Lieutenant, No.1 squadron Royal Flying Corps and 1st Battalion London Regiments (Royal Fusiliers).
Killed 12th January 1916, age 25.
Buried at Chapelle-d’Armentieres New Military Cemetery, France, grave ref. B3.
Former student of classics.
Eyre was born in July 1890. He was the eldest son of Henry Spenser Wilkinson, himself a graduate of Manchester University and Professor of Military History at Oxford, and his wife Victoria. Eyre was educated at Doon House, Westgate on Sea and entered Marlborough College in 1904. He began his studies in classics at Manchester University in 1908 and was a resident of Hulme Hall. Eyre harboured ambitions to become an engineer, however, his health was thought by doctors to be inconsistent with that profession. On return from a tour in the Alps in 1909 the doctors pronounced him sound in all respects, and he at once determined to prepare for his profession of choice. He left Manchester and Hulme Hall to become an engineering student at Skinninggrove Works, Saltburn. A year later he enrolled at University College, London and in 1911 at McGill University, Montreal. The following Summers were spent undertaking survey work for the Canadian Pacific Railway.
When war broke out Eyre was on his summer break in Chelsea and he was commissioned into the 1st Battalion London Regiment on 20th August 1914. In September he was posted with the Battalion to Malta. After four months of intensive training they were recalled to England and after a short period of leave arrived in La Harve in March 1915. Eyre was promoted to Lieutenant in May 1915.
Eyre spent approximately eight months on the Western Front with his Battalion. During this time, he was involved in two major offensives: Auber’s Ridge on 9 May and Bois Grenier on 25 September, a diversionary attack as part of the wider Battle of Loos. Initially held in reserve for the Auber’s Ridge attack, Eyre’s Battalion suffered tremendous casualties when called upon to support a breakthrough by the 13th Battalion City of London. Upon leaving the trenches, the Battalion were met by heavy rifle and machine gun fire and a high explosive and shrapnel shells. Within minutes, 123 men were killed or wounded.
By September, Eyre was in charge of the Battalion’s machine gun section. During the assault at Bois Grenier on 25 September, he was extremely fortunate to survive unscathed when caught in the blast of a high explosive shell.
Although physically having come through some terrible experiences in the trenches, mentally the past eight months must have taken its toll. In October 1915, Eyre volunteered as an observer with the RFC, perhaps in an attempt to escape his torturous surroundings. After training, Eyre was posted to 1 Squadron RFC. The weather during the winter was treacherous, considered perfect flying conditions by many aircrew as it limited flying time! On 12 January 1916 Eyre and his pilot, Lt Barton, were ordered to undertake a long reconnaissance over Roubaix near Lille in France. They failed to return. 17 days later, a lone German aeroplane dropped a letter to the RFC confirming that both had been shot down and killed. His father wrote: “The boy is gone, indeed, but I know something of the inner battles that he had to fight to which I think he won. He was with us five days in mid-December radiant and tender and I think with some presentiment of what was coming.” At his Founders Day speech at Manchester University in 1918 Eyre’s father said of the men from the University who had died: “All of them gave all that they were and all that they might have been.”
Eyre left behind a wife, Elizabeth.