Gunner Lawrence Ernest Aylwin

Regiment: 131st Battery, 19th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery
Service No: 68822
Date & place of birth: 3rd qtr. 1892 in Bepton, Sussex
Date & place of death: 14 November 1918 (aged 26) in Salonika, Greece

Whereas his brother James was killed in the early weeks of the war, Lawrence Aylwin died three days after the armistice, with pneumonia and malaria.

Family background

Lawrence Ernest Aylwin was the youngest son of Albert Aylwin (1847–1902) and his wife Mary Grace née Chitty (1854–1944). Albert had been born at Didling and married Mary in Bepton church in 1876. The couple had five children, with Lawrence being the last born. The family lived at Bepton Common, where Albert was a labourer on the local farms until he died in September 1902, aged 55.

At the time of the 1911 census, Lawrence was living with his mother and eldest brother Albert at Bepton Common. Lawrence, aged 18, was employed by the General Post Office as an auxiliary postman.

Military service

Lawrence enlisted at Midhurst, joining the 19th Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery. After initial training, the brigade was sent to Greece in October 1915 to take part in the Salonika campaign.

British troops were sent to the Greek port of Salonika (now Thessaloniki) to provide military assistance to Serbia who had been attacked by combined German and Bulgarian armies. The Allied forces arrived too late to prevent Serbia being defeated by the Bulgarians; after spending a bitter winter on the frontier, the allied forces returned to Salonika.

Although the British wished to withdraw their forces, they remained in the Balkans and took part in the Battles of Dorian in April/May 1917 and September 1918, following which the Bulgarian forces surrendered.

Death & commemoration

Lawrence survived the war but died in Salonika on 14 November 1918, three days after the armistice. In the West Sussex Gazette a year later, the family placed a notice in the “In Memoriam” section:

In ever-loving memory of Lawrence Earnest Aylwin RFA, who died in the General Hospital, Salonika, from bronchial pneumonia and malaria, November 14th 1918, of Bepton, Midhurst. Age 26

From Mother, Brother and Sisters.

Lawrence was buried in Mikra British Cemetery in the Municipality of Kalamaria in the city of Thessaloniki (formerly Salonika). Over 700 British soldiers were buried in the cemetery after the war ended on 11 November 1918.

Subsequent family history and other family members

Lawrence’s younger brother, James, served with The South Wales Borderers and was killed in France, on 26 September 1914.

Mary, James and Lawrence’s mother, died on 5 March 1944 and is buried alongside her husband in Bepton churchyard.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project