William Temple

WO1 (RQMS) William Vandyck (Van) Temple MSM

The Liverpool Scottish 10th (Scottish) Battalion, The King’s (Liverpool Regiment), Territorial Force


This account arose from a query that came to the Liverpool Scottish Museum Trust. When I looked at the papers in the National Archive with their very full record of service and the notes and letters that Temple himself had written to the Record Office, his personality seemed to leap from the pages. The image that I had was confirmed by the recollections of his grandson, Richard Thomas. What was intended to be a short note of 500 words has turned into a biography of some 4,000 words.

Ian Riley Hon. Sec.

William Vandyck Temple was known as ‘Van’, certainly in civilian life, and the usage is maintained here.

Italicised passages are recollections of Van Temple’s grandson, Richard Thomas, in 2014

William Vandyck Temple was one of the educated and literate Territorial volunteer soldiers that gave a unique character to the Liverpool Scottish at the time of the First World War. Obviously a keen Territorial and a member of the Volunteer Force before the formation of the Territorial Force in 1908, he maintained his links with the Liverpool Scottish even when working for the Royal Insurance Company on the east coast. When war came in 1914, he volunteered for overseas service but was retained in the UK employed in Brigade HQ presumably for the excellence of his administrative skills until the 57th(Second West Lancashire) Division (including the 2nd Battalion of the Liverpool Scottish) went out to France in 1917 where he served with distinction, eventually returning the Liverpool Scottish after the 1st and 2nd Battalions were merged. A remarkably complete set of papers survives in the National Archive including several items of correspondence from him to various military authorities.

Born on 25th January 1887, he was the son of William Patrick Temple, a general produce broker originally of Ballantrae in Ayrshire, and his wife Margaret Elizabeth Temple (neé Dick). By 1891 the young Van and his three sisters were living with their parents at Greenbank Road in Tranmere, near Birkenhead, on the Wirral.

His grandson, Richard Thomas, remembers that his grandfather was culturally Scottish through and through:

He bought his porridge oats from the Black Isle, and he read the Scotsman every day. However he was born in England and had few opportunities to visit Scotland, and it was not until his sixties that he could enjoy going down the Clyde on one of the pleasure steamers. In his back garden he had a tall flagpole from which he flew the Union Flag on high days and holidays. It was an early lesson to [Richard] that being Scottish did not rule out being British, and that the Union was in the interests of all the constituent nations.

Marked out academically at his school as a clever pupil, his name was put forward to the Royal Insurance Company by his headmaster as a potential candidate for appointment; the ‘Royal’ was then one of the giants of Liverpool’s commercial life whose imposing original premises with its cupola and gilded dome still stand at the corner of Dale Street and North John Street, now finely restored as a luxury hotel. Beating the other, rather older, competitors for the post, he set about making his way in the world, presumably deploying the impressive power of self-expression and clarity of writing that can be seen in some of the documents that survive in his military file in the National Archive.

Despite leaving school so early, he was very well read and he particularly loved history. He knew where all his books were, and he could even direct you to a book by giving its location, for example third from the right on the second row down.

By 1901, he is recorded on the census as being a ‘Cashier/Clerk’ at the tender age of 14.

He started with the Royal insurance Company in Birkenhead on the first Monday after his 14th birthday in 1901,  much against his mother’s wishes. She opposed it because in her view he was clever enough to have gone to university and to have had an academic career, but his father was adamant. He transferred to the Royal’s head office in Liverpool in 1906 and was then posted to Grimsby as Chief Clerk in 1908. He joined the Presbyterian church there, and he was made a deacon in 1912.

Standing at a height of just under six foot immediately before his eighteenth birthday, he joined the Liverpool Scottish on 10th January 1905 when he was attested with the 8th (Scottish) Volunteer Battalion of the KLR, part of the Volunteer Force, the forerunner of the Territorial Force (TF) that was founded in 1908. When the 8th Battalion became the 10th (Scottish) Battalion of the TF in 1908, he had just begun working at the Royal’s offices in Grimsby in Lincolnshire. His surviving attestation form, showing his appointment as Lance-Corporal, of June 1908 is particular to soldiers in the Volunteer Force who were transferring to the TF. He was attested in Grimsby by an officer of the 5th Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment but it was immediately forwarded for approval in Liverpool and stamped for service with the Liverpool Scottish in which he had been allocated the memorable regimental number of 1000. Having paid £3 for his kit, a uniform that included a Forbes tartan kilt and a rather fine khaki and scarlet tunic, and his ten shillings (50p) a year subscription to be part of the Liverpool Scottish and enjoy the facilities of the fine new Drill Hall built in Fraser Street in Liverpool’s city centre, he would be reluctant to forgo his membership of the Liverpool Scottish. £3 would have been nearly twice the weekly wage of an unskilled working man. By staying with his own unit, he would also retain his appointment of Lance-Corporal (which was not then a substantive rank). He would have been able to carry out training attached to other units and to attend camp with the Liverpool Scottish wherever that might be: he regularly re-enlists during the pre-war period. There was also the matter his pride in his Scottish parentage. In 1911 he was boarding in Cleethorpes and he was to remain resident in the Grimsby area for the rest of his life until his death in 1958.

