Ronald Walker Aynsley was born at The Elms, Weston Coyney, Staffordshire on 10th August 1895 to John Gerrard Aynsley and Annie Aynsley [née Walker], the youngest of six children. His father’s occupation was shown as a china and earthenware manufacturer and was sufficiently affluent to be able to maintain a small household staff.

After a brief education at Wellington College during which time he served in the Officers Training Corp [OTC] he left on 20th December 1913. A few weeks later he applied for a commission as a Territorial Officer with the 1/5th Battalion, The Prince of Wales’s (North Staffordshire Regiment), approaching John Dobson, Vice-Principal of Wellington and Officer Commanding, OTC for a certificate of good moral character.

A month later on 5th March 1914 he was duly commissioned into the Regiment’s 1/5th Battalion as a subaltern with ‘A’ Company, undertaking his duties at their base in Hanley. Following mobilisation in August 1914 Ronald moved with his Battalion down to the Luton area and by the end of November was in Bishops Stortford awaiting orders for embarkation. Here in the winter of 1914-15 time was spent on company drills, musketry, kit inspections, field firing and night-time entrenching in readiness for what lay ahead. The war was not allowed to encroach on the sporting prowess of the Battalion and they won the final of the Stuart-Wortley Football Cup and made the finals of the Divisional boxing competition.

On 1st March 1915 the Battalion entrained for Southampton at Audley End station and on reaching their destination embarked on the troop ships in two waves where they re-assembled at Le Havre on 5th March. A combination of route marches and train journeys brought them to SAILLY where they were either in billets or bivouacs, but still under orders to move to the front at short notice. For the remainder of the month the Battalion was constantly moving between OUTTERSTEENE and ARMENTIERES where they had been inspected by Field Marshall Sir John French and attended a church parade led by the Lord Bishop of London.

On 31st March they had arrived in BAILLUEL and the following day the Battalion entered the line for the first time occupying trenches at NEUVE EGLISE where they were subject to constant shelling and sniper fire. It was here they took their first casualties. Over the ensuing weeks their time was split between the trenches, with the constant shelling and sniper fire, or at the rest camp behind the lines.

On Tuesday 15th June 1915 Second-Lieutenant Ronald Walker Aynsley, 1/5th Battalion, The Prince of Wales’s (North Staffordshire Regiment) died at No.2 Casualty Clearing Station [Bailleul], to where he had been evacuated as a result of serious wounds received. He was 19 years of age. No details of his injuries survive, but from the ongoing activity of the Battalion at the time this is likely to be as a result of sniper fire, artillery bombardment or a low level skirmish. He lies buried within Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord, France.

Lance Corporal Frank Reade was Ronald’s ‘soldier-servant’1 and according to his daughter [Elsie Reade] was calling for him as he lay dying. After the war L/Cpl Reade was able to visit the Aynsley family and offer them some words of comfort in their loss.

In 1925 a three-light stained glass window was installed in St Bartholomew’s Church, Blurton, Stoke On Trent, at the behest of Ronald’s mother Annie. Each light contains the figure of an unknown Saint with the figure of a soldier kneeling in prayer depicted at the lower left corner of the right-hand light. Underneath the window is a brass plaque containing the following inscription: “2nd Lieut Ronald Walker Aynsley 5TH North Staffs Regt. Died of Wounds in France, June 15 1915 Aged 19 Years. This window & tablet placed by Annie Aynsley of Blurton House.

The Prince of Wales’s (North Staffordshire Regiment) is perpetuated today in the 3rd Battalion, Mercian Regiment.

1. A soldier-servant (or batman) is a soldier assigned to a commissioned officer as a personal servant. Before the advent of motorised transport, an officer’s batman was also in charge of the officer’s “bat-horse” that carried the pack saddle with his officer’s kit during a campaign, hence the nick name.

See also the Imperial War Museum permanent digital memorial to the ‘Lives of the First World War’ for RW Aynsley.