Thomas Walter Doyle was born in 1888 at Kidderminster, the son of Thomas Joseph, a brewer’s cooper originally from Liverpool, and Ann Maria Doyle from Langley. Having been a clerk in an iron works in 1911, his work in the Sunday School at Langley Green inspired him to try for the Church. After much out-of-hours studying, and saving, he passed his matriculation exams for the University of Durham in Arts and Theology in October 1914. Initially a Non-Collegiate student, that is, resident in Durham but not one of the university’s colleges, he became a member of St John’s Hall in Michaelmas 1915, intending to become a minister of the Church.
Having been a member of the university’s Officers Training Corps, he enlisted and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in January 1916 in 17th Battalion, The Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort’s Own). Attached to the 16th battalion, he was deployed on 7 July 1916 and died having been gassed at the front at Poperinghe only two days later on 9 August 1916: the battalion war diary records the phosgene gas attack occurring at a moment when the battalion was being relieved by units from the Somerset Light Infantry, the trenches “crowded with men”.
Doyle is buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery at West Vlaanderen in Belgium, with a poignant epitaph from his mother. “Oh for a glimpse of the grave where you’re laid only to lay a flower at your head. Mother.” Tribute was paid to him at a memorial service as “a trusty companion, a robust Christian, and an ever ready and willing worker”. He is commemorated in a memorial window now in the Zion United Reformed Church, Langley Green, Birmingham, and also on the memorial in St John’s College chapel. His mother, living at 38 Farm Road in Langley Green, also presented a communion set to his church in his honour.