Doyle, William Benjamin

William Benjamin Doyle was born on the 17th November 1916, according to the Naval Deaths, below, the 2nd son of Edward John & Mary Ann Doyle (nee Round), who had married in St. Ethelwold’s Church, Shotton on the 18th April 1908.       Edward John Doyle,23 a bachelor & Packer, from Shotton, his father William Doyle was a Blacksmith, he married Mary Ann Round, 20, a spinster also from Shotton, her father being Benjamin Robert Round, a Furnaceman.    Their witnesses were William Thomas Goldie & Ada Round.

I think that Edward John DOYLE applied to go in the Army in the July 1901, but was in just 49 days and then he reapplied in  December 1901 as the Attestations look as though they are for the same person. – Edward John DOYLE – he had obviously grown – either working out to gain muscle and weight or just growing in the 6 months and joining the 3rd South Staffordshire Regiment in the meantime also having tattoos! 

Edward John Doyle, when he entered the Army may have made a few errors, in any case he confused the issue, but where they his errors or the Army i/c,  who filled in the Attestation Papers?    He states on two Attestation Papers that he was born in Barrow-n-Furness, Lancashire on one (Regtl. No. 6438,in July 1901)and Barrow-in Furness, Cumberlandshire on the other (Regtl. No. 6290 Dec, 1901), and on this one, his address was 17, Park Field, Stockton on Tees in 1901 and 3, New Street, Bilston, which is the address he also gives on the front of this Attestation Paper.  He gives his Next of Kin as his parents as William & Mary Ann DOYLE, and a brother and sister, Benjamin and Alice, (His twin?).   Now we know from the 1911 census that William and Mary Ann had 10 children and sadly only 3 survived, so were they Edward John Benjamin and Alice?   William & Mary Ann give their address as No. 3, New Street, Bilston, Staffs and Alice’s address is Parkfield Road, Stockton-on-Tees, (is she living with Edward?) and Benjamin is living at Cosley Street, Bilston.  (I do not know what the Bracketed No’s were by Benjamin and Alice’s name, they cannot be ages, as Alice was Edward’s twin according to the censuses.  I do believe that this is “Our” Edward John.

Edward John DOYLE had been in the South Staffordshire Regiment from 1901 to 1907 and served in South Africa  from 15th July 1903 to the 30th January 1904 and then in India  from the 21st January 1904 to the 1st May 1907 when he was invalided home on the 2nd May 1908, arriving home on the 28th May 1907, that time counted as Service in India.   His total time in the Service was 5 years 175 days.    I don’t know if this had a long lasting effect on him. I have his Attestation papers, here is a description of him in 1901.

Age 18 years 7 months

Height – 5feet 4 and ¼  inches

Chest Measurements- Min -35 inches, Max – 35

Complexion – Fresh

Eyes – Brown

Hair – Brown.

Tattoo- + on back of left forearm, one + on right arm.

Lichfield 4th December 1901

The 1911 census shows that Edward John Doyle, 27, & Mary Ann Doyle, 22, living in the Nine Houses, Shotton (4 rooms), having confirmed their marriage of 2 years 11 months and that one child, Beatrice Doyle, 2, had already been born in Shotton and was still living.    Edward John had been born in Barrow in Furness and Mary Ann born in Pontynewnydd.

From the -Family Tree of norinaj28

When Edward John Doyle was born on 17 May 1883 in Cumberland, his father, William, was 30 and his mother, Mary, was 27. He married Mary Ann Round on 18 April 1908 in Shotton, Flintshire. They had four children in 21 years. He died on 2 July 1949 in Shotton, Flintshire, at the age of 66.

The 1921 census, which was taken on the 19th of June 1921, shows that the family had increased, but they were still living at the Nine Houses, Shotton.   Edward John Doyle was now 36 years and 2 months old; he tells us that he had been born in Barrow in Furness, Lancashire.   He was a Loco Engine Driver at John Summers, Hawarden Bridge Steelworks, Shotton, his wife Mary Ann Doyle was now 33 years and 7 months old and had been born in Pontypridd, South Wales.   The two birthplaces contradict earlier information from the 1911 census and the family tree of norinaj28.   Their children were Beatrice Doyle, 12 years, and 3 months old, Edward John Doyle, 8 years and 7 months and William Benj. Doyle, 4 years 8 months old.  They had been born in Shotton, Flintshire.

The next time we see the Doyle family is on the 1939 National Register which was taken on the 19th September 1939, the war having been declared on the 3rd of September.   They were living at 31 Brook Road , Shotton,  Flintshire.   Edward J. Doyle’s date of birth was given as the 12th May 1885 and he was an Electric Engineer.   His wife, Mary Ann’s birthdate was the 18th January 1888, and like most married women on this register, who did not have a job, was doing ”Unpaid Domestic Duties.”

Their son Kenneth, born on the 28th November 1930 was at School. And there were 3 Boarders, all from the Local R.A.F. Camp at Sealand.

Walter  Clark      13 Mar 1906        Male      Carpenter R A F L A C 362851       Married                264         4

Arthur   Telford 19 Jul 1901           Male      Carpenter R A F L A C 354549       Married                264         5

Fride J   Swinney 24 Mar 1900     Male      Carpenter R A F L A C 355686       Married                264         6

I have found some documentation on each of them (please contact the webpage for more information on the 3 Boarders (RAF)) who where in the household on the 29th September 1939 when the Register was taken.)