When mobilized in 1914, having been promoted to full Corporal in June, he would have reported to the Barracks in Fraser Street on 5th August and was immediately promoted to Sergeant (except then it would probably have been spelt as ‘Serjeant’). He was on the strength of ‘A’ Company although, given his clerical skills, he might very possibly have been employed in the battalion HQ. He would have moved with the battalion to Edinburgh in late August and thence to Tunbridge Wells in mid-October 1914. This move was the precursor to the battalion going to France and Flanders on 1st November 1914. The TF was committed only to ‘home defence’, the defence of the UK itself on UK territory, but Territorials were invited to take the Imperial Service Obligation which meant that they could be posted overseas, either for garrison duty or active service. In the Liverpool Scottish, a sufficient proportion signed up to allow the battalion to be the first Liverpool TF battalion to go overseas. Although Van Temple had signed the papers volunteering for overseas service when in Tunbridge Wells on 23rd October, at which stage there seemed to have been something of a rush to complete the necessary paperwork before embarking for France, he remained in the UK.

As he explained, in an immaculately phrased letter to the War Office in 1922 applying for the Territorial Force War Medal (TFWM), by October 1914 he was on the held strength of the HQ of the South Lancashire Brigade (of which the Liverpool Scottish was part) and had not been able to travel overseas with what was to become the 1st Battalion of the Liverpool Scottish (1/10 KLR – sometimes referred to as a ‘first line battalion’). Instead he remained in the UK and, although serving with the Brigade HQ, he would have been on the strength of the 2/10 KLR, formed on the departure overseas of 1/10th KLR, from those who had not taken the overseas service obligation and those insufficiently trained or too young to go overseas on active service. Also remaining in the UK with the ‘second-line’ battalion were those such as Temple, retained for their specific skills although they had volunteered to go to France. Unfortunately, one of the qualifications for the TFWM (designed to reward and compensate long-serving Territorials who had volunteered to go overseas but had not actuially been posted abroad until after the qualifying period for the 1914 Star or the 1914-15 Star) was that the Imperial Service Obligation had to be made either in writing or verbally by 30th September 1914; he had signed only in October. If he had made a verbal declaration previous to that date there was possibly no surviving officer to vouch for it.

Although left behind by the 1st Battalion of the Liverpool Scottish as it went abroad, Van Temple put his time in Tunbridge Wells to good advantage for it was there at Holy Trinity Church that he married Dorothy Isabella Forbes in December 1914, a wife who obviously saw the attractions of a soldier whose tartan matched her maiden name. She was probably the daughter of Francis Sinclair Forbes, a ‘fish curer’ living in a prosperous and leafy area of Grimsby, for whose will Van Temple was executor in 1942.

He had met his future wife at church. He was tone deaf but in courting her he went to the library and read in great detail analyses of works being performed in Grimsby. Then he would take her to the concerts (she being highly musical) and was able to talk sympathetically and intelligently to her about them. When she found out, she was impressed.

