2nd Lieutenant Harold Bertram RYLANDS
4 Platoon, A Company, 16th (Service) Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers (2nd Salford)

Date of birth: 18th April 1895
Date of death: 23rd November 1916

Killed in action aged 21
Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial Panel and Face 3C and 3D
Harold Bertram Rylands was born at Eccles in Lancashire on the 18th of April 1895 the second son of Richard Walter Rylands, a solicitor, and Mary Elizabeth (nee Isherwood) Rylands of Ashburn Lodge, Worsley in Manchester. He was christened at All Saints Church, Bolton on the 15th of May 1895.

He was educated at All Saints School Bloxham near Banbury from 1905 to 1909 and at Lancing College where he was in Olds House from September 1909, in News House from September 1910 and in Fields House from September to December 1912. He served as a Private in the Officer Training Corps for three years while he was at the College. On leaving school he went on to Manchester University where he was a member of the University Officer Training Corps from September 1914.

On leaving he joined Messrs. David Smith, Garnett & Co, chartered accountants of Manchester, but later followed his father and older brother into the law being articled to Messrs. Bootle, Edgar, Grace and Rylands, solicitors of Manchester. Before joining the army he took an active interest in the Swinton Boy Scouts and in the Swinton Home Defence Corps.

Following the outbreak of war he applied for a commission on the 20th of December 1914 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 16th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers on the 19th of December 1914. He embarked for France with his battalion at Folkestone on the 22nd of November 1915 and landed at Boulogne from where they made their way towards the Somme.

At 11pm on the 10th of March 1916 the Germans raided the trenches of the 16th Battalion causing a number of casualties, mostly from shellfire. The shelling lasted until 12.30am and an estimated 2,000 shells fell on or around their positions causing casualties of one officer killed with four wounded and one missing with twelve other ranks killed and thirty one wounded with seven missing and sixteen suffering from shock. Harold Rylands was among the wounded and his father received the following telegram dated the 14th of March 1916: -

"Regret to inform you 2nd Lieut. H.B. Rylands was wounded March 11th (sic). Will wire further details when received."

Lieutenant Colonel Abercrombie felt compelled to write to his parents:-

"I am sorry that your son was amongst the wounded on March 10th, but hasten to tell you that his hurt is not serious. Your son was hit early in the action but refused to go to the dressing station, and stayed at his post until the shelling ceased before he would consent to have his wound attended to. We cannot afford to lose such a cool and devoted officer as your son has shown himself to be."

His father received a further telegram dated the 24th of March 1916:- "2nd Lt H.B. Rylands Lancashire Fusiliers admitted 1 General Hospital Etaples March 22nd with slight influenza." and a further one dated the 3rd of April 1916: - 2nd Lt H.B. Rylands Lancashire Fusiliers discharged to duty March 19th after treatment for influenza."

He survived the carnage of the opening day of the Battle of the Somme when his battalion attacked at Thiepval and by November the battalion was involved in the closing stages of the battle, the Battle of the Ancre.

On the 18th of November 1916 an attack was launched by the 11th Battalion Border Regiment and the 16th Battalion Highland Light Infantry to the north of Beaumont Hamel on the German positions there. During the fighting about 120 men from both battalions became cut off in "Frankfurt" Trench and were quickly surrounded but refused to surrender. For the next three days they fought on. Four men came back through the lines to bring the news that they had a large number of wounded, that their ammunition was running low and that there was need for a rescue mission. On the 23rd of November the Salford Pals were called on to launch an attack in an attempt to reach and relieve the beleaguered garrison of desperate men. In concert with a company of men from the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, and supported by a barrage, they dashed across the shattered landscape and swept into "Munich" trench. Fighting quickly became hand to hand and officer casualties were heavy. As a result, Harold Rylands was sent forward to take charge of the rescue attempt but was shot and killed almost immediately. Private Dai Davies saw him fall in the German lines but in a position where he could not be reached. After a fight lasting only 45 minutes the few survivors of the rescue party were forced to withdraw with casualties estimated at sixty. On the 25th the men who had been cut off were forced to surrender, having had their number reduced to 15 effective soldiers and having been almost completely out of ammunition.

His father received a telegram dated the 29th of November 1916: -

"Deeply regret to inform you 2nd Lt H.B. Rylands 16th Lancashire Fusiliers was missing believed killed November 23rd. The Army Council express their sympathy."