War was declared on the 3rd September, 1939 so William Benjamin may have already enlisted or indeed may have been in the Royal Navy before the war, but I cannot find any documents to tell us that, but if there is any information to add to his story, so he can be remembered, it will be gratefully received.

There is a Transcription of British armed forces and overseas deaths and burials which confirms William Benjamin’s birthdate as 17th November 1916 and place of birth as Shotton.   His cause of death at Crete (Cause of Death – 2 – Missing – Death on War Service Presumed), Death date – 22 May 1941, but please go to the website to read the full story of HMS Gloucester,  below that will give details of the Gloucester and also I have added an excerpt from another to make sure that William Benjamin and his crewmates will be remembered.

This is an excerpt from the above and I have no idea if this “Billie Doyle” who is mentioned is “our” William Benjamin Doyle, but it could have very well have been:-

“Nightfall blackened the already dark sky and Albert ‘Tubby’ Revans recorded what happened on his raft;

‘By eight o’clock it was dark, very dark, with no moon and only faint starlight. We could see, or fancied we could see, the dark bulk of the island, looking to the north. But after a while the wind rose dead off the land and raised an icy, chopping sea, which made clean breaks right over us. In addition to chilling us to the bone, it made it most difficult to cling to the raft and we were capsized several times. At about ten o’clock, Bill Hollett showed signs of weakening. His breath came in rattling, liquid gasps and there was white foam coming from his mouth and nose, showing against his black beard. We supported him between us and encouraged him as best we could but after about an hour his head fell back and quite peacefully, without a struggle, he died. We took off his lifebelt and released his body, which sank like a stone. Who next? I thought. I soon found out. The Maltese, called Joe Simlar, was already very weak but he clung on doggedly and kept on saying that he was all right. About an hour after midnight we were capsized again and when we got the raft righted, poor Joe was gone. This left three of us. I was quite fit but McCarthy and the boy had gone blind with oil fuel in their eyes. Poor devils, they could do nothing. I tried, nearly all night, to paddle towards where I thought the island lay, but it was hopeless and I suppose I knew it really’.

“As dawn broke, Tubby’s fears were realised and he knew his efforts to reach Kythira had been in vain, even though the sea was calmer and the raft was now floating better with fewer men on it;  So we drifted all that miserable morning. McCarthy’s lungs were full of oil and water he had breathed in the night before, he died at about 1100. I put him over the side and saw his body sinking down and down through the clear water. I could still see him fathoms deep, sinking slowly with his dead eyes open. The boy was in a bad way now, blind and very weak. I could see that he would not last long. About midday he began speaking wildly and a little later raved incoherently for about half an hour, then suddenly he fell quiet and died at about two o’clock in the afternoon. By then I was too weak to take off his lifebelt, so he drifted away on the surface, his red hair resting on the water’. 

Also Billy Grindell described his long night;  “The carley float could hold perhaps thirty or forty men inboard. When one died he was put over the side and somebody who was in the water was pulled on board. 

Eventually I got pulled on and there were two other stokers in the raft, Jimmy Henshaw and Billy Doyle. We were sitting in the float with water up to our necks. Fatigue was our worst enemy at that point but if you went to sleep it was fatal. Both Doyle and Henshaw fell asleep and drowned in the float at my feet. The following morning there was only six of us still alive’. 

Bill Howe was on a float, parts of which had been shot away, and men were hanging onto the sides and paddling with their free hand.”

To give an idea what William and many other suffered I have included the article below, many thanks to J.E. Price and the website

This is an extract from J.E. Price book, “Heels in Line “. The title refers to how the sailors left their shoes on the deck when they left the Gloucester for the last time. He was a gunner on the ship and spent the rest of the war in various POW camps in Greece, Austria and Germany . At the end of the war, he was in a camp in Poland and was freed by the Americans. He was suffering from frost bitten toes (which were amputated without anaesthetic). He was flown back to Britain suffering from Typhoid and was not expected to survive the journey. Eventually, he was de-mobbed back to his home in Exmouth where he became a postman and where he spent the rest of his life. He very patriotically died on Trafalgar Day in 1978 – a sailor until the end!

The book is out of print, but is well worth reading if you can get a copy.

Also lost on HMS Gloucester was :-

WILLIAMS, W.C. (William Charles) Marine PLY/X 2359 H.M.S. Gloucester. Royal Marines Son of Evan Williams, and of Edith May Williams, of Connah’s Quay, Flintshire.  Died 22nd May 1941 age 20 years. Commemorated at Plymouth Naval Memorial, Location: Devon, United Kingdom

William Charles Williams’s name was added to the WW2 War Memorial, please click on his name to read his story, sadly William Benjamin’s name was not, for whatever reason.

William Benjamin was well loved and his name added to the Hawarden War Memorial to be remembered, I do not know why he wasn’t added to the Connah’s Quay & Shotton War Memorial as the memorial is only a stone’s throw away from Brook Road.

Learn more about the other soldiers on the Hawarden Memorial

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