Richard Josiah Aylott was born on the 16th March 1891 at Baldock.
His father, William Aylott, married his mother, Hannah Marie Downton, on the 9th November 1878 at Hitchin. They had seven children who were Minnie Elizabeth born in 1879 at Offley, Bertha born in 1882 at Offley, Rowland born in 1886 at Baldock, Maude born in 1889 at Baldock, Richard Josiah, George William born in 1894 at Whaddon near Royston and Florie Verna born 1901 also at Whaddon.
During the 1881 census the family were living at Offley and William was employed as an agricultural labourer. By the time of the 1891 census they had moved too Pembroke Road, Baldock and William was now employed as a gardener.
In the 1901 census the family had moved again to The Green, Whaddon near Royston. William is still working as a gardener. By the 1911 census the family are living at Melbourn Road, Royston and William is still employed as a gardener. Richard has left home though and is lodging at Meldreth near Royston and is employed as a groom and a domestic gardener.
Richard’s Police Service Record has not survived, and his date of appointment as Police Constable 29 is not known. The only information found for him were the following two General Orders.
General Order 191 of 27th December 1914 instructed PC 29 Aylott R.J. to transfer from B Division at Bishops Stortford to C Division at Rickmansworth on 28th December 1914.
General Order 31 of 20th February 1915 announced Richard’s resignation:
“Police Constable 29 Richard Josiah Aylott, “C”, having submitted an application to resign his appointment as a Constable of the Hertford County Constabulary, the resignation is accepted to take effect on 15th March 1915. Police Constable Aylott will be paid up to and including 15th March 1915 and he will be struck off the strength of the establishment as from that date”.
There is nothing to say why he decided to resign but many Constables at this time chose to do so in order to enlist. They were not granted permission by the Chief Constable to enlist, meaning that the time spent in Military Service would not count towards their Police pensionable service, yet they decided to leave anyway. Richard chose to join the Royal Navy.
Royal Navy Service.
From Richard’s Royal Navy Service Record, we know the following:
His date of engagement was the 31st May 1915 and he signed up for five years and seven in the reserve. His Rating was as a Stoker 2nd class, his service number was SS117172 and his Home Port was Chatham. He stated he was born on the 16th March 1891 at Baldock, Herts. His previous occupation had been as a groom. He was described as follows: Height and chest: 5 feet 8 inches 37 ½ inches. Hair: Brown, Eyes: Grey. Complexion: Fresh.
He was initially based at HMS Pembroke II a shore establishment until the 28th September 1915 when he was posted to HMS Dido. HMS Dido was an Eclipse-class, second class cruiser launched in 1896 and used as a depot ship after 1913 to HMS Lightfoot.
HMS Lightfoot was a Marksman-class flotilla leader and her construction began shortly before the outbreak of the First World War. She was launched in 1915 and survived the war and was sold for scrap in 1921.
By October 1915 Lightfoot had joined the Ninth Destroyer Flotilla of the Harwich Force as second leader. On 30th October Lightfoot sailed with the Harwich Force on a sweep across the German Bight and a single Swedish merchant ship, the Osterland, was arrested and ordered to the Humber for investigation.
On 10 February 1915 some German torpedo boats carried out a patrol in the North Sea, meeting the 10th Sloop Flotilla which were carrying out minesweeping operations and they sank the Sloop Arabis.
The Harwich Force, including Lightfoot and four light cruisers and 18 destroyers left Harwich at 2 a.m. on 11 February, in the belief that the battlecruisers of the German First Scouting Group were at sea. When it was realised that the German ships were returning to harbour the Harwich Force turned for home. However, the cruiser Arethusa, flagship of Commodore Tyrwhitt, commander of the Harwich Force, struck a mine just outside Harwich harbour. Lightfoot attempted to take Arethusa in tow, but the line parted the cruiser eventually ran aground and broke in two.
On the 21st February Richard was promoted to Stoker 1st Class.
Attack On Zeppelin Base.
Between the 24th to the 26th March 1916 most of the Harwich Force, including Lightfoot, formed the escort for the seaplane carrier Vindex. Vindex carried out an air raid against a German Zeppelin base and launched five seaplanes on the morning of 25th March. Only two returned and Tyrwhitt ordered some destroyers, led by Lightfoot and Nimrod, to search for the overdue aircraft.
No sign of the missing seaplanes were found but Lightfoot spotted two German patrol boats which were sunk. After the two patrol boats were sunk, Nimrod ordered the destroyers to cease firing and resume formation, but this resulted in the destroyer Laverock colliding with Medusa.
While the damage to Laverock was confined to her bows, Medusa had been holed in her engine room and she was taken in tow by Lightfoot. The weather deteriorated and the tow line parted and made it impossible to restore the line. The Medusa’s crew were taken off and she was left to founder.
German Raid On The East Coast.
On 24th April 1916, a large force of German ships set out to bombard Lowestoft and Yarmouth. Later that day a German ship struck a mine and the resultant radio traffic warned the British of the German operation. The Harwich Force, including Lightfoot, set out to counter them on the night of 24th April.
The next morning the Germans were sighted but heavily outnumbered, Tyrwhitt turned in an attempt to lure the German forces away from Lowestoft. The Germans ignored this move and shelled Lowestoft before moving North towards Yarmouth.
On observing this Tyrwhitt again turned his ships in pursuit of the raiders and engaged some light Cruisers just as the German Battlecruisers started to shell Yarmouth. The German Battlecruisers aborted their bombardment to engage the Harwich force. The Cruiser Conquest and the Destroyer Laertes were hit but the Germans retired to the East rather than attempt to destroy the smaller British force. Lightfoot was undamaged.