In a letter dated the 24th of November 1916, 2nd Lieutenant M.J. Carew, 16th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers ,wrote:-

"My dear Mr and Mrs Rylands, It is with very great regret indeed that I have to advise you of the death of your son Mr H.B. Rylands who, with Captain Merryweather, was killed in action in an attack on the German line on Thursday 23rd inst. In all the Battalion had three officers killed and about 150 men killed and wounded. In the great loss your goodselves have suffered it may be little consolation for you to know that your dear son was loved and respected by all the officers and men of the Battalion. Personally I keenly regret his loss, having been associated with him in A Coy for some six months and during that time I found him to be a very true friend indeed. Without further intrusion I should like to express on behalf of all officers our deepest sympathy. PS All personal effects will be forwarded in due course - I think a few small items were lost in the trenches."

On the 28th of November Lieutenant Colonel Charles Murray Abercrombie, Commanding Officer 16th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, wrote:-

"It is with deepest grief that I write to you about the loss of your son. Although I have made the most careful enquiries it is still impossible to say whether we may still hope that he was wounded only and is now a prisoner. If this is so you will hear in due course from the War Office and your son will be returned to you at the end of the war. I sincerely trust that his may be so. We were ordered to make an attack to rescue some men who had been cut off in an attack made 5 days previously and who had held out in the German lines all that time. We captured the German front line but the party that was to go forward did not effect the rescue. Your son was seen to fall beyond the German line and so it was impossible to bring him in and I can find no one amongst those who returned who were near to him when he fell. I am deeply grieved at losing your son, one of the original officers, who had become a great friend of everyone in the Battalion. His quiet devotion to duty and his reliable and careful character in addition to his perfect bravery and coolness shown many times in action made him a splendid officer and one that it will be very difficult to replace. I offer you my most sincere sympathy in your anxiety and hope we shall hear before long that he is safe in German hands. "

Private Lancaster of Ryland's Company wrote the following to his parents:-

"We were in trenches near Beaumont, when the Germans attacked us. Your son did us good and fought hard. I saw him near our trench and he looked like a confused person. I shouted his name and he turned to look at where I was when he was done by a German. The soldier was soon dead as well."

As he had been posted as missing a number of statements were taken to determine his fate with his father writing to a number of members of his battalion in addition.

Statement taken from Private Dai Davies, 16th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers taken on the 2nd of December 1916: -

"The attack of November 23rd was worse than July. The D Coy of the 16th had to occupy the first line of captured German trenches while the A Coy had to go into the 2nd German trench where about 60 had been for 5 days and unable to return. It was to rescue these men that the attack was made. They were to leave on the 21st – 6am bit later on it was put off to 3.30. It was 25 to 4 on 23rd that Mr Davies saw Harold, revolver in hand, urging his men on. Between the two trenches Harold and 2 other officers were killed within a short time of each other. Bevins was by his side and killed at the same time. Harold died in endeavouring to save the imprisoned comrades, at the head of his men. We had to retire as the Germans attacked from the side as well."

Undated letter to Richard Rylands from Private 39401 William Finney, 16th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers from Ward No. 1, Military Hospital, Burniston Road, Scarborough: -

"Sir, I write in answer to your letter and I am sorry to let you know that your son got killed as we were ordered to try and relieve some of our lads from out at the German second line but it was without succour and I was with A Company as I am with the Lewis gun and I was on the left of your son’s Coy. We had got near the German front lines when I saw your son fall but I don’t know what hit him as there was a lot of our lads got killed with our own heavy fire but there was very few of us that got back and I got hit in the shoulder and head and was able to look after myself."

Letter dated the 8th of December 1916 from A. Simpson Lock, Ward Orderly at the Military Hospital, Haxby Road, York:-

Dear Sir, Sgt Turner 16th Lancashire Fusiliers has instructed me to reply to your letter of the 7th inst. He is unfortunately unable to give you any definite particulars as to your son being himself wounded on 21st November and he tells me that the last time he saw Lieut. Rylands was when on removal from the trenches the missing officer came up to him and asked the damage etc and on being told its nature (gun shot wound in the right arm) he replied “Cheero” and left him. Turner states however that Pte Finney informed him that hopes need not be given up because it was quite possible that Lieut. Rylands might still be alive and a prisoner in the hands of the Germans, Pte Finney has however left this hospital his present address is Military Hospital, Scarborough and your letter will be forwarded to him at that address. Sergt. Turner’s home address is 12 McCleary Street, Bolton Road, Pendleton.

