ROLPH, William

5424, Company Sergeant Major, William Robert ROLPH
Age 32

King's Royal Rifle Corps, 1st Battalion
Killed in Action on Sunday 29th April 1917

Born in Lakenheath on May 22nd 1884 (Mildenhall Q2-1884 4A:679)

1891 census...Aged 6, he was living at High Bridge, Burnt Fen, Lakenheath with his father- Lewis ROLPH [41] innkeeper & farmer; mother -Margaret (née CASH) [42]; brother- Victor E. [11]; sisters- Violet [9] and Lillian [9], and sister- Rose K [4]. All were born in Lakenheath.

1901 census... Aged 17 he was living in Deaths Lane, Lakenheath with his parents and brother Victor. All were farmers.

1911 census...Aged 27 he was a Lance Corporal on the 2nd Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps at Shorncliffe Camp,in Kent.

In St Luke's Church, Uxbridge Road, London on 21st October 1915 he married Maude Ethel MACKENDER [26-8-1888]. Her address was variously at 9 Castlemere Avenue, Queensborough, Sheppey, Kent., Union Jack Hostel, London and Kings Villa, Anchor Lane Lakenheath. She re married in 1918 in St George, Hanover Square, London to Henry R.C. CURGENVEN, later living at Kings Villa, Anchor Lane, Lakenheath.
The pension card has her at 101 Gadwyne Road, Dover.

He enlisted in Birmingham on 14th February 1904, giving his age as 19 yrs 9 months, weighing 119 lbs (54.1 kg), 5' 5/12" (166.4 cm)tall, chest 32 1/2 to 35" (82.6 to 88.9 cm)
Much of his documentation is baldy damaged, but this much seems clear:- Promoted Lance Corporal 7/7/1905, reverted due to misconduct 1906, promoted again to L/Cpl 3/10/1908. On 19/2/1911 he extended his service to 12 years in the colours. and was promoted full corporal 14/3/1912. He seems to have extended his service, as a Sergeant to 21 years on 9/9/1914.
He was with the 4th battalion when posted first to France on 18th May 1915. Presumably he was on instructor duties in UK until then. He was returned to UK 3/10/1915 first to Depot Detail, then 6th Battalion and then with the 1st battalion he returned to France on 18th December 1916.
Promoted Company Sergeant Major (Warrant Officer 2nd class) on 23rd March 1917 he was killed in action on 29th April 1917.

That day the battalion were in the front line, east of Bailleul. The War diary had:-
4am - Battn - less "D" Coy - with troops on either flack attacked and captured the OPPY LINE from B.18.b.2.8l The troops on our right failed to get in and the right flank was consequently exposed. At about 5 am th enemy commenced to bomb the right flank and fighting continued until about 10 an when owing to a lack of bombs and SAA (small arms ammunition) we were forced to give way and withdrew to the jumping off trench via SUNKEN ROAD in B.18.G. "C" Coy on the left withdrew northwards along the OPPY LINE and placed themselves under the orders of the 1th R.F. establishing a block at about B.12.d.14, taking with them three captured machine Guns. The enemy shelled our front line heavily throughout the remainder of the day and there was a great deal of M.G. and rifle fire.
Patrols were sent out at dusk and found OPPY LINE still held by the enemy.
11 pm The Battn was relieved by the 13/ E Yorks and returned to the trenches E of ROCLINCOURT through a barrage of gas shells. without sustaining any casualties.
About 70 prisoners and 3 machine guns were captured by the Battn during the day and severe casualties were inflicted on the enemy.
Casualties: Officers killed 2/Lt MA SIMON; wounded and missing 2/Lt H A GIBBS, 2/Lt EC READY; wounded Capt VG STOKES, Capt EL JERWOOD, 2.Lt AP AVELINE, 2/Lt GM ARCHDALE..Other ranks Killed 15, wounded 89, missing 47. Total 151 casualties out of the 250 who actually attacked.

The Bury Free Press of 26th May 1917 reported:-

The news has been sent to Lakenheath by Mrs.Rolph, wife of Coy.-Sergt-Major W.R.Rolph, stating that she had received letters from officers who informed her that her husband was buried in a trench and killed, in France, on April 30th or May 1st. He was in the 1st Royal Rifle Brigade, and had been for the past fourteen years: when he first enlisted he joined that Regiment. He was home from France suffering with malaria fever, but returned on December 17th last. Had he lived until last Tuesday he would have celebrated his 32nd birthday. He was a native of he parish, the youngest son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Rolph.

Their objective, OPPY LINE

No Known Grave
William is commemorated on the Arras Memorial, France..bay 7

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details