136 TAYLOR, (TYLEY) Alfred

136 Alfred Taylor (Tyley)
136 Alfred ” Battler”Taylor (Tyley)

 136 Alfred Taylor (Tyley)

136 Spr. Alfred Tyley a Bootmaker, was born in Surry Hills, Sydney in 1891.  He was the 2nd son of George Tyley Snr. also a bootmaker and Mary Lipsey (Leipziger) a German immigrant.

Alfred grew up under difficult and strained domestic circumstances with his two bothers Arthur and George. The era was hard, and the suburbs of Surry Hills and Balmain  where they all grew up  were even harder. Living in miserable, crime ridden suburbs, they were very much left to fend for themselves as both parents were often living independent of one another.

surry hills squalor
The Surry Hills Squalor – “Street Urchins”

It was a long haul for Alfred growing up in the mean streets of Sydney , he did however manage to learn his trade from his father, but unfortunately trouble was never far away in the form of his  brother’s Arthur and  George.

In 1912 Alfred Tyley and his younger brother George Tyley Jnr. were both convicted for break and enter and motorcycle theft in the country town of Goulburn NSW, and both served 12 months gaol.

After the Goulburn incident and his time in prison, Alfred made attempts to settle down and work in the trade his father had taught him as a boot and harness maker. He worked for a while with his father in their store on the Corso, at Manly.

He was extremely quick to join the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) when in World War 1 the call went out for young Australians to enlist, he enlisted on 21st August 1914.

Alfred’s attestation documents show he changed his name to Taylor, so he could comfortably declare “No” to the question of being convicted by a civil power. Alfred’s older brother Arthur and younger brother George would later enlist, each under an alias for similar reasons.

Assumed names were quite common when men enlisted in WW1. Mostly they were men either too young to enlist legally, or they were getting away from unhappy marriages or love affairs or having to hide from a previous criminal conviction. They took it as a legitimate opportunity to choose a suitable alias, a chance to re- invent themselves and go on “The Great Adventure ”. Starting out in life had not been good for any of the Tyley brothers, so this was perhaps a real chance to make something of themselves.

It was then official, Alfred Tyley had become Alfred Taylor 136 Sapper – 1st Field Company Australian Engineers and he had no idea how important his days in the 1st FCE  would become. On Anzac Day 25th April 1915  at approximately 2.30 pm  Alfred landed with the team led by Lieut. Henry Bachtold  – ” The Pontoon Builders” – this link to their story…..  Sappers save 1500 lives”

Wounded on Barges
Wounded on Barges

Alfred was mentioned in orders and  a “153 Complimentary order 570 of 1915 “ for acts of Conspicuous gallantry and valuable service during the landing at Gallipoli on the 25th April 1915. ( a copy below)

Sadly his father George Tyley Snr. died in December 1915,  only a few days before receiving a letter from the war office with notification of Alfred’s ” Acts of Conspicuous Gallantry ” at Gallipoli.

Alfred served at the Gallipoli the entire 8 months without a single sick day, and also served  for a short time on the western front in France until the end of the war in 1918.

It so happens that while in England, possibly on leave during his service, he met and married Miss Gladys Skipper, a munitions worker from Norfolk , England.

Letter for Conspicuous Gallantry

They both returned to Sydney Australia on 27th July 1919 and up to this point my research has revealed they lived happily together in Saratoga, a small coastal village on the Central coast approximately 2 hrs drive North of Sydney.

It appears he remained in contact with his mother Mary, later known as Mary Lowes, as my investigations have shown he was the informant on her death certificate and perhaps he had even made the arrangements for her burial in 1950 at Rookwood cemetery.

About this time, his only niece Patricia Kelly nee Tyley,  had never met him and she had no knowledge of his past or his whereabouts. His older brother Arthur,  had died in 1942 and the whereabouts of his younger brother George Jnr. was still a mystery.  (He would later show up in Western Australia)

Everything I have read about Alfred indicates he was happy to remain known as Alfred Taylor right up to his death on 6th April 1964 aged 72. He had very little or nothing to do with his brothers after the war and perhaps for all the strife they had caused each other and his miserable childhood, he was probably happier to forget.

He was cremated at the Northern Suburbs Crematorium, Sydney. He was survived by his wife Gladys and unfortunately all known records indicate that they had no children.

His very private and retiring lifestyle on his return home to Australia with his wife of 46 years by the small seaside village of Saratoga was a lovely end to his story.

A small obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald tributes Alfred “Battler” Taylor.

Unfortunately, and the saddest fact of all, is not a single person in his family, since he passed away in 1964 ever got to know about Alfred or his courage and service to his country until a few years ago, and 100 years later I feel privileged I have brought his long lost memory back to life, and given him the recognition he so richly deserves….. for he was an ANZAC….. in Australia one of the highest honours a man can have.

I am very proud of Alfred Taylor (Tyley) 136 Sapper AIF – ANZAC……………….. he is my great uncle.

Story by Vance Kelly

Story Copyright © Vance Kelly 2015

Sources: AWM, NLA, NAA


1. This year I was fortunate enough to be issued and  entrusted with his “Gallipoli Medal ” – Alfred passed away before its issue.

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