Roland William John Mayes was born on 29th September 1895 in the Norfolk village of Fundenhall. He was the seventh of ten children to Herbert and Anna Mayes, and was the first son. Herbert was a carpenter, and this was a trade his son was to follow him into, finding work at a local piano factory.
By 1914, war was looming, and Roland wanted to put his skills to good use. He enlisted in the Royal Navy on 11th March 1914, joining a carpenter’s crew at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. Roland’s service records show that he stood at 5ft 7ins (1.7m) tall, had brown hair, grey eyes and a sallow complexion.
Crewman Mayes’ first sea-bound assignment was aboard HMS Patrol; she was a cruiser that provided defence for the east coast of England. The vessel was badly damaged during the German bombardment of Hartlepool in December that year; Roland remained on board for more than three years.
In August 1917, Crewman Mayes returned to Chatham. HMS Pembroke was a crowded place that summer, additional accommodation was made available in the dockyard’s Drill Hall, and this is where Roland was billeted.
On the night of the 3rd September, the German Air Force was trialling night raids on English locations; Chatham found itself in the direct line of fire. The Drill Hall received a direct hit, and Carpenter’s Crewman Mayes was killed, along with close to 100 other servicemen resting there. He was just 21 years of age.
Along with 97 other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, Roland William John Mayes was laid to rest three days later in the Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham.