Norman Joseph Ayliffe

 

Rifleman; 1st Battalion, The Monmouthshire Regiment

Killed in action: 8th May 1915, near Ypres

Norman Joseph Ayliffe was born in 1893 to Thomas and Elisabeth Ayliffe. The family lived initially in the Roath area of Cardiff, principally at Treherbert Street near Colum Road. In 1911 Norman had moved to Green Meadow in Lisvane where he was working as a junior clerk in the goods department of the Taff Vale Railway. His parents were by now living in The Elms in Llanishen village, which today is the home of the City Hospice charity shop and Barclays Bank.

Norman enlisted into the Army in the great rush of enthusiasm that followed the outbreak of war in August 1914 and gave his home address as Lisvane. Following training, he was posted to the infamous Ypres salient the following year.

The Ypres salient was a "bulge" in the Allied front line. The Germans had managed to secure the high ground around the city during their great advances in late 1914 but had been halted from taking the city itself by determined British, French and Belgian resistance. However, though things seemed relatively quiet in the region at the start of 1915, the Germans were planning to remove this bulge in their line and complete their stalled advance.

On the 22nd April 1915 the Allied lines around Ypres were subjected to the first gas bombardment on the Western Front. Many of the troops, lacking any protection from this new and terrifying weapon, fled back in panic. Fortunately, significant enough numbers remained that the Germans, far from walking through unoccupied trenches, found themselves facing just as ferocious a resistance as they had the previous winter.

This Second Battle of Ypres continued throughout April and into May, with both sides taking and losing ground. On the 8th May, Rifleman Ayliffe and the 1st Monmouthshires were holding trenches on the Frezenberg Ridge to the east of Ypres. The Germans commenced a massive artillery bombardment of the area, killing hundreds, before swarming the British lines. It is believed that Rifleman Ayliffe's company remained in their trench when others withdrew, being completely destroyed by the German assault.

Norman Joseph Ayliffe died in those Belgian trenches on the 8th May 1915, aged just 22. His remains were not located and he is commemorated on the Menin Gate in Ypres. His parents, who lived in The Elms until their deaths in 1930 and 1959, ensured that he was also commemorated on the war memorial in the parish church of St Isan's.