George Wesley Royle 1888 – 1946
by Linda Ayres
George Wesley Royle was born on the 9th January 1888 at Kingston -on-Thames in Surrey, to Sir George Royle and his wife Lady Rosetta, nee Wilford. George had an elder brother, Ernest Rupert (1884 -1944), and a younger sister, Phyllis Muriel Irene (1899-1976). In the year that George was born the family moved to 18 Rutland Road, Bedford.
Sir George Royle
Sir George Royle (1861-1949) was one of Bedford’s outstanding public figures. On the 28th May 1903, the Mayor of Bedford, Hedley Baxter, was forced to resign due to ill health. On the 8th June George was duly elected Mayor of Bedford. He held the office of Mayor until November 1903. He was the Divisional Manager of a large Friendly Society and was in charge of fourteen counties. He qualified as a barrister in 1904, and specialised in finance and arbitration. He had chambers in Lincoln’s Inn. He was Chairman of the Bedford National Savings Committee (1916-1944) and its President (1944-1949.) He was made an Officer of the British Empire in 1920 and knighted. He was also made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (C.B.E) in 1926. On the 28th April 1944 he was awarded Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Bedford. It is one of the most prestigious awards which a council can bestow upon a valued member of the community.
George Wesley Royle’s Early Years
George went to the Modern School (1896-1906). He excelled at most sports. He played rugby for the 1st XV in 1903, 1904 and 1905 and captained the side in his last season. He was a powerful oarsman and rowed in the 1st 1V in 1904, 1905 and 1906. As an athlete he was a good hurdler and won both the high and long jumps. He won the house half mile race, a distance he had never attempted before. On leaving School he was articled to Charles Nassau Peacock, a dentist at 5 De Parys Avenue, Bedford. After qualifying as a dentist, he was appointed as dental surgeon at Ipswich Hospital.
The Battle of the Falkland Islands
In 1912 the Government appointed George as dental surgeon to the Falkland Islands. He sailed from Liverpool on the SS Orissa to Port Stanley.
During the First World War the Falkland Islands was placed on a war footing. On the 22nd November 1912 the German battle ships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau had rounded Cape Horn. This made it seem likely that they would soon be arriving at Port Stanley. The women and children and non-combatants were sent out from Port Stanley to a place of safety. At the hospital extra beds were placed in the wards and medical supplies were brought in by the ships. George volunteered to stay and help at the hospital as there was every chance of Port Stanley being bombarded. He subsequently served as a Lieutenant attached to the machine gun corps.
At 7.30 a.m. on the 8th December 1914 the German battle cruisers the Scharnhorst flying the flag of Vice- Admiral Count Maximillian von Spee, the Gneisenau, Leipzig, Dresden and the Nuernberg arrived at the Falkland Islands to destroy the British coaling and communication facilities. Unbeknown to Vice- Admiral Count Maximillian von Spee, a British squadron commanded by Vice Admiral Sir Frederick Charles Doveton Sturdee had arrived two days earlier and was lying in wait for him. The Dresden and the Nuernberg made off during the action, and were pursued. The Scharnhorst was sunk first, with the admiral aboard; his two sons, on the Gneisenau and Nurnberg, also went down with their ships. The action lasted for five hours. There was no loss of any British vessel. Some 200 German survivors were hauled from the water and captured. Germany lost four warships and 1,871 sailors compared with 11 British deaths. It was reported “The battle of the Falkland Islands, which resulted in a British victory, is easily the most important naval engagement of the war.”
In 1919 a memorial was unveiled at Port Stanley to commemorate those who gave their lives in the Battle of the Falklands.
George’s marriage to Beatrice Gwendoline Kirwan
On the 3rd June 1916 George married Beatrice Gwendoline Kirwan by special licence at Christ Church Cathedral, Port Stanley. Beatrice was born on 7th November 1886 at Lambeth, London. She was one of the seven children of John and Jane Kirwan. Her father was appointed clerk to the Falkland Islands Company for a term of five years at a salary of £210. He set sail on the 20th September 1890 from London on the mail schooner Serapis, arriving in Stanley on 19th October 1890. On the 8th October 1890 Beatrice her mother and her six siblings sailed from London on the Dennis Brundrit for the Falkland Islands. The family provided their own bedding and the Falkland Island Company provided five mattresses and pillows.
George and Beatrice return to Bedford
In 1920 they returned to Bedford, and lived at 3 Goldington Road. In 1923 George set up his dental practice at 92 Bower Street, Bedford. He was a specialist in dental X-Ray which he carried out in London and in outlying districts of the County as well as Bedford.
George was initiated into Stuart Lodge in 1920. In that same year he captained the Bedford Rugby Club in its first post war season, with a ruined ground, and a make-shift fixture list. He kept going until Bedford Rugby Club gained victory over Northampton. George was an amateur actor, he frequently appeared in theatrical productions for the Modern School and the town Dramatic Societies. In 1934 as President of the Bedford Operatic Society, he played the part of Wilfred Shadbolt in Gilbert and Sullivan’s the Yeoman of the Guard. He was a great success. He was also a member of the Rotary Club of Bedford.
When World War Two broke out he volunteered in the Royal Dental Corps. George served at Aldershot as a captain from 1939 to 1942. His willingness to join up meant he suffered considerable financial loss.
On the 16th March 1946 George died aged 58 years at his home 3 Goldington Road. The funeral service at St. Cuthbert’s Church, Bedford, preceded his burial at Foster Hill Road Cemetery. Section G7 Grave 170.
Beatrice survived George by 27 years; she died on the 7th November 1973 aged 87 years in Surrey. They had no children.
Funerals of Lord and Lady Royle
Lady Royle had been ill for five years before she died aged 83 years on the 19th April 1945 at a nursing home in Bedford. The memorial service was held at St. Paul’s Methodist Church, Harpur Street, Bedford, followed by cremation at Kettering.
On the 17th November 1949 Sir George Royle died aged 88 years at his home 18 Rutland Road. The Funeral service was held at St. Paul’s Methodist Church, The service was followed by cremation at Kettering.
Passenger Lists 1890-1912
The People, Sunday December 13th 1914
Illustrated London News 19th December 1914
Dental Record Volume 37 1917
The Kirwan Family The National Archives
Bedfordshire Times and Standard 20th April 1943
Bedfordshire Times and Standard 22 March 1946
The Bedfordshire Times and Standard 25th November 1949
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