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Unknown Officer: North Staffordshire Regiment, Rue Petillon M.C. 2.A.6


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There is an Unknown British Officer in Plot 2 Row A Grave 25 of the Rue Petillon MIlitary Cemetery.


GRRF: http://archive.cloud.cwgc.org/archive/doc/doc2509498.JPG

HDSCHD: https://archive.cloud.cwgc.org/archive/doc/doc2704285.JPG

COG-BR: https://archive.cloud.cwgc.org/archive/doc/doc2148500.JPG


His remains were recovered from the Lambersart German Cemetery at 36.J.30.a.25.80, which is labelled as the Lambersart Communal Cemetery German Extension. He was removed from Grave #374, tagged as died on 11.2.7 (11 February 1917). That placement is on the northwest boundary of Lille, France.


There is only one (1) British Officer missing on that day and that is LIEUTENANT RYLEY (DONALD ARTHUR GEORGE BUCHANAN) of the North Staffordshire Regiment. The CWGC does not tell me what battalion, so I need to locate that information before I can check the war diary.


But WAIT - there is quite a detailed story of the Ryley boys here on a Google Search: http://www.wandsworthhistory.org.uk/historian/ryley.pdf



On 15 February 1917 Donald Ryley‟s paternal grandfather – given by both sons as their next-of-kin while their father was in the United States – was sent a telegram by the War Office informing him that his grandson was „missing‟. This distressing news was also reported in The Times on 20 February. On 21 August 1917 G. B. Ryley wrote to the War Office, noting that ‘since then we have heard nothing, save that by private enquiry we find his brother Officers & others believe him to be killed’. Three days later the War Office replied that no trace of Donald Ryley‟s fate had been discovered, despite searches of hospital and internment camps in Germany under the auspices of the Netherlands Legation.


On 13 September 1917 C. F. Watherston of C.2 Casualties Department at the War Office wrote to H. B. Ryley: I am directed to inform you that it is regretted that no further report has been received concerning Lieutenant D. A. G. B. Ryley, The North Staffordshire Regiment, reported Missing 11th February, 1917. It is regretted that it will consequently be necessary for the Army Council to consider whether they must not now conclude that this officer is dead. Notice of his presumed death appeared in The Times on 8 November 1917. Lieutenant Donald Ryley is now officially recorded as having been killed in action near Hulluch in France and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial since he has also no known grave.


Hulluch, France is located at 36c.H.13 which is about 6,000 yards north of Lens, and the same distance southeast of La Bassee. Although there were no reports of Lieutenant Ryley being taken prisoner or wounded and removed by the Germans, that would have had to have been the case if these are his remains.


It does not seem to reveal his battalion, but there are so many intermingled stories that I might have to read it very early in the day tomorrow! There is an email address for the author of the story at the very end, so there may be more information.


There is quite a lot if you do a Google Search, even the LG posting to 2nd Lieutenant (see here) but that is with the Manchester Regiment in 1914 - drats! Another file (see page 161 of 205) has him with the Manchester Regiment and attached to the North Staffordshire Regiment, a fact that is not revealed on the CWGC record. The father and a brother are on that same site.


An interesting (fascinating) story - more to follow, even if this is not Lieutenant Ryley.



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Attached to 1st Battalion North Staffs.  Didn't return from a raid in the evening of 11 Feb 1917. 

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From December 1916 through to mid February 1917, when it was  relieved, 24th Division at Hulluch-Loos,  was repeatedly raided by Prussian 8th Division opposite,  and launched numerous raids in retaliation. IR72 was facing 72nd Brigade, which included the North Staffords. I see from my notes that there are various reports on raids in the Division's war diary (WO95/2190) in particular, including one on a failed raid by IR72 on the N.Staffs. on 10.2.17, in which 4 Germans were captured-1 officer, slightly wounded, 2 unwounded O.Rs. and 1 severely wounded O.R. (treated by Captain G.S. Pirie, RAMC),who later died. Pirie's diary (published as 'Front line Medic-Gallipoli ,Somme,Ypres'), gives extensive information about the raid the following day, for which he assisted with the wounded again. He says the raid was 'a total failure', with the Germans anticipating it and opening up a heavy fire with machine guns and field artillery. He says he found 4 killed and fourteen wounded in the front line. 'Later on I heard an officer and three men were missing, the officer and one man were thought to have got into the Hun trench.'


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Thank you gentlemen!


Infantry Brigade HQ War Diary (page 55 of 706) "Intelligence Summary. 12 noon 10th February to 12 Noon 11th February. Raid attempted by 1st North Staffords, but was unsuccessful." see Appendix 15. Oddly, Appendix 15 does not refer to the raid?


On 28 February (page 57 of 706) Brigade HQ reports no officers killed by 1 officer missing.  He is not named.


There is a reference to Posen Crater, which is located at 36c.H.19.d.3.1 and enemy artillery fire on Reserve Trench (north-south) Posen Alley (west-east) in sectors 36c.G.30 and H.25 about 2,100 yards south of Hulluch. 


