Robert Thomas MAUDSLEY
Eyes blue, Hair brown, Complexion fair
Robert and his family
Robert Thomas Maudsley was the son of John and Mary Maudsley, née Scott. John was born at West Bradford, Yorkshire and Mary at Clitheroe, Lancashire.
Robert is listed in the 1911 Census for Grindleton in the Ribble Valley district of what was then the West Riding of Yorkshire (now Lancashire). He was 21, unmarried and worked as a butter dealer. He lived with his family, the eldest of nine children.
Those over 13 were working: aside from Robert, one was a mason’s labourer and four worked as shirting weavers for a cotton cloth manufacturer; the three youngest were still at school. His father, John, was a land drainer.
Robert - The German Death List
Having enlisted as a private in the AIF, Robert was a part of the 32nd Battalion engaged in the Battle of Fromelles. He was listed as missing after the battle and his name appeared on the German death list dated 4 November 1916. His identity disc was received from Germany in May 1917 and forwarded to his mother as next of kin. Robert was listed as having no known grave.
As described by Nick Miller in a 2016 article in the Brisbane Times:
`Robert Maudsley, a Yorkshireman who enlisted as a 26-year-old labourer in South Australia, breached the German wire on the evening of the Fromelles attack and his A company got as far as the rearmost enemy trenches – a ditch with two feet of mud at the bottom. He died some time in the night, one of more than 660 32nd battalion men killed, wounded or missing that night.`
Positive identification a century later
Originally listed as having 'no known grave', Robert was one of the soldiers whose remains were finally identified following discovery of a mass grave in 2009. It was in 2016, a century since the Battles of Fromelles, that the Australian Army confirmed the identification of Robert as one of six Australians identified in that year. The commemoration and re-dedication of his grave at Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery occurred as part of the centenary celebrations in July 2016.
Family, military and other connections
Somewhere between the 1911 census and enlisting in July 1915, young Robert made his way to Australia. No records have been found of his immigration or his time in Australia other than his enlistment in South Australia in July 1915.
We do know however that his cousin, Joseph Bell (his mother was a Maudsley), also came to Australia and enlisted in the AIF in Western Australia (service number 2592). He was a private with the 51st Battalion when he was killed in action at Pozieres in August 1916, a month after Robert’s death.
Robert’s brother, Jesse, also served in France as a member of the First Life Guards (UK). He survived the war, married and raised a family. He died in 1984.
On Robert’s AIF personnel file, there was an enquiry seeking the address of his next of kin from a Miss Daisy Royal. We do not know the connection between Robert and Daisy and it seems that the army would not give out the next of kin details without good reason.
The only clues we have about Daisy is the address given on her letter – Burrowa House, Wells Street, Redfern. This appears to be 59 Wells Street, a private house, in the busy, mainly working-class area of Redfern in Sydney. There is a Daisy Royal born in Redfern in 1898 and whose name appears in newspaper reports in the 1920s and early 1930s as an entertainer in various concerts. Whether they are one and the same person, we do not know.
Commemorated in France, England and Australia
Since 2016, Robert Maudsley has been commemorated with his own gravestone in Fromelles where he died in France.
He is also commemorated in his country of birth with his name appearing on the Grindleton War Memorial in Yorkshire and on his family gravestone at St Ambrose’s Churchyard at Grindleton. That family gravestone also commemorates his mother (Mary Maudsley nee Scott 1863-1926), his younger brother Frederick (1907-1926) and his maternal grandfather (Thomas Scott 1833-1905).
In Australia, Robert is commemorated on:
- the Australian Roll of Honour
- the Australian War Memorial (panel 120)
- the Adelaide National War Memorial and
- The Port Pirie Gates South Australia WW1 Memorial.
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