305704 SGT. C. NAYLOR. K.L.R.
Charles Naylor was born in the third quarter of 1893 in Bamber Bridge. His father was James Louis Naylor (b. 1860 in Bamber Bridge), who was a chemist and druggist by profession and owned a shop a few doors down from the White Bull on Station Road, Bamber Bridge. Charles’ mother was Sarah Agnes Dandy (b. 1863 in Broughton). James and Sarah were married in 1887 and they had five children, though two died young. The surviving children were James (b. 1892), Charles, and Louis (b. 1898). In 1911, Charles was living with his parents at 219-221 Station Road, and he was working as a ratings surveyor’s clerk in the Borough Surveyor's Office in Preston.
Charles enlisted at the outbreak of War in the King’s (Liverpool Regiment). He was assigned service number 2527 and posted to 1/8Bn. In 1917 he was given a new-style service number, 305704, and at some stage he was promoted to Sergeant and then to Sergeant Major (Company SM rather than Regimental SM as the article states). In 1915, when they landed in France (3 May), 1/8th (Irish) Battalion came under orders of 154th Brigade in 51st (Highland) Division but on 17 January 1916, the Bn was transferred to 165th Brigade in 55th (West Lancashire) Division. 55th Division’s first real test was during the Battle of the Somme and the assault on the village of Guillemont (4-6 September). They then fought at Ginchy (9 September), Flers-Courcellette (17-22 September) and Morval (25-28 September). The Division suffered heavy losses and at the end of the month they received orders to leave the Somme and move to the Ypres salient, where they remained for over a year. The first half of 1917 in the salient was considered relatively ‘quiet’ though they were still surrounded on three sides and constantly exposed to enemy artillery fire. 13 July 1917 was a fairly typical day. The Bn was in the trenches at Potijze. The War Diary records “Work continued as much as possible. Trenches and back areas heavily shelled with gas shells, which hampered the work in the trenches and also patrol work. Casualties: 2 killed, 3 wounded, 10 gassed.” But much worse was to come.
31 July 1917 was the opening day of what would become known as the Third Battle of Ypres, or more infamously, Passchendaele. That day, 55th Division (including Charles Naylor’s 1/8KLR) had moved from Potijze to Wieltje east of Ypres and they were charged with the capture of a number of objectives north of the village of Frezenberg (Spree Farm, Pond Farm and Schuler Farm, marked on the map below).
The map shows the area where 55th Division made their attack. The attack began at 8.30 in the morning of 31 July and was made behind a creeping barrage, which was supposed to be advancing at the rate of 100yds every 4 minutes. The War Diary contains a number of personal accounts from NCOs and other ranks, among which is one from a Private J. Shane, which captures well the confusion of the day:
Between 30 July and 4 August, in the Division’s attack in the area of Spree, Pond and Schuler Farms, no fewer than 168 officers and 3384 men were killed, wounded or missing. The Division was withdrawn to Recques for re-fit and training on 7 August. The Division had made some significant advances in the opening attack but was eventually forced back to exactly where they started.
Charles Naylor was among the dead on 31 July, aged just 24.
Service Number: 305704
Rank: Sergeant Major (CWGC says Sergeant but his medal record shows WOII).
Date of Death: 31 July 1917
Regiment/Service: King’s (Liverpool Regiment), 1st/8th Bn
Cemetery/memorial reference: Panel 4 and 6.
Memorial: YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL
Additional Information: Son of James Louis and Sarah Agnes Naylor, of 221 Station Road, Bamber Bridge, Preston.