Promotion to Quartermaster Sergeant followed almost immediately on New Year’s Day 1915; he was obviously fulfilling a key rôle in the Brigade HQ. A son, Francis Forbes Temple, was born in December 1915. During 1917, a new six-figure Army number was issued to Territorials of the KLR and in this case 1000 translated to 355025. Given that the Liverpool Scottish block of numbers started at 355001, this indicates his seniority within the battalions. The South Lancashire Brigade became 172nd Infantry Brigade of the 57th (Second West Lancashire) Division, committed to the home defence of the UK and spending 1915 and 1916 in the south-east of England. The corresponding first-line battalions including 1/10 KLR had, by January 1916, formed part of the 55th (West Lancashire) Division in France and Flanders. The 57th Division trained hard in England and was reviewed on Laffan’s Plain near Aldershot first by Field Marshal Sir John French on 19th September 1916 and then, on 23rd September, by King George V. Although there was a constant expectation that it would go overseas this did not happen until early in 1917. Temple appears to be recorded as having gone across the Channel sailing from Southampton to Le Havre, still with HQ 172nd Infantry Brigade, on 14th February 1917 but his letter to the War Office regarding his eligibility for the TFWM states that he arrived in France in January 1917 which would be entirely reasonable as the Division was warned for overseas service on 5th January 1917 and it would be likely that an advance party from Brigade Headquarters would proceed ahead of the main body of the Brigade.

He remained in France and Flanders for the remainder of the war and into the spring of 1919, with periods of home leave in September 1917, March 1918 and an extended month’s leave from early November 1918 that spanned the Armistice. The 57th Division, and with it the 172nd Infantry Brigade, served initially in an area south-west of Armentières around Houplines, La Chapelle d’Armentières, Bois Grenier and Fleurbaix. The memorial cairn erected in 2005 in the memory of the men of the 2/10th KLR is just 1 km south-east of the village of Bois Grenier and many of the battalion’s dead are buried in the Commonwealth War Grave Commission’s cemetery at Erquinghem-Lys Churchyard Extension where the volunteer-run town museum has a Liverpool Scottish display. In September 1917, the brigades of the 57th Division moved north to the Ypres Salient to take part in the closing stages of the Passchendaele campaign, based mainly to the north-east of Ypres in the area around Poelcapelle and Langemark although 172nd Infantry Brigade does not appear to have taken part in any of the major set-piece attacks. The 57th Division returned to the area of their initial deployment below Armentières by the beginning of 1918 by which time VanTemple had received a ‘Mention in Despatches’ that appeared in the London Gazette of 14th December 1917 (p. 13230), clearly a mark of appreciation of efforts beyond the call of duty at Brigade Headquarters. This would entitle him to wear the oak leaf insignia of the MID on the ribbon of his Allied Victory Medal when he received it in April 1922 although he would be entitled to wear the ribbon (once available) and insignia without the medal before then.

In April 1918, during what was known as the ‘manpower crisis’, the 2/10 KLR left the 57th Division and was amalgamated with 1/10 KLR as part of 166th Infantry Brigade in the 55th (West Lancashire) immediately following that division’s historic engagement in the Battle of the Lys at Givenchy, halting the German offensive ‘Georgette’. Each infantry brigade was reduced from four to three infantry battalions. At the end of July 1918, Van Temple followed the men of 2/10 KLR from the 57th Division back to 1/10 KLR (the combined battalion) when he was promoted to the rank of Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2) in the post of Quartermaster Sergeant. It is unclear whether this was in the battalion’s orderly room or whether it was a job based with a rifle company but given his skills and background the former seems likely. It is interesting that his application for the Territorial Efficiency Medal, made through 2/10 KLR in the field in May 1917, refers to him as a Warrant officer at that stage; he may have been then holding acting rank of Warrant Officer.

By September 1918, the Liverpool Scottish battalion was advancing along with other units of the 55th Division and the BEF in general in the ‘Final 100 Days’ that followed the Battle of Amiens on 8th August 1918. By the end of hostilities, on 11th November 1918, the Division had reached the Belgian town of Ath. The 55th Division was billeted near Brussels rather than moving into Germany with the Army of Occupation and the Liverpool Scottish took part in the 55th Division’s parade in Brussels on 3rd January 1919 that marked the third anniversary of its formation in France. They were inspected by King Albert, King of the Belgians. The Liverpool Scottish then moved to Antwerp where they were very much over-strength, reinforced by recruits who had come across after the Armistice. In Antwerp, they performed ceremonial duties as well as being heavily involved in the handling of the men and materiel of the whole BEF returning to the UK on demobilisation. In recognition of his excellent work and 'For his services in France and Flanders', he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (MSM); this appeared in the London Gazette of 18th January 1919 (p. 986).  

