William Liley Batty

William Liley Batty © IWM (HU 93338)

Born 9 March 1892

Died 25 October 1916

Studied at the RCA: October 1912 – May 1915

Son of a house painter and decorator, William Batty came from Drighlington, Bradford, to study at the RCA in 1912. The College noted in his student file ‘his exceptional artistic gifts’ and ‘high character’.

Along with several other students he joined the London University Officer Training Corps in October 1914, eventually leaving the College on 17 May 1915, embarking on his cadet training at Rugeley Camp in Staffordshire, and gaining his commission to Second Lieutenant in July 1915.

Attached to the 4th Battalion of Alexandra, the Princess of Wales’s Own (Yorkshire Regiment), he was promoted to lieutenant on 3 March 1916.

Six months later, in early October, as the Battle of the Somme continued, William was wounded during fighting at Eaucourt de l’Abbaye, south of Arras. It seems he may not have completely recovered when he (and other injured soldiers) rejoined the battalion a couple of days later. A senior officer, recording this in frank war diary entries, makes clear his outrage at the premature return of such unfit men, as well as the appalling conditions and demands facing them. On the night of 24/25 October William and another officer, John Burgoyne Hudson (a New Zealander) were killed, reportedly by a shell, while on reconnaissance near the Butte de Warlencourt – a prominent chalk outcrop that had become the focus of many attempts at capture. Although there is a suggestion that a record was made of where they were buried at the time of their deaths, their bodies were never recovered. Presumably the constant churning of land made this impossible.

William’s death was reported to the College by his friend, another serving student, Horace S. Blakey. The Registrar wrote a poignant letter to the family in response to the tragic news.

William is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France.

Student file – Royal College of Art Archive
Student file, report – Royal College of Art Archive
Student file, hectograph of letter sent to Tom Batty, William’s father – Royal College of Art Archive
Student file, Form 231 RCA – Royal College of Art Archive
Captain W.L. Batty c.1916 – detail of photograph courtesy of Richard Van Emden (from his book The Somme: the epic battle in the soldiers’ own words and photographs, 2016)
William Liley Batty © IWM (HU 93338)