Letter to Richard Rylands from Private 37776 R. Burton, C Company, 16th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers from Brookdale Hospital, Alderley Edge dated the 9th of December 1916: -

"Dear Sir
I am sorry at not being able to give you any news about Lieut. Rylands as I am in C Coy and Lieut. Rylands’ Company took over the trenches from our Company. We were in the advance at Beaumont Hamel on that date and the country being so dug up and no roads that I think it very likely that he may have got wounded and cut off from the Battalion, but I hope that Lieut. Rylands is alive and that we shall all have the pleasure of seeing him before long as I am only one along with the Battalion who held the best respects for him. I have some pals in A Company and I intend on your behalf to write and ask them if they can oblige you with any news of which I hope will be of the best. Believing me one of your obedient servants, Yours truly R. Burton"

Letter to Richard Rylands from Lance Corporal 12135 J. Croden, A Company, 16th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers from Norfolk West Hospital. Thorpe, Norwich dated the 10th of December 1916: -

"Dear Sir,
I now take the pleasure in answering your letter which I have received over your son Lieut. H.B. Rylands to whom you say is missing or killed. Well sir the only information I can give you as near as possible that your son Lieut. H.B. Rylands was with me on the 23/11/16 and after I was hit myself but till then he was alright because me and your son was talking together for a long time what I mean by talking we were joking but I cannot say of his whereabouts since then, as I am very sorry indeed myself to hear of that sad news as we was always on patrol me and your son we went over together on the 21/11/16 and both of us got back safe. Dear I will be anxious myself till I get to know the real news and I will be only too glad to let you know of any information of your son if I can get to hear any more so I don’t think I can say any more at the present. When I get home sir I will come and have a talk with you”

Statement of Private Broadmeadow, 16th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, dated the 16th of December 1916: -

"Private Broadmeadow of the 16th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers C Coy now at Moseley Red Cross Hospital and whose home is at Lower Borughton stated that he did not know Lieut. H.B. Rylands. That on the 23rd Nov 1916 he was with the Battalion in France – below Beaumont Hamel – they had previously had 12 days in the trenches and should have been relieved that morning. The attack was arranged for the morning but was postponed until the afternoon. There were some men of the Border Regiment who had taken a German trench and had been cut off. The attack was to relieve these men. D Coy were the first wave to go over the parapet to attack, There was another Batt. Alongside the 16th Fusilier namely the Iniskillings. As far as he understood A Coy was to hold the line - D Coy he was certain were the first to go over but he could give no account and did not see Lieut. Rylands in action at all. Lieut. Higginson died in a German trench."

Letter from the field in France dated the 21st of December 1916 from 2nd Lieutenant W. Newman-Watts, 16th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers: -

"Dear Mr Rylands,
I am afraid I cannot give you any fresh information about your son. The Privates who have written to you are in a far better position to tell you anything than I am as they would be with him. We were relieved the morning following the fight and I don’t know what has been done since. The last I saw of Bill was just before we reached the German front line. He was in command of the 4th wave and went towards the German second line to support Lieut. Higginson who has also been reported missing believed killed. At that time we were engaged in a warm fight ourselves and I didn’t see any more of your son. I will make enquiries and try and find out if the ground has been examined since we left there. If I can get any information I will communicate with you at once. Please accept my deepest sympathy for yourself and Mrs Rylands in your grief.”

Letter from the field in France from 2nd Lieutenant M.J. Carew, 16th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, dated the 24th of December 1916: -

"Dear Mr Rylands, I must apologise for the delay in answering your letter of the 8th inst. But I have been away on leave. As regards Harold – A Coy on that afternoon and for some time had but 3 officers, Capt. Merryweather, Harold and self. I made all possible enquiries at the time, and all I could find out was that he was last seen bombing a dug out which, of course means that he was in the German line. Unfortunately his servant who would be close to Harold, has not turned up, otherwise more definite information might be got. I need scarcely tell you that after an attack it is very difficult to get reliable news."

Statement of Private 33693 B. Sawyer A Company, 16th Battalion Lancashire "Fusiliers taken at a hospital in France on the 3rd of February 1917: -

"I saw him go into the charges at Beaumont Hamel on Nov. 23rd. Stated when he came back that he had seen the officer killed and reported the facts to Mrs. Rylands while on leave in England."

Private Foulds wrote to Richard Rylands from his hospital bed: -

"Dear Sir, You have my deepest sympathy – I am very sorry to say he was killed on the 23rd November in the afternoon I was about 20 yards from him. We was going to relieve the Dorsets they was first between the front line and the second – your son was cheering his men on at the time – I am very badly wounded myself in the arm and back – I will write to you as soon I can. Just excuse this writing I only have one arm. Yours truly Alf Foulds
PS I will let you know all when the pains gone – hoping you will write back."

Statement of Private 33988 C. Bentley VI Platoon, B Company, 16th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers taken at a hospital in France on the 23rd of January 1917: -

"Pte. Hobbs of B Co. VI Pltn. now up the line, told me he saw this officer killed at Beaumont Hamel on 23rd November in no man's land by machine gun fire. We also gave this information to the Co. C.O. after the action."

Statement of Sergeant 11245 Harry Orton 16th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers taken at a hospital in England on the 26th of January 1917: -

“At Beaumont Hamel at 3.30pm on November 23rd we went over. Mr Rylands was leading his men when he was shot by a bullet. We did not take the German trenches. I could not say if he was dead. The Germans might come out into no man’s land, as we had some distance to go back.”

Statement of Private 33695 B. Sawyer A Company, 16th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers taken at No. 7 Canadian General Hospital, Etaples on the 3rd of February 1917: -

“I saw him go into the charge at Beaumont Hamel on Nov. 23rd. He was missing afterwards. Cpl. Hughes, A Coy. 16th Bn. Stated when he came back that he had seen the officer killed. Pte. Davies, B Coy. Also saw him killed and reported the facts to Mrs. Rylands, while on leave in England.

Letter from Richard Rylands to the War Office: -
I have been informed that Corporal Boon 12196 of the above regiment saw my son fall. He states as follows: -

“Just at the time when your son was shot we had to leave the German trenches and they were only left but he was not dead but seriously wounded and we got bombed out and had to retire those that were able and your son was left with the remainder in German hands.” Corporal Boon is at present in hospital at Hyde Park Barracks, Plymouth. Perhaps you would be good enough to take his statement. Yours faithfully.

Statement of Private 20005 Pimblett 96th Machine Gun Company taken at a hospital in France on the 19th of February 1917: -

"He was my officer. We had gone over beyond Beaumont at 5pm to try to get some men of the Border Regiment who were cut off. he was killed about 20 yards from "Johnnie's Trench". I passed as close to him as I am to you. It looked as if he had been hit by a bomb."

Statement of Private 12113 V.Z. Russell, 16th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers: -

"States that 2/Lt. H.B. Rylands was an officer in his original company; Lt. Rylands went into the trenches with his Company (in which Pte. V.Z. Russell was) and the Germans attacked and occupied the trench for some time. The trench was situated some distance from Mailly-Maillet. 2/Lt. Rylands was in the trenches further forward than the one Pte. Russell was in. 2/Lt. Rylands never came out of the trenches again. That is the only fact Pte. Russell knows as to his death. He was told by Pioneers L/C Johnstone, 16th Lancs. Fus. that Lt. Rylands had been killed. Pte. Russell states that so far as he knows no prisoners were being taken on this occasion."

Mr. A. H. Higginson, the father of Lieutenant Higginson, wrote to Richard Rylands in a letter dated the 6th of March 1917: -

“I have four letters from different men which I received from the Red cross Society. They differ a little but all seem quite sure that my son was killed. Sergt. Avlett who was in North Hants General Hospital writes that he crawled up to my son and found he was quite dead. I wrote and asked him if he knew what had happened to your son (Second Lieut. H.B. Rylands) but he said he did not know. A friend of mine who is a nurse in Bristol Royal Infirmary went to see a man called Turner at Southmead Hospital who stated that my son and yours were both killed. The two last letters have both been from men in France. Both say that my son was killed and when they retired that he was seen lying there.”

Statement of Private 12113 B. Russell, A Company, 16th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers taken at Springburn Hospital, Glasgow on the 7th of March 1917: -

“I know that 2nd Lt. Rylands was killed as I saw him afterwards. The engagement was near Mailly.”

