CSM Willie Layzell of Banstead Asylum

CSM Willie Layzell of Banstead Asylum

All Saints Church, Little Cornard, has been advised by All Saints Church, Banstead, Surrey of a Service of Remembrance held in memory of CSM Willie Layzell of Banstead Asylum.

The service was held on Sunday, 14th January 2018.  All Saints Church, Little Cornard, were kindly advised of the Service of Remembrance as it is known that Willie and his family had lived in Little Cornard and there are many Layzells still residing in Little Cornard and surrounding areas.

Willie George Layzell was born in Lambeth in early 1875.  He was the son of Thomas, a slater, and Abigail Layzell (nee Tricker).  Willie had several brothers and sisters and the family lived at 2 Joiner Street, Southwark, near London Bridge Station.  His parents were from Suffolk and they moved the family back there when Willie was about 10 years old, living in the village of Little Cornard.  Willie was baptised at All Saints, Little Cornard, alongside six of his brothers and sisters on 27th October 1886.

Willie was apprenticed as a baker in Sudbury and lived with the master baker and his family at their shop.  When his master died, Willie joined the Army, enlisting in the Suffolk Regiment.  He served in India for nearly five years before going to fight in the Second Boer War in South Africa.  He was captured early in the fighting and was a prisoner of war for nine months before being released and rejoining his regiment.

After Willie returned to Britain in 1902-3, he got a job with London County Council, working as an attendant at the asylum on Banstead Downs.  He lived in the on-site accommodation blocks for singe male attendants until he married Edith Bailey, of Lodge Road, Sutton, on 31st March 1907.

They made their home at 2 Lenham Gardens, Sutton, and had a son, John, in 1908.  They moved to 3 Argyle Terrace, Collingwood Road, where another son, Thomas, was born in 1911.  Their next move was to 1 Belmont Road, Belmont, in 1913-14.  Their new house was much closer to Willie’s work and several attendants lived in the road with their families.  They were still living there when war broke out.

The Council encouraged their employees to join the Armed Forces, keeping their jobs open and continuing to pay their salaries. Willie joined the Army for a second time on 9th September 1914.  As he had previous military experience and had been a corporal, he was immediately appointed corporal instructor and then made up to Lance Sergeant the following day.  He helped to train the enthusiastic volunteers that flooded into the Army in the sutumn of 1914 and went with them when the 6th Bedfordshires left for France in July 1915.

The Bedfordshires spent most of their time just north of what became the Somme battlefield.  When the Somme offensive came in July 1916, the Bedfords were soon sent south to fight.  Shot in the neck during an attack in August, Willie was invalided home.  While convalescing, he developed a bad cough and started to lose weight.  He was diagnosed with tuberculosis, believed by the doctors to be hereditary and aggravated by exposure, gas poisoning and fatigue during his time at the Front.

Willie was treated in Fulham Military Hospital.  He transferred to the Royal Defence Corps (WW1’s Home Guard) but by then was already too ill to serve.  Discharged from the Army in September 1917, Willie died four months later, aged 42.  He is buried in the churchyard at St Dunstan’s, Cheam.