Corporal William Rockliffe
8121 12th Kings Liverpool Regiment
Lived at 9 Piper Street
Later 55 Harold Avenue
Prisoner of War 1918
Burnley Express 1918
Burnley Express May 1939
Burnley Express Diamond Anniversary
Southport Guardian unknown date

Letter from William to:
General Manager Tramways
Burnley Lancashire England

Written on 1st November 1918, whilst still in captivity in Stendal, Germany
Dear Sir
A few lines hoping to find you all in the best of health as regards myself I am first rate. I am pleased to say that we are short of nothing. The majority of us are getting a regular supply of groceries through, so we are all right as regards food. There is not so many men here mostly N.C.O about 300 Sergts. I am working in the parcel office despatching the food parcels to the men on command at different places in Germany. We are to the picture house in the town on Monday night, then we have a band in camp plays at nights also a concert party called the Joy Boys. I have seen worse at the musical halls. The French and the Russians give a turn. The proceeds of our concerts’, goes to the Red Cross for a memorial for the boys who have died whilst prisoners. Which I am pleased to say as
decreased of late the health of the prisoners at present is very good. I would like to say more censor? . I was unfortunate getting the Limburg address But I am receiving the back parcels from there. Your letter must have been there at least 3 months. I have not received any of my wifes letters from there yet but I have had a private parcel and two letters direct from Burnley. We are looking forward to being in England before long I will draw to a close. Sending you all best wishes
I am
Yours truly
Wm Rockliffe



(Burnley Express May 1939)

A Burnley omnibus driver who served as a private during the Great War has enjoyed a lengthy friendship with one of Britain’s most distinguished military officers, and periodically exchanges friendly views with him by means of correspondence.
He is Mr. W. Rockliffe, of 55 Harold Avenue, and his correspondent is General Sir Charles Harington, G.C.B., G.B.E., D.S.O. , D.C.L., who recently retired from the Governorship of Gibraltar after 47 years service in the Army. General Harington resides at Bingles Farm, Withyam, Sussex.
Mr. Rockliffe, who was born in Southport, joined the King’s Regiment (Liverpools) in April 1902, and was present in 1904 at the Generals wedding.
On returning to civil life he started work on the old L. & Y. Railway, and joined the Burnley Corporation Tramways Staff in 1914. On August 5th, 1914, he re-joined the 1st Battalion the King’s Regiment, and was in France on August 14th. He served during the famous 1914 retreat, and fought on the Aisne, the Marne, Le Cateau, Ypres and at Loos, and was wounded in January, 1916. He returned to his regiment and was again wounded in December 1916, and was drafted to France again in 1917. In March 1918, he was taken prisoner, being the last man taken alive belonging to the 12th Battalion the King’s Regiment. He was fighting by the side of General Vince ( a friend of General Harington’s) the colonel was on his knees, revolver in hand, when a German threw a grenade at him, killing him instantly. The German took Mr. Rockliffe prisoner.
Mr Rockliffe, who is employed by the Joint Transport Committee, is at present in good health, and hopes to meet General Sir Charles Harington at Liverpool in July, on the occasion of the Regimental Reunion.
He is a member of the Burnley Branch of the British Legion and of Yatefield Club.
General Harington joined the King’s Regiment in 1892, and despite the fact that he has won many honours, his proudest boast is that he has been Colonel of the King’s Regiment. The late Lord Plumer described him as the ablest staff officer in the British Army. To him great credit was due for the success of the battle of Messines in 1917.
In one of his letters to Mr. Rockliffe, the General says that all the Germans want as a Nation is to be friends with us, if they could only be rid of Hitler, and the Italian Nation is the same


In the same letter he writes : “ I was glad to hear of your complaint to the German General”
The complaint to which General Harington refers was described thus by Rockliffe in a letter :-
“ We roughed it for about three months behind the German lines, living like swine, hungry, dirty and verminous.”
“One day an American interpreter came round asking if there were any complaints. After a while I made bold to make a complaint. I had the shock of my life when the German General spoke to me like an English gentleman. He asked me what service I had, what I did in civil life, whether I was married, whether I had been wounded, and so on. When I answered his questions he said I was a lucky man, and hoped I would return home safe and sound. He then asked me what my complaint was.”
“I said ‘We are hungry, thirsty and verminous’ He replied that they had taken 175,000 prisoners during one push, and had not enough food for themselves. He explained that the prisoners got the same rations as the Germans behind the lines – 400 grams of bread a day. But, he said, if I would get my men to work he would give us a dead horse a day, and if we wanted any more I would have to write to Lloyd George,”
“When the German sentries had taken their share of the horse there was not much left for us. We did get an improvement in the drinking water supply. The German General said we would be all right when we arrived in Germany, as all our foodstuff and clothing would come from England. Every word he said came true.”
“He was surprised when I told him I had been in charge of a German prison camp at Le Havre while I was recuperating from my wounds, and that before a batch of prisoners arrived I was telephoned 24 hours in advance and told to have a hot meal ready for them”
“He turned round and spoke to the other German officers in German, and before they left me each gave me two cigarettes from their cases. At that time cigarettes were worth 2/6 each. I broke them up and let them go round as far as they would.”
“As soon as we arrived in Germany we were put in quarantine for 21 days for cleaning, inoculating, etc.”

Describing his own war days, General Sir Charles Harington, writes in a letter to Mr. Rockliffe: “I have just left the 2nd Battalion at Gibraltar in very good form. They come home in about a years time. I saw the 1st Battalion off to the war from Aldershot. I had commanded ‘A’ Company until a few days before, and then I went to the staff. I was interested to hear about Vince…… We lost many good fellows.”

NCO's 2nd Batt The Kings Regt. Limerick 1903

Officers,Warrant Officers, N.C.O's. of the Imperial forces who conducted the first transportation of German prisoners of war to Quebec, Canada on board S.S. Duchess of York, June 1940
W Rockliffe R.S.M.The Kings Regt


Limerick 1904





Back to Home Page Back to Burnley Roll of Honour