lt Col Phillips was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and was appointed the position of military advisor to King George V in 1932.

Captain Eric Phillips. Picture: Royston's district museumCaptain Eric Phillips. Picture: Royston's district museum

He then went on to also serve as King Edward VIII and King George VI’s military advisor.

Lt Col Phillips remained in Royston for the rest of his life and died in 1957 aged 73.

Private Wrenford Rayment was born in 1889 in Kneesworth, however he lived in the Cambridgeshire side of Royston – before the county border was moved – where he worked as a gardener.

He registered to the Cambridgeshire Regiment on June 7, 1915, before later joining the Machine Gun Corps.

Captain Harold Ackroyd. Picture: Royston's district museumCaptain Harold Ackroyd. Picture: Royston's district museum

He wasn’t in active duty for long however, as on July 31 he was injured by a shell blast – he returned home on August 7, where he had to have his foot amputated.

He wrote in his diary: “A shell burst just by the side of my foot, we lost several men, I am sorry to say.

“So I am more lucky than they, for after all life is sweet, and I may be able to get about well when I am set up.”

Pte Rayment survived the war and remained in Royston for the rest of his life. He married Elsie Pearce in 1929 and they had a daughter together named Katharine. He died in Royston in 1974, aged 85.

Pte William Jeffery Sell was born in Royston in 1895, but moved with his family to Hitchin in the early 1900s.

He joined the Hertfordshire Regiment in 1913, and received the medal for devotion to duty on the first day of the battle.

Two days later, he was shot in both the neck and the arm. He recovered, but was ruled unfit for active service, so he was sent to work in a munitions factory in Hitchin – where he remained until his death in 1918.

He is buried in Hitchin Cemetery, and is remembered on the Hitchin War Memorial. It is presumed that Pte Sell died as a result of his injuries.

Pte Tom Weston was born in Royston in 1894 and enlisted in the army in 1911, when he was 18.

In 1914 a shell exploded above his trench, killing two of his Royston friends. He was sent home as he had suffered from shell shock after being buried in the trench.

He was unconscious when he was admitted to a hospital in Southampton. When he had recovered his consciousness he was transferred to the 4th North General Hospital in Lincoln and was then transferred back home so he could recover.

During his time at home, his term in the army ended, but he re-enlisted and returned to France. From his service records we know that he was missing in action, and was presumed dead.

After his mother launched an enquiry into where her son was, it was confirmed that he had died and was buried in Belgium.

He was posthumously granted the 1914 Star, a medal awarded for service in France, and is also remembered on the Royston War Memorial.

The What Royston Did exhibition on Passchendaele is on until tomorrow at 4pm at St John the Baptist Church. For more on the project go to www.whatroystondid.frierley.com

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