Letter from C.A.H. Fry of the 2nd Southern General Hospital, Bristol dated the 8th of March 1917:-

"I have seen Private Turner this afternoon and he confirms the report he made on arrival here last January. He tells me that the regiment went over the top on Nov. 23rd about 3.30pm and that after advancing about 20 yards your son fell, shot somewhere in the body by machine gun fire. The regiment advanced short distance further and then had to retire, and he states that your son was still lying where he fell and showed no movement. Altogether they lost about 250 men that afternoon and he tells me that no wounded succeeded in getting back to the trenches before they were relieved by the 7th Devons early next morning."

Letter from Staff Captain E.F. Gamon, General Headquarters, 3rd Echelon, B.E.F. dated the 1st of June 1917: -

To – Officer Commanding, 16th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers
With reference to your telegram C.O.L.506 dated 26.5.17, will you please state your reason for not placing reliance on the unofficial statements of No. 11346, Sergt. G.E. Hughes and No. 15212 L/Cpl. R. Johnstone concerning the fate of 2/Lieut. Rylands. The following is a copy of evidence forwarded by the War Office, in which these two N.C.O’s are mentioned, and an explanation is required by the War Office in the event of the death not being confirmed by you, as to whether the information is incorrect, or the informants unreliable. –
“I saw him go into the charge at Beaumont Hamel on Nov. 23rd. He was missing afterwards. Cpl. Hughes A Company, 16th Batt. Stated when he came back that he had seen the officer killed. Private Davies, B Coy, also saw him killed and reported that facts to Mrs Rylands while on leave in England” Private 33693 B. Sawyer A Company, 16th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers from a hospital in France.
“12113, Pte. V.W. Russell, 16th Lancs. Fus. states that 2/Lieut. Rylands was an officer in his original company; Lt Rylands went into the trenches with his Company (in which Pte. V.W. Russell was) and the Germans attacked and occupied the trench for some time. The trench was situated some distance from Mailly-Maillet. 2/Lieut. Rylands was in the trenches further forward that the one Pte. Russell was in. 2/Lieut. Rylands never came out of the trenches again. That is the only fact Pte. Russell knows as to his death. He was told by Pioneer L/C Johnstone, 16th Lancs. Fus. That Lt. Rylands had been killed. Pte. Russell states that so far as he knows, no prisoners were being taken on this occasion.”

In response, Lieutenant Colonel wrote back on the 6th of June 1917: -

"Referenced attached and the fate of 2nd Lt. H.B. Rylands. I think that the death of this officer may be presumed on account of time which has elapsed since he was missing and because there is evidence to show that he was in a position which came under very heavy machine gun fire. I do not place any reliance on the statements given on the attached letter, because they are all hearsay evidence.
1st Evidence. Pte. Sawyer does not say he saw the officer killed. Corpl, (now Sergt. Hughes) has stated to me that he never saw the officer after the beginning of the attack and never made any such statement as is attributed to him by Pte. Sawyer. Pte. Davies is away from the unit and a statement by him would be evidence. What Pte. Sawyer says Pte. Davies said, is as I understand it, not evidence worth considering.
2nd Evidence Neither Pte. Russell nor L/C Johnstone were in any position to give reliable evidence – they were behind the attack carrying wounded to the dressing station and they merely repeat vague statements they heard from men coming back from the fighting. Pte. Russell is set down as stating that the Germans attacked which shows he has not the least idea of what was going on. I should like to add that only those on the spot can decide what is reliable evidence and on all occasions every effort is made to get information regarding casualties. I have examined personally every man who could give an information about 2nd Lt. H.B. Rylands and have written many times to Mr. Rylands (father) telling him all that could be ascertained. I trust that 2nd Lt. H.B. Rylands can now be officially presumed dead."

His father applied for his medals in March 1920 and they are now owned by a private collector.

His brother, Captain Reginald Victor Rylands 1/7th Battalion Manchester Regiment, was killed in action on the 29th of May 1915.

In December 1923 his father endowed scholarships in law at Manchester University to be awarded by the Manchester Law Society in memory of his two sons.

He is commemorated on the memorial at All Saints School, Bloxham and, along with his brother, on a plaque and a double stained glass window in Holyrood Church, Swinton, Salford, Manchester. He is also commemorated on the memorial at Manchester University.

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