 Somewhere around the turn of the year (1918/19) Van Temple was promoted to Warrant Officer Class 1 in the appointment of Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant (RQMS) responsible together with the commissioned Quartermaster (QM) for the logistics, stores, catering, quartering and supply of the battalion. This would have been a heavy responsibility given the size of the battalion and its very varied rôles at this stage. He would have taken on this job in the footsteps of the previous RQMS, Robert Andrew Scott Macfie, one of the most extraordinary characters of the Liverpool Scottish, chemistry graduate of Cambridge University, scholar of the Romany culture, managing director of one of the oldest sugar refineries in the world, a keeper of meticulous battalion records and an eccentric.

For reasons that are not clear, he does not seem to have qualified for the Territorial Efficiency Medal despite have been in the TF from the outset in 1908 and with war service counting as double. His personal papers in the National Archive show his own application in May 1917, clearly stating his qualifications and referenced with clinical accuracy to the appropriate regulations as only the office manager of a Brigade Headquarters could do, as well as a supporting letter from the Commanding Officer of his battalion, 2/10 KLR.

Temple had his demobilisation medical at Duisans in France on 23rd April 1919 and moved back to the UK five days later for dispersal from Harrowby Camp at Grantham on the following day with a grant of 28 days demobilization leave and an additional 28 days leave specially granted because he could not be spared earlier for demobilization when his turn was due. A startlingly concise letter from Grimsby on 14th May 1919 picks up the Record Office on five separate points: whether he was being ‘disembodied’ as they said as a wartime recruit or ‘discharged’ as he claimed was his right as a pre-war Territorial whilst also pointing out that the Armistice did not actually mean that the war had ended, his date of birth (out by ten years), the date from which he started his service (1904 rather than 1908) and the small matter of authorisation of his additional leave without which the authorities would not pay him for the additional month. Van Temple had not wasted his time in the Orderly Room of 172nd Infantry Brigade; he could deploy a formidable barrage through his typewriter and pen. Doubtless these skills transferred after the war to the benefit of the Royal Insurance Company.

With considerable persistence, his personal file shows a further slightly peremptory note from him dated 28th May 1919 to the Records Office at Preston asking when he might expect to see his Royal warrant on appointment as a Warrant Officer. By this time he is obviously back into the Royal Insurance office at Grimsby as a sheet of the company’s notepaper has been pressed (possibly improperly) into personal service. He returned to Grimsby, first to a solid semi-detached villa in Lambert Road boasting its own name inscribed into the stonework on the front façade and later to a detached house in a secluded cul-de-sac in Portland Avenue, all quite close to the probable house of his wife’s parents.

He spent the whole of his career with the Royal Insurance, apart from his service during the war. Richard Thomas, who lived with his grandparents in his early years whilst his own father was on active service, recalls that he was aware of Van Temple’s high standards as well as his kindness.

The tributes paid to him at his funeral noted that underneath a serious, meticulous, determined and high minded exterior, he was kind and affectionate. He was very widely read with a particular liking for history. He played a leading role in his church in Grimsby for all his life, and served as its treasurer for 37 years. As well as his administrative duties and leadership in the church both locally and nationally I discovered only recently of his kindness to a little handicapped girl in his street. It is clear from family stories how much the war had affected him, and the birth of his two daughters in 1920 and 1922 and later his son Nigel in 1935 seem to have helped him to recover. During the Depression he did not mind if his staff wore threadbare suits, as he understood that their priority was food on the table for their families, but he did expect their shoes to be polished!

A further memory is that:

One of his daughters was a young nurse in Glasgow and could not afford the train fare home to Grimsby for her holiday, so he took the train to Glasgow and walked home to Grimsby with her. This was not done to harden her up – she said that the idea of walking home was hers, but at the age of 60 he said he was glad of the exercise. And when he was younger, after a Territorial camp he and his cousin found that their family had gone to Crieff for their holidays, so he and his cousin walked all the way there to save money.

He became manager of the Royal Insurance offices in Grimsby and remained closely involved with his church:

As the town of Grimsby grew so the original location of his church, the Presbyterian church, became less suitable as it was in the town centre, and he was the prime mover with his father-in-law in raising the money for a new site and building in the new residential area. He is said to have visited every Scottish family in Grimsby to raise the money. Within a short time of the new church opening all the debts were paid off and the church was in a position to help other less wealthy congregations

During WW2 he declared that any serviceman who took the trouble to come to church would be invited back to his house for lunch, quite something in the days of rationing. That was how my father, who was then serving in the Royal Navy, met my mother (his elder daughter). In WW2 he became an air raid warden.

Van Temple remained a member of the Liverpool Scottish Regimental Association until his death in 1958.

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