Private Charles Ayling

Regiment: 10th Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers
Service No.: GS/42788
Date and place of birth: 10 February 1897 in Treyford
Date and place of death: 2 February 1917 (aged 19) at Merville, northern France

Charles Ayling was born in Treyford, the son of a woodsman who lived at Philliswood, in the south of the parish. He served with the Royal Fusiliers in France, where he died of bronchitis.

Family background

Charles Ayling was born on 10 February 1897 at Philliswood, in the south of Treyford parish. His parents were George Ayling (1849 – 1927) and his wife Amy née Treagus (1862 – 1905).

George Ayling had been born in Kirdford but lived most of his childhood at Upwaltham, between Chichester and Petworth. In the autumn of 1887, he married Amy Treagus, who was 13 years his junior. Amy had been born in Cocking but had moved to Philliswood in the 1870s.

The couple lived at No 28, Philliswood, next door to Amy’s parents, Ambrose and Eliza Treagus, where both George and Ambrose worked as woodsmen. From mid-1888 to November 1889, George was the innkeeper at the Royal Oak, close to the family home. The couple’s first child, Rosina was born in September 1888, followed by a son, George, in early 1890. Their cottage is now half of No 27, which still stands north of the Royal Oak at Hooksway.

By the 1901 census, the family had left Treyford and were living at Stoughton. George junior had died in 1900, aged 10, and two other children had died as infants. Amy died in early 1905, aged 42. George continued to live at Stoughton, where in 1911 he was now described as a “general labourer”. Living with him in the house at Wildham Wood in 1911 were his surviving four children, Rosina (aged 22), Charles (aged 14), Amy (aged 11) and Edward (aged 8). Charles was described as a general labourer on a “gentleman’s estate”.

Military service

Charles enlisted at Chichester, probably in late 1915, into the 10th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers (London Regiment). The battalion was part of the 111th Brigade, 37th Division which had landed in France at Boulogne in July 1915. The 10th Battalion was originally one of Kitchener’s “New Army” battalions raised in the City of London in August 1914; it was unofficially referred to as the “stockbrokers’ battalion”, as many of the original members worked in the London Stock Exchange.

From July to November 1916, the 10th Battalion took part in various battles on the Somme, fighting at Pozieres, High Wood and Mametz Wood. In December 1916, the battalion moved north from the Somme and spent Christmas at Neuve Chapelle, about 15 miles west of Lille.

Death and commemoration

The grave of Private Charles Ayling at  Merville Communal Cemetery Extension
The grave of Private Charles Ayling at Merville Communal Cemetery Extension

Charles died at Merville Casualty Clearing Station (nine miles north-west of Neuve Chapelle) from bronchitis on 2 February 1917 and was buried at Merville Community Cemetery Extension. His headstone bears the inscription: “He Giveth His Beloved Sleep” (Psalm 127:2).

He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal and is commemorated on the War Memorial plaque at Treyford.

Other family members

Charles’s younger brother, Edward, joined the Royal Marines as a bugler, aged 15, at Gosport in September 1917. He served with the Royal Marines for 33 years, reaching the rank of Colour Sergeant, and was discharged in August 1950. He married Clementina Francis in 1925 and the couple had four children. Edward died in June 1977.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project