Military Monday: 2nd Lieutenant Roy Edwards of the Rifle Brigade, 10th Battalion

After writing a post the other week about Sydney Henry Payne’s service in World War I, I found myself wondering what happened to Syd’s commander, 2nd Lt. Roy Edwards [no relation to Syd’s brother in law, William James Stephen Edwards, the husband of Syd’s sister Ida Edith (Payne) Edwards, who also served in WWI].

You may recall that he sent Syd’s mother, Edith Jane (Scarrott) Payne Burns Hart the following letter, assuring her of Syd’s safety:

“Oct. 26 1917.  Dear Mrs. Payne, No doubt your son has told you he is servant to me in France and as I have just arrived home on leave I thought you might like to hear from me that he is quite well and as we are in a quiet part of the line he is quite safe for many a day to come. As an officer’s servant he has quite a good time as I think he will admit & I feel sure it will be a consolation for you to know that servant’s seldom if ever do any of the dangerous jobs. Yours truly, Roy Edwards, 2nd Lt. R.B. PS Your son asked me to tell you that I am getting his watch mended & will take it back with me.”

First page of letter written from Roy Edwards to Edith Hart, 1917
First page of letter written by Roy Edwards to Edith Hart, 1917
Second page of letter written by Roy Edwards to Edith Hart
Second page of letter written by Roy Edwards to Edith Hart, 1917

The tragedy of that letter, of course, was that one month later the 10th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade would be called to participate in the Battle of Cambrai. Sydney Payne was injured in the Battle of Cambrai on 20 November 1917 and died of his wounds on 21 November 1917.

It seems that Lt. Edwards returned to the front in time to give Syd back his newly-repaired watch.

2nd Lt. Roy Edwards is listed as a casualty who died 30 November 1917 on the Cambrai Memorial in Louveral, France, according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and The War Graves Photographic Commission, but unlike Sydney Payne, he does not have an individual gravestone. Investigating further, it seems that the reason for this was because his body was never found or identified. According to British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920, 2nd Lt. Roy Edwards of the 10th Battalion Rifle Brigade [service number NW/5/15883] was “wounded and missing” on 30 November 1917, with a note stating that Roy’s brother, L.H. Edwards, applied for a medal in his late brother’s honor on 29 October 1921, and that Roy’s next of kin was his mother, Mrs. Edwards of 30 Nevern Place, S.W. 5.

Probate of Roy Edwards of 21 Bush-lane Cannon-street, London, a lieutenant of the Rifle Brigade who “died on or since 30 November 1917 in France” was granted to his widow Louise Isabelle Edwards on 20 November 1919. His effects were valued at £1051 7s. 6d., according to the National Probate Calendar.

So Lt. Edwards survived his servant Sydney Payne a mere 10 days along the previously “quiet” and “safe” front in France, yet unlike Syd’s family who were immediately notified of his death, Lt. Edwards’ family waited two years before declaring Roy dead, since his body was not identified on the battlefield, presumably holding onto the slim hope that he would miraculously appear, perhaps having been taken prisoner rather than dead. But like so many of England’s families at the time, their son/husband/brother never came home.

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