Rank Lance Corporal
Service No 103759
Date of Death 14/07/1916
Age 44
Regiment/Service Royal Engineers 98th Field Coy.
Memorial Thiepval Memorial

Richard Thomas Tayler was born on the 15th August 1871, the illegitimate son of Richard Felix Taylor, officer in charge of Rotherhithe Fire Station and the Thames fire barge. His mother was Lydia Ellen Kirk. In registering Richard Thomas’s birth, despite being unmarried, she gave her name as Lydia Ellen Tayler and the surname Tayler been used ever since in the family. From then on, Lydia always declared herself as being a widow, and Richard was brought up to believe his father was dead.

Lydia and Richard moved to Bloomsbury, where they shared a house with several families, numbering 25 in total. At some point in Richard’s teenage years, Lydia began to live with Robert Duncan McLachan, a Mathematical Instrument Maker, whom she finally married in 1892, despite listing herself as ‘Lydia McLachan’ in the census a year earlier. Richard’s first job was working for his step-father making scientific and navigational instruments.

In 1891, Richard married Florence Martha Agar at St Silas Church, Pentonville, with whom he had three children; Richard (b.1892), Florence (b.1893) and George (b.1895). Sadly Florence died in 1896 and the children had to be given to friends and family to raise. Richard continued to maintain regular contact with them and changed his occupation from an optical glass worker to being a bricklayer, which had better pay, so that he could support his children. 

  

Alice Tayler (nee Trew) with Rose, Muriel, Leslie and Marguerite

Richard met and married Alice Ann Trew in 1904, they and Richard’s three children came to live with them at their home in Finchley. Richard and Alice had seven children of their own; Muriel (b.1905), James (b.1907), twins Leslie and Marguerite (b.1909), Lillian (b.1911), Arthur (b.1912) and Priscilla (b.1915). Due to the struggle of supporting these children, as well as her three step-children and her daughter from before her marriage (Rose, b.1899), Alice felt the need to place some of the children with family whilst Richard was fighting in the war. Leslie and Marguerite were placed in Alexandra Orphanage, where Marguerite died aged 9, in 1918. Muriel left Britain for America with her half-sister Florence in 1922, where she became a nun by the name of Sister Mary Bertrand Tayler and worked as a schoolteacher. 

Two months after his youngest child was born, on 15th June 1915, Richard enlisted into the Royal Engineers on 15th June 1915. Despite being aged 44, Richard gave his age as 40 (the maximum permissible for new recruits). He also stated that he had previously served with 1st London Field Company, Royal Engineers, though there is no evidence of this. After joining up, Richard initially trained with the Royal Engineers at Aldershot and on 31st January 1916 embarked for France.

On 25th April 1916 Richard was made a Lance Corporal. It was not until late June 1916 that Richard became involved with the preparations for the battle of the Somme. The 98th Field Coy’s Daily War Diary gives a detailed account of the last two weeks of Richards life. He was undoubtedly one of the three soldiers from 98th Field Coy R.E. who died or the one who was missing after the assault on Bazentin Ridge on 14 July 1916.