Henry Thomas Aylward (aka Thomas Henry Aylward) (1894-1914) - Pte 9113 1st Bn The King’s (Shropshire Light Infantry)Henry Thomas Aylwardwas born on the 24th January 1894 in Billingshurst, the youngest son of John and Phoebe Aylward.Henry was related to Sydney Moore by the marriage of his sister Mary, to Sydney’s brother Titus. In 1901 Henry was admitted to Itchingfield School whilst living with Titus Moore who is at this time recorded as his guardian. The reason for this is not clear as his parents were still living in Billingshurst with his siblings, but it appears that the same thing happened with his brother Ernest a few years earlier.On 8thFebruary 1909 Henry, aged 17, signed up as a full time soldier with The King’s (Shropshire Light Infantry) and was posted to the 1stBattalion. At the outbreak of war the 1stShropshires were serving in Tipperary in Ireland and, as part of 16thBrigade, 6thDivision of the British Expeditionary Force, were one of the first regiments to be posted to the front.The Battalion were sent to France in early September 1914, landing from the Braemar Castle at St Nazaire on the 10th. The Battalion marched straight into the onset of the trench warfare for which the war became infamous.
On 14 September, following the stalemate of the Battle of the Aisne, the entire BEF were ordered to entrench, but few digging tools were available. Soldiers scouted nearby farms and villages for pickaxes, spades and other implements. Without training for stationary warfare, the troops merely dug shallow pits in the soil. These were at first intended only to afford cover against enemy observation and shell fire. Soon the trenches were deepened to about seven feet. Other protective measures included camouflage and holes cut into trench walls and braced with timber.According to the War Diary, most of September was spent in the trenches near Vailley, under continuous attack but suffering relatively few casualties. In mid-October however the battalion had been moved to trenches at Le Quesne and here things were very different.
A ferocious German attack on the British lines in the early hours of the 23thOctober was repulsed and left hundreds of German troops dead or wounded but despite this the assault continued right through until late afternoon. By the end of the action 34 British soldiers had died and Henry was one of these casualties. He has no known grave as his body was never recovered, but he is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium. Henry was awarded the 1914 Star with Clasp, the Victory Medal and the British War Medal for his service and is commemorated on the War Memorial in Billingshurst.