On Armistice Day: Remembering the tragic story of Harlow’s three Riley brothers

History / Thu 11th Nov 2021 at 08:00am

OF all the men who left Harlow to fight in World War One and never came back, there is something even more tragic about the three Riley Brothers.

When we were researching this project in 2018, we spoke to their niece, Isobel Scrivener, who lives in Medicine Hat, Canada.

She told us that her father (their brother) never spoke about his three brothers and she only found out about them when she was in her thirties. The loss was that painful.

Their grave can be found in St Andrew’s churchyard in Waterhouse Moor.


From 2018

The story of the short lives of the Riley brothers, Thomas, Cyril and Francis, who all lost their lives between September 1915 and February 1917.

Their short biographies are read out by Oliver from Burnt Mill Academy.

Thanks to Harlow Council’s Civic Fund and HTS Ltd for their support.

Thomas, Cyril and Francis’ parents were Arthur Riley, born in Aldershot in 1869 and Mary Elizabeth Hazleton, born in Netteswell in 1862.

Arthur and Mary married in Netteswell in September 1894. Francis Arthur Riley was born on 14th August 1895.

Thomas William Riley was born on 24th August 1896 and Cyril Patrick Riley was born on 8th February 1898.

Cyril was known as Cecil throughout his life.

The 1901 census shows the family living at The Post Office at Netteswell Cross where Arthur carried out his business as a grocer and general store. The 1911 Census shows the family still residing at The Post Office in Netteswell Cross.

Francis was working as a shop assistant, shirt and collar maker. Thomas, aged 15, was listed as an engineer’s apprentice, most likely working for Kirkaldy’s Marine Engineering Works in Burnt Mill.

Private Thomas William Riley, 1329, enlisted in Harlow in The 1st/4th Battalions of The Essex Regiment. Thomas died of Dysentery on 2 September 1915, aged 19 and is buried in The Pieta Military Cemetery, Malta. Plot B, row 7, grave 5. Register Index Number Eur.1.

Private Cyril Riley, T/3346, enlisted in Bishop’s Stortford in The 5th Battalion of The East Kent Regiment. Cyril had formerly been Private 22460 in The 4th Battalion of The Bedfordshire Regiment. Cyril died of Dysentery on 13 May 1916, aged 18. Cyril is commemorated on the Basra Memorial, Iraq. Panel 6. Register Index Number MR38.

Corporal Francis Arthur Riley, 33230, enlisted in Southwark serving in The 8th Battalion of The Bedfordshire Regiment. Francis had previously served with The Essex Regiment. Francis was wounded in action and died of wounds at a casualty clearing station on 6 February 1917, aged 21 and is buried in Bethune Town Cemetery, France. Plot 6, row B, grave 21. Register Index Fr.80.

Francis married Ida Mary Moore at St. Giles Parish Church, Colchester on 4th March 1916. Francis and Ida had one child, a daughter Eileen (1916-2016). In June 1917, a Grant of Probate to the sum of £108 4s 9d was granted to Ida, who was living in Burnt Mill. Ida never remarried and died in Guildford, Surrey on 4th July 1976, aged 83.

The Riley brothers’ mother Mary passed away on 9th July 1919, aged 56. A Grant of Probate was awarded to her widower Arthur for the sum of £54 10s11.

Arthur Riley died in Harlow on 15th July 1955, aged 86. A Grant of Probate was awarded to Arthur’s only surviving son, Jack for the sum of £6,654 5s. 2d13.

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