On 29 June 1916 the Harwich Force was cruising off the Belgian coast when Lightfoot spotted a surfaced submarine and opened fire, following this up with a depth charge when the submarine dived. No German submarine was reported lost or damaged on this day.
Attempted Raid On Sunderland.
On 19th August 1916, the German High Seas Fleet sailed into the North Sea, planning to bombard Sunderland. The British were warned of the German operation and sent all available forces to meet the Germans, including the Grand Fleet under Admiral Jellicoe from Scapa Flow, the Battlecruiser force under Admiral Beatty from Rosyth and the Harwich Force, including Lightfoot.
Lightfoot spotted the main German Fleet, but no engagement followed, with the Germans retiring rather than risking a battle with the Grand Fleet. Two British cruisers Nottingham and Falmouth were sunk by German submarines, while the German Battleship Westfalen was torpedoed and damaged by a British submarine.
A Busy Period.
Lightfoot was sent to the English Channel with three Destroyers of the Harwich Force on 6th September 1916 as a response to German submarine activity, attacking a suspected U-boat with a depth charge off Start Point on 9th September and remained in the Channel until 20th September.
On 29th September the Harwich Force escorted Vindex as she launched a seaplane on a reconnaissance mission in support of a planned operations by British Coastal Motor Boats. The seaplane was damaged by a collision with the Destroyer Landrail on landing, and Lightfoot took the damaged aircraft under tow, but it later sank.
On 28th October, as a result of the Battle of Dover Strait, a raid by German torpedo boats on the Dover Barrage and shipping in the Channel, Lightfoot was deployed with three Destroyers to Dover.
On 10th November the Destroyer Legion was patrolling the Dover Barrage when she struck a mine. Lightfoot helped to bring the damaged Destroyer back to Dover.
Lightfoot was back at Harwich on 30th November, when she sailed as part of the Harwich Force in an attempt to intercept a German torpedo-boat flotilla that was sailing from Zeebrugge back to Germany.
The Ninth Destroyer Flotilla was disbanded during March 1917, with Lightfoot joining the Tenth Destroyer Flotilla, also part of the Harwich Force.
Quite A Skirmish.
On 10th May Lightfoot and four Destroyers were returning from escorting a convoy to the Netherlands, while Nimrod and another division of Destroyers were escorting a return convoy from the Netherlands to England, and the Cruisers of the Harwich Force, together with four Destroyers, were patrolling in support. The cruiser force spotted a force of German torpedo boats that had set out from Zeebrugge to intercept the England-bound convoy.
After an exchange of fire, the German torpedo boats turned back towards Zeebrugge, with the British Destroyers setting off in pursuit and soon leaving the slower Cruisers behind. The German force then linked up with more torpedo boats and turned back to engage the four British Destroyers. Before Lightfoot and her ships joined in the battle the Germans broke off the engagement and returned home. No ships on either side were damaged, and the convoy was unscathed.
On 5th June 1917, Monitors of the Dover Patrol carried out a bombardment of the German occupied port of Ostend. The Harwich Force, including Lightfoot patrolled to the North East of Ostend to screen the bombarding force from attack. Lightfoot spotted two German torpedo boats which were returning to base after a patrol. One was sunk whilst the second was damaged but managed to successfully make it into port.
In September 1917 Lightfoot transferred from the Harwich Force to the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla of the Dover Patrol. On the 16th November 1917 Richard was posted to HMS Attentive II which was the depot ship for the Dover patrol. He remained on the sea going ship HMS Lightfoot.
Lightfoot took part in the First Ostend Raid on the night of 23rd April 1918, sailing from Dunkirk as part of the escort for the Monitors supporting the assault. In April 1918 Lightfoot transferred to the 11th Destroyer Flotilla of the Grand Fleet. On 1st April Richard was posted to HMS Blake a first class protected Cruiser completed in the early 1890s. She served as a depot ship in the Great War. He again remained aboard the sea going HMS Lightfoot.
On the 4th June 1918 HMS Richard was posted back on shore at HMS Pembroke II. Then on the 17th July 1918 he was posted to HMS Diligence a Destroyer depot ship, formerly the civilian Tabaristan, purchased in October 1915 she was scrapped in 1926. He actually served aboard HMS Waterhen one of twenty-one “W” class destroyers completed for the Royal Navy in 1917-18.
Less than a month later though on 10th August 1918 he was back on shore at HMS Pembroke II. He remained there until the 1st April 1919 when he was posted to HMS Inflexible an Invincible-class Battlecruiser. She was built before World War I and had an active career during the war. She was paid off to the Reserve Fleet in January 1919 before being decommissioned on 31 March 1920. He was aboard though HMS Sir John Moore a First World War Royal Navy Lord Clive-class Monitor.
Following the armistice in November 1918, Sir John Moore and all her sisters were put into reserve pending scrapping, as the reason for their existence had ended with the liberation of Belgium. In 1921 Sir John Moore and four of her sisters were scrapped.
His final posting, on 20th March 1920, was ashore once more at HMS Pembroke II where he remained until the 30th June 1920 when he joined the Royal Fleet Reserve. He was later awarded the 1915 Star, the British War and Victory medals.
Life After The Royal Navy.
There is no record of Richard re-joining the Police. He married Grace Isabel Slingo on the 10th September 1921 and on the 30th October 1929 they are shown on the passenger list of the SS Jervis Bay sailing from Southampton to Australia.
Richard died on the 31st March 1948 and is buried at Woronora Cemetery, Sutherland, New South Wales, Australia.