Private Thomas #40857 of the 23rd Northumberland Fusiliers, rests in the next grave (375), killed in action (or died) only a few days later. His battalion was southeast of Armentieres (36.B.2) in a raiding party (war diary page 190 of 450) on the 11th, prior to rejoining the battalion at Godewaersvelde. That means that Thomas's remains were also found 11,000 yards away from where he was in action, well behind enemy lines. A check of the ICRC archives (this page) shows that Private Reginald Thomas was a POW at Lambersart.


It would appear that Lieutenant Ryley must have been taken to Lambersart as well. I have checked all the combinations of spelling I can think of and no trace of him in the ICRC records. Then it struck me, if they did not know who he was (he was buried unknown) then he would not have an ICRC record. All they know is that a British soldier was taken away, he died and they buried him.


Back to his later ..... Better check for other officers around that same time period, perhaps the date is wrong?

  • The only other was a Second Lieutenant Elwyn Roberts of the Royal Flying Corps on the Arras Flying Services Memorial. who was lost on the 10th. He was with 10 Squadron.  His pilot was Lt. W. A. Porkess and he is buried at the Chocques Military Cemetery, northwest of Bethune (36b). Strange that on the GRRF his death is reported as the 12th not the 10th. There are a number of other RFC with him, even 10 Squadron. His Casualty Card is clear that he was killed on the 10th so the CWGC records are incorrect.
Edited by laughton
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Thanks to Nepper for the war diary information!


On 11 February 1917 there were two (2) Other Ranks killed and 3 missing with Lt. Ryley. The CWGC tells us the two KIA were probably Lance Corporal Davis and Private Gannon, if those were the two that were not missing.  Lance Corporals Llewellyn and Henshaw are missing and on the Loos Memorial - who was the 3rd missing man?


I was not able to locate ICRC files for the two missing Lance Corporals. The same analysis may apply, not listed as unknown by the Germans


There are a number of other UBS that were reported at the same Lambersart cemetery of 11 February 1917. Note that there were three (3) beside the Unknown Officer, so are those the three (3) other men that were missing with Lt. Ryley?

  • Grave 352
  • Grave 353
  • Grave 354
  • Grave 355
  • Grave 356
  • Grave 357
  • Grave 371
  • Grave 372
  • Grave 373
  • Grave 374 - that is the Unknown British Officer for this case
  • Grave 376
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I cannot find the 3rd missing man. Since Ryley was listed only as North Staffordshire, I thought someone else may have been in the same category. I dropped the battalion from the search to get anyone in the regiment KIA or MIA from the 10th to 20th of the month. Two (2) men showed up for each of the 1st/5th and the 8th Battalions but they were well out of the area in the Somme.


There should be two (2) Other Ranks KIA which there are:

  • Davis
  • Gannon

There should be one (1) Officer and three (3) Other Ranks missing:

  • Lt. Ryley
  • L/Cpl. Henshaw
  • L/Cpl. Llewellyn
  • someone else is still missing?

It was not another Officer that was "attached" and MIA or that would have been reported. That would have to mean that it was one of the other two that are reported dead on the following day:

  • Mitchell
  • Harrison

There was a slight difference in the war diary between the report on the 11th and the report on the 12th. The same information about casualties was reported, other than on the 12th it reported 14 other ranks, whereas on the 11th it was 13 other ranks wounded.


surname initials death rank North Staffordshire # cemetery or memorial grave notes
DAVIS T H 11-02-17 Lance Corporal 1st Bn. '17876' PHILOSOPHE BRITISH CEMETERY, MAZINGARBE I. M. 12. KIA
MITCHELL C 12-02-17 Private 1st Bn. '29860' BETHUNE TOWN CEMETERY VI. B. 46. KIA
HARRISON G 12-02-17 Private 1st Bn. '18545' BETHUNE TOWN CEMETERY VI. B. 45. KIA
HENSHAW W C 11-02-17 Lance Corporal 1st Bn. '10140' LOOS MEMORIAL Panel 103 to 105. MIA
LLEWELLYN W 11-02-17 Lance Corporal 1st Bn. '11185' LOOS MEMORIAL Panel 103 to 105. MIA
GRIFFIN G E 13-02-17 Private 1st/5th Bn. '200664' BIENVILLERS MILITARY CEMETERY VII. B. 9. 51c.W.25
ROBERTS T 13-02-17 Lance Corporal (4291). 1st/5th Bn. '201047' BIENVILLERS MILITARY CEMETERY VII. B. 11. 51c.W.25
MYCOCK J 15-02-17 Private 1st/5th Bn. '202588' WARLINCOURT HALTE BRITISH CEMETERY, SAULTY IV. J. 12. 51c.W.25
SEDGLEY J 15-02-17 Private 8th Bn. 12247 DOULLENS COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION NO. 1 III.G.5 57d.J.10
SIMPSON R 16-02-17 Private 8th Bn. 34927 EUSTON ROAD CEMETERY, COLINCAMPS V.O.9 57d.J.10
RYLEY D A G B 11-02-17 Lieutenant not given (1st Bn.)   LOOS MEMORIAL Panel 103 to 105. MIA
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