Fighting Aylmers

Our family seems to have had a history of warfare – but perhaps that just reflects troubled times. These are some of the Aylmers who have had notable military careers.

Soldiers

General Fenton Aylmer VC (1862-1935)

Both a general and honoured with Britain’s highest decoration for gallantry, the Victoria Cross, Fenton must head the list. Find out more about this soldier of the late 19th / early 20th British Army.

First Sergeant Patrick J Aylmer (1833-1911)

Patrick was twice promoted in the 169th New York State Volunteer Regiment and was cited for gallantry for his part in the battle of Fort Fisher, 15 January 1865, during the American Civil War. Originally an Irish Aylmer, he arrived in the US in 1852. My correspondent, Aylmer descendant Steve Wiezbicki, believes him to be fourth individual from the left in the top row of the photograph below, taken at a regimental reunion in the year before he died. Despite disabilities from his wartime service, he lived to 1911, latterly on Ferry Street in Troy, New York state. The building was still there in 2008 (picture 2 in sidebar; Patrick’s signature is at picture 1), housing a pork butcher, but with the retirement of the (90-year-old) butcher it became under threat of demolition, carried out shortly after.

Patrick's regimental reunion

Patrick’s regimental reunion

Matthew Whitworth-Aylmer (1775-1850)

Matthew, the 5th Baron Aylmer, followed a distinguished military career with a less successful spell as Governor General of British North America, 1831 to 1835. He never found a formula to reconcile the French speakers of ‘Lower Canada’ with the English speakers elsewhere. Nevertheless, a number of places in North America bear his name: go to Aylmer places to find out more.

Sailors

Several Aylmers have had successful naval careers, including at least five admirals.

Admiral Matthew Aylmer (d. 1720)

Mathew runs Fenton close for his distinguished military service, and exceeds him as a politician and dynastic founder. He too has his own page.

Admiral John ‘Jack’ Aylmer

The first Aylmer to be a US admiral, though long since retired. He had a valuable career in public life as well, as a state senator in the 1970s for the Cape [Cod] and Islands in the Massachussets senate, where he is remembered as a moderate Republican. Jack is also known as one of the most influential administrators in the history of the Cape Cod Baseball League, into whose Hall of Fame he was inducted in 2012. The press box of the Hyannis Harbor Hawks, a team he helped to found, is named after him.

Other Aylmer admirals

  • Admiral John Aylmer (1759-1841)
  • Admiral Sir Frederick Whitworth William Aylmer (1777-1858), 6th Baron Aylmer. During the Bombardment of Algiers, 27 August 1816 – an anti-slavery action following which 3,000 slaves were freed – Frederick commanded the frigate HMS Severn with great distinction
  • Rear Admiral Henry Aylmer (1878-1933), a submariner.

Lt Matthew Aylmer

My son. In 2009 he completed officer training at the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, and early in 2011 won the prestigious Bunting trophy during air traffic control training. He is currently serving the Navy at Plymouth.

HMS Aylmer

No doubt named for at least one Admiral Aylmer, the ship was a US-built 1,400 ton destroyer escort which joined the British Navy under the lend-lease scheme soon after her launch in 1943. Amongst her battle honours was the sinking of U1031 off north Wales on 26 January 1945. Returned to the US Navy in 1945, she was scrapped two years later. There is more information and a larger photograph here.

On the home front

Norman Aylmer

Norman was a young Londoner during the blitz (Nazi bombing raids) of the second world war, who grew up to have a fascinating career. He merits his own page.

Anthony Aylmer

My father. Childhood illness meant that he would never have been fit for front-line sevice – he always had one leg several inches shorter than the other. Equally, he was unsuitable for the local ‘protected trades’ such as dockwork. Otherwise able-bodied, and formidably quick-witted, there was a place for him in a local munitions factory, Plessy’s. This was a remarkable place and, growing up, I did not realise that my parents told me about a place that was still then a state secret. When war broke out, the new Central line tube tunnel from Leytonstone to Newbury Park was almost ready for traffic. Planners though realised that the location was safe from bombs, and so created an underground factory. My father worked here, supervising the mostly women workers – reasonable compensation, for a man in his 20s, for having to work underground. Now there is one drawback to a factory in a tunnel: it is very long and thin (around three miles). But being a future rail tunnel, the planners made the sensible imaginative leap of installing a narrow-gauge railway to transport materials from site to site.

My mother drove the train.

Patrick Aylmer's signature

Patrick Aylmer’s signature

Patrick's home in retirement

Patrick’s home in retirement

HMS Aylmer

HMS Aylmer