Roland William Austin

Information about birth

Year of birth:
Place of birth:
Chalvey, Buckinghamshire, England, United Kingdom

General information


Army information

England, United Kingdom
British Expeditionary Force
Service number:
Enlistment place:
Windsor, Berkshire, England, United Kingdom
 —  Princess Charlotte of Wales’s (Royal Berkshire Regiment), 8th Bn.  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
Place of death:
Surbiton Villas, Belgium
Cause of death:
Killed in action (K.I.A.)


Distinctions and medals 2

Points of interest 2

#1 Place of birth
#2 Enlistment place

My story

Roland William Austin - a gardener from Slough, Berkshire - was killed on the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele. Roland was drafted in 1916 and served in the Royal Berkshire Regiment, 6th Battalion, part of the 53rd Brigade, of the 18th (Eastern) Division.

On 31 July 1917, the 53rd Brigade was in support of the 30th Division, which was to advance through Sanctuary Wood, towards the Menin Road. The 53rd Brigade remained in support and was to leap-frog the 30th Division, when the second objective, including Glencorse Wood had been taken. The 53rd Brigade would then advance to the final objective in Polygon Wood.

At 5.00 a.m., the 6th Berkshire received a message saying that the first objective, west of Surbiton Villas, was captured. At 6.50 a.m., the second objective, at Glencorse Wood, was also reported captured. The 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers of the 30th Division, however, had not captured Glencorse Wood. They had lost their way and had occupied positions in Château Wood, which they mistook for Glencorse Wood.

When the 6th Battalion advanced, it suffered some casualties passing Sanctuary Wood, though the machine-gun fire and shelling at the time didn’t seem to be directed at them. By the time they reached the Jackdaw Reserve Trench, the barrage was directed upon the Berkshires. Though they hadn’t seen any sign of the 30th Division’s troops, it was decided to continue the advance to the Battalion’s form up line in Jargon Trench, north of the Menin Road on the western edge of Glencorse Wood. Upon reaching the Menin Road at Surbiton Villas, heavy machine-gun fire from Glencorse Wood was directed on the Berkshires. And it became painfully clear that the second objective was still in German hands.

Nevertheless the Battalion continued the attack under heavy machine-gun fire, taking Jargon Switch, Surbiton Villas and the crossroads northwest of Glencorse Wood, be it at a heavy cost in casualties. The Berkshires dashed forward once more, when the barrage reopened. But the artillery support was to no avail. It was aimed at the rear of the German lines, as the Berkshires had to attack over open ground, which should already have been taken by troops of the 30th Division. They faced fortified German machine-gun positions without any artillery support and when they met heavy machine-gun fire coming from Jargon trench, it was decided to halt the attack.

German aeroplanes flew over whilst the Battalion was consolidating, directing the German artillery fire. They also dropped bombs on the lines. A counter-attack was seemingly prepared, but was not materialised and the Berkshires were relieved under the cover of darkness at 2.30 a.m.

Roland William Austin, 33, was killed on the 31st of July 1917, leaving behind a young wife and two infant children. He was one of the estimated 254 Royal Berkshire’s casualties. A total of 44 men were killed or died of their wounds, 182 men were wounded and 28 men went missing.

Files 1

Sources 6

Sources used
Sources used
Fox, C., Cull, I. and Chapman, J., Arras to Cambrai: The Kitchener Battalions of the Royal Berkshire Regiment 1917, London: University of Reading, 1997, pp. 20-26.
Sources used
Mc Carthy C., Passchendaele Day-by-Day account, Unicorn Publishing Group, 2018, London, pp. 24-26.
Sources used
Naval and Military Archives
Sources used
The Long Long Trail
Sources used