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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 24256
Machine Gun Corps
Who was Killed in Action on Saturday, 19th June 1917
Age 25

Plot IV, Row A Grave 14
Bully-Grenay Communal Cemetery, British Extension, Pas de Calais, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Bully-Grenay Communal Cemetery, British Extension

Bully-Grenay Communal Cemetery, British Extension, Pas de Calais, France1

William Charles Ryall was born in Langley Mill, Derbyshire in 18922, the eldest son of William Edward and Minnie Caroline (née Mason) Ryall. William Edward, originally from Richmond, Surrey had come to Beeston with his wife and family of four children, from Langley Mill, Derbyshire, in about 1900. In 1901 they were living at 94 Chilwell Road and William Edward continued to wok as a signalman on the railway3. By 1911, the family - now including seven children - had moved to 11 Collington Street, Beeston. William Charles, now aged 18, was working as a lace threader4.

In 1913, William Charles married Catherine Jane Murden5, the daughter of Herman and Catherine Murden of Radford, Notts. Their son, William J Ryall, was born later that year, another son, Ernest E Ryall, was born in 1914 and a third son, Frank, was born in 19166.

Although his Army Service Record has not survived, it appears that William Charles enlisted in October 1914, with The Notts & Derby Regiment7 and, after a period of basic training, was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps, probably in time for deployment in the Battle of the Somme in July 1916. The Machine Gun Corps was formed in October 1915 to make more efficient use of the available Maxim guns which were then in short supply and to provide specialist skills and tactics in their use. A specialist training centre was established at Grantham, Lincolnshire and the Maxim was soon replaced by the Vickers machine gun, a heavy, water cooled, tripod-mounted gun which could fire at 500 rounds per minute. It was deployed by groups of four men needed to carry, load and fire with a further two in reserve. The Lewis gun had also been in use in some units from mid-1915. This lighter weapon needed just two men to load and fire and was capable of bursts of 700 rounds per minute. By the time of the 1916 Somme offensive, these new weapons were available to begin to match the devastating tactics using machine gun fire that were already well developed by the enemy and which would then again be deployed with terrible effect. It would take some time for fully effective tactics to be fully developed - using a creeping barrage similar to existing infantry, eventually combined with Divisional deployment - but these techniques were to play a significant part in the eventual victory8.

Although we have no documentary evidence, it is likely that Private Ryall had been in France and Belgium for about a year when he moved on to the Arras offensive in the Spring of 1917 after the Somme battles. By this time, the concept of Divisional command and deployment of machine gun corps was in place. Private Ryall died on June 19th which is a few days after the main offensive concluded so it unclear whether he was killed during minor activities in these following days or if he died of wounds sustained in the main action.

He is buried in Bully-Grenay Communal Cemetery, British Extension. The village of Bully is approximately 20 kilometres north of Arras in the Pas de Calais region of France. The British Extension, on the south-west side of the communal cemetery, was begun at the end of April 1916, and was used until October. From April 1917 to March 1918, it was very largely an artillery burial ground. At the Armistice, the cemetery contained 595 graves. After the Armistice, graves were brought in from isolated positions and small burial grounds on the battlefields east of Grenay. Three came from Grenay Churchyard, which had been damaged by shell fire and was closed. One came from the German Extension of Sallaumines Communal Cemetery. There are now 803 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War in the British extension. 141 of the burials are unidentified. The extension also contains one Second World War burial9.

He was posthumously awarded the Victory Medal and the British Medal10.

Two of his younger brothers served in the Army, the older, Corporal Harry Edward Ryall served with the Grenadier Guards, was awarded the Military Medal for bravery and coolness under fire and was killed in action on 25 September 191611.

William's Army financial effects of 6 8s were paid to his widow and sole legatee on 8 November 1917 and she received his War Gratuity of 12 10s on 12 January 192012. Towards the end of 1919, she had married Leslie Rylatt in Manchester13 and they lived for a time at 60 Ellesmere Street, Gorton. Manchester14. By about 1925 she had moved, at least for a short time to live with her children at 11 Collington Street, Beeston15. By 1939, she was with her husband in Kirkby in Ashfield, Notts16. They were living at 22 Acton Road, Long Eaton when Leslie died in 194217. She then married Joseph F Barnes in the Ilkeston area, Derbyshire in 1944 and, after his death, married Douglas Follows Sewell in 170. She died, aged 83, in the Ilkeston area in 197518.

1The photograph of the Bully-Grenay Communal Cemetery, British Extension is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Langley Mill appears to have been part) in Q4/1892 (Ref 7b 187).
31901 Census, Piece 3153 Folio 94.
71911 Census, Piece 20429 RD429 SD3 ED3 Sched 356. His siblings were Harry Edward (b. c1894), Alma Mary Lucy (b. c1896), Ernest Allen (b. c1898), Albert Fredrick (v. c1902), Edith Winifred (b. c1908) and Minnie Kathleen (b. c1910).
5Their marriage was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q2/1913 (Ref 7b 298).
6William J was born on 12 October 1913 (Boys Brigade Register) and his birth was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q4/1913 (Ref 7b 521)
Ernest E was born on 20 September 1914 (Boys Brigade Register) and his birth was registered in Basford Registration District in Q4/1914 (Ref 7b 491)
Frank's birth was registered in Nottingham Registration District in Q1/1916 (Ref 7b 698).
7His enlistment date was calculated based on the amount of his War Gratuity. His early service with Notts & Derby Regiment (Service number 3054) is mentioned in his entry in 'Soldiers Died in the Great War' and in the Medal Rolls.
8This summary of the formation of the Machine Gun Corps and its weapons is based on its entry on The Long, Long Trail website (www.1914-1918.net/mgc.htm)
9This description of Bully-Grenay Communal Cemetery, British Extension is based on that included in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.
10Arthur's medal awards are recorded in the Medal Rolls, available on ancestry.com. No medal card has been found.
11Harry Edward's memorial page can be viewed here
12Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929, available on ancestry.com.
23Their marriage was registered in Chorlton Registration District in Q4/1919 (Ref 8c 1891).
14This address is given in Private Ryall's Commonwealth War Graves record.
15This address is given by William J and Ernest E Ryall when the joined Beeston Boys Brigade in 1925 and 1926 respectively.
16Catherine Jane and Leslie Rylatt are recorded there in the 1939 Registration.
17Probate Calendar.
18Her marriage to Joseph F Barnes was registered in Ilkeston Registration District in Q2/1944 (Ref 7b 1419). Her marriage to Douglas Follows Sewell was registered in Ilkeston Registration District in Q4/1970 (Ref 3 872). Her death was registered in Ilkeston Registration District in Q4/1975 (Ref 6 11150).

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