William Charles MESLEY

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William Charles MESLEY

Private William Charles Mesley
The Royal Marine Light Infantry

Private Mesley (Reg No: 9924) was treated under the auspices of the Royal Navy.

Born in 1878 in Twickenham, William had been a boot repairer before joining the Royal Marines on his sixteenth birthday in 1894. He served until 1905; he was one of the Royal Marines deployed to China around the turn of the century to deal with the Boxer Rebellion.

Having switched to the RM Reserves in 1905, William began work at a psychiatric hospital in Surrey, training the patients to repair boots and shoes and it was there that he met his wife, Alice, who was a nurse. William and Alice married in 1909.

When War was declared, William returned to the forces immediately and was one of the ‘Old Contemptibles’ of the British Expeditionary Force, fighting at Dunkirk and Antwerp in September/October of 1914.

In 1916, William was seriously hurt on board ship and was left paralysed which later necessitated the amputation of one of his legs.

Once William was able to leave hospital, he and Alice were able to move to a specially adapted home at War Seal Mansions in Fulham, which later became Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions, built especially for wounded soldiers and their families by the impresario, Sir Oswald Stoll (where another Royal Marine, Frank Cox, who also worked on the altar frontal, moved with his wife, Elsie).

William’s granddaughter, Joan Breacker, says that her grandfather loved living near Chelsea FC because he liked going to matches there. She used to love visiting William and Alice at War Seal Mansions; her grandfather would give the children rides on his mobility carriage. He also had a big embroidery frame there and they used to sit and watch him move the needle back and forth as he applied himself to his craftwork.

Mesley, Private William Charles - meeting the Queen
Mesley, Private William Charles - newspaper cutting, meeting the King
Mesley, Private William Charles - papers 1

Documents courtesy of The Western Front Association