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Memorials & Monuments
on the Isle of Wight
- Biography -
- William Campling Eley -

Name : William Campling Eley

Son of : James Eley, and Fanny A Eley (née Campling), of Ryde.

Born : 1879, Ryde.
  Census information :

1881 : James and Fanny Eley, with their children including William aged 1, are at 49 Union Street, Ryde. James Eley is a Saddler.

1891 : James and Fanny Eley, with their children including William aged 11, are at 49 Union Street, Ryde. James Eley is a Harness Maker.

1901 : not located

1911 : not located

  Service Details :

William Campling Eley, 21st Bn., Manchester Regiment

Previously served with the King's Liverpool Regiment.

click to enlarge
Casualty Details :

Died : 6 Nov 1917, aged 39.

Buried at : Kortrijk (St. Jan) Communal Cemetery, Belgium.

CWGC Record
  Commemorated on these Memorials :

Ryde Borough War Memorial WW I
All Saints' Church, Ryde War Memorial WW I
County War Memorial, Carisbrooke Castle

There is also an additional inscription on a family headstone at Ryde Cemetery (RSHG)
  Photo Gallery :

  Documents and Newspaper cuttings :


5th December 1917

It is officially reported that Pte. W.C. Eley, Manchester Regiment, has been missing since the 24th-27th October. He was the younger brother of James Eley, of Well-Street, an old and respected resident. Pte. Eley came home from the United States early last year to serve his country, and on landing at Liverpool joined the King's Liverpool Regiment. In three months he was in France, and seen a great deal of fighting with that famous corps. He went "over the top" several times, and came through severe fighting without hurt. Later he was employed as a sniper, and one misty morning went out into No Man's Land to see if he could find any traces of a German patrol fired at during the previous night. While he was out the mist suddenly cleared and he made a dive for the trench, but caught a sniper's bullet just as he was negotiating the parapet and was knocked into the trench. The bullet struck him in the back below the ribs, went through his body, and passed out at the shoulder. He was sent to hospital at Southampton, and his recovery was slow owing to the fact that the lung was affected. When discharged from hospital he was passed for home service only, much to his disappointment, and he gave the authorities no rest until they once more sent him to a training camp preparatory to going out again. In August he was included in a draft for France, and was there transferred to the Manchester Regiment. He took part in several big pushes in September and October; he described an attack on October 4th as the worst he had ever experienced. His last communication to his family, dated October 19th, told of his safety after battle.

Lois Hants writes :

The family legend, handed down by his niece Annette Meader, was that her uncle, William Campling Eley, died a prisoner of war in Germany during WW1. From army records I've pieced together the actual story of William's brief wartime experiences culminating in his death in 1917.
William first joined up on 14th April 1916 just days before his 37th birthday. He never married and had no children. His job/trade listed prior to joining up was 'steward'. There's no more detailed information. He joined the 20th Liverpool regiment as Pte Eley no 3826. Whilst with the Liverpool regiment a Conduct Sheet reports that he was punished for 'gambling in the barrack room' and another for 'dirty equipment'! His first sight of war began with his embarkation from Boulogne on 25th July 1916, after 3 months training. By the next day (26th) he was at Etaples and by 8th August he is reported to be in the 'field'. On 1st December 1916 he's wounded in action, with wounds listed to his back and chest. On 19th December he's on the HMS Formosa being shipped home. He was admitted to the Highfield Hall Hospital, Southampton just before Christmas, on 21.12.16. It seems that he stayed in England, recovering from his wounds until he is reported with the 49th battalion as transferred on 3rd May 1917. He embarked for France from Folkestone on 2nd August 1917, arriving Boulogne the next day. Then he joined the 23rd (?) at Etaples on 4th August. He's finally reported transferred to the Manchester Regiment with new id no W51539 and joined the battalion in the field on 20th August. On 23rd November 1917 he's reported missing and on 25th the Record Office at Preston received information from the Red Cross (Y72804) that he was on an official German list. This listing reports the death of 51539 Pte William Campling Eley of 21st Manchester on 6th November 1917 in Kortryk (sic). This was in fact Kortrijk on the Belgian/French border, hence his death location, noted as France & Flanders in official records, would make sense. This area of Flanders was in German hands at this time. According to the brief records, he died of wounds from shots to one arm and foot. He is buried at St Jan Cemetery, Kortrijk. His gravestone reads:
In Memory of
51539, 21st Bn., Manchester Regiment
who died age 39
on 06 November 1917
Son of James and Fanny Eley. Born at Ryde, Isle of Wight.
Remembered with honour
  Acknowledgments :

Thanks to Ann Barrett of RSHG, and Lois Hants, for the family account and photographs.
  Page status :
Page last updated : 10 August 2014 (added to website)


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