Peter Wolferstan Rylands

Memorial: Olveston

Regiment: Royal Air Force

Medals: British War Medal, Next of Kin Memorial Plaque 1914 - 1921, Victory Medal

Rank and number: Lieutenant

Parents: Thomas Kirkland and Betha Nesbit Wolferstan Rylands

Home address: The Down House, Old Down, Tockington, Bristol

Date of birth: 1899

Date of death: 09/08/1918

Buried/Commemorated at: Langton Matravers Church Cemetery (3rd row east of middle path), Swanage

Age: 19

Further information:

Peter was the second of four sons born to Thomas and Betha Rylands of the Down House on Old Down, Tockington. His brothers were Geoffrey, George and James, his father was land agent involved in the management of both Old Down and Tockington Manor estates. Mrs Rylands had been born in Marlborough, Wiltshire, to the Wolferstan family, and her sister kept a preparatory boarding school, Durnford House, in Langton Matravers in Dorset. Not only did the boys start their education there but also the family often spent their summer holidays with the boys’ aunt near the sea.

Having completed his schooling at Durnford and Marlborough and being eligible by age to contribute to the war effort, Peter Rylands joined the Royal Flying Corps and was commissioned in July 1917. By November of that year he had become an instructor. On the afternoon of the 9th of August 1918 he was leading a section of trainee pilots in firing practice in the Solent in a 130hp Clerget engined Sopwith Camel serial number F2205 off Beaulieu in Hampshire, when he was seen to dive into the sea. The Court of Inquiry convened on the 24th of August could only state that there was insufficient evidence to determine the cause of the accident.

A correspondent to The Times wrote: “Lieutenant Rylands, from the first, was unswerving in his determination to join the RFC. A brother officer who constantly witnessed his work as an instructor said to me, ‘It is no exaggeration to say that, if you take all the different qualities which go to make a really first-class airman, there is not one in 500 as good as Rylands’. He was so successful as an instructor that, though he repeatedly asked to be sent to the front, he was too valuable to be spared. He had gifts of the born teacher and he went straight forward knowing the risk, counting the cost, ready and willing to give cheerfully all that he had for the supreme cause”.

At the age of 19, Peter Rylands lies buried in the churchyard at Langton Matravers near Swanage. His brother Geoffrey, a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy on HMS Ark Royal, returned from wartime service to enjoy the peace.

By kind permission, this information is based on the following source(s):

Forces War Records and CWGC