Photograph of Charles in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MRP/5A/018
(L to R) Military Cross; Distinguished Conduct Medal; Military Medal and Bar; 1914 Star with clasp '5th Aug.-22nd Nov. 1914'; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal with 'Mentioned in Despatches' oak leaves; General Service Medal 1918-62 with clasp 'Iraq'; 1939-45 Defence Medal; 1939-45 War Medal; Long Service and Good Conduct Medal; Belgian Croix de Guerre/ Oorlogskruis
Charles was born on the 1st February 1890 in Reading, Berkshire. His mother was called Ann and he had at least 2 brothers; George and James.
He was working as a clerk in Guildford when he joined the Manchester Regiment at the age of 18 on the 20th February 1908. He was given the service number 1175. At this time his relatives lived at 53 Weldale Road in Reading.
Charles was 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed 114 pounds when he enlisted. He had blue eyes and brown hair. He was posted to the 2nd Battalion at Portsmouth in Hampshire. He passed a Mounted Infantry course held at Longmoor between the 1st October 1909 and the 31st January 1910 and then another between the 1st June and the 4th November 1910.
Between June and October 1911 Charles was assigned to the 5th Division Telegraph Company, Royal Engineers. This unit was responsible for communications between different Army units. Charles seems to have had a gift for signalling. On the 7th January 1913 he qualified as a Regimental Signaller with a 1st Class pass, and on the 19th June he qualified as an Assistant Instructor in the subject.
By 1913 Charles was serving in H Company of the 2nd Battalion at The Curragh camp in County Kildare, Ireland. He was serving as an unpaid Lance Corporal. On the 15th March of that year Charles began to be paid as a Lance Corporal.
In August 1914 the First World War broke out. Charles and the 2nd Battalion left Ireland for France, arriving on the 15th August.
By the end of the year the 2nd Battalion had taken heavy casualties and Charles had been promoted to Corporal. He appears to have stayed with the 2nd Battalion all the way through the war. He spent just 2 weeks at home on leave, between the 15th and the 25th August 1917.
Charles was promoted to Sergeant on the 20th March 1915. He was Mentioned in Despatches on the 17th February 1915, although we don't know what he did to earn this honour. On the 11th November 1916 Charles was awarded the Military Medal. Again there is no record of his actions that day.
During December 1916 Charles was promoted to Colour Sergeant. He spent 4 months as a Company Quarter Master Sergeant before becoming a Company Sergeant Major on the 2nd April 1917.
Charles was awarded a Bar to his Military Medal on the 19th February 1917. This was the equivalent of being awarded the medal for a second time. Unfortunately this deed has also not been recorded.
It was not just the British Army who were impressed with Charles. The Belgian Government awarded him their Croix de Guerre, or Oorlogskruis medal on 12th July 1918.
By August 1918 the war was going very well for the Allies and they were advancing and attacking the Germans across the Western Front. That month Charles was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions near Parvillers-le-Quesnoy in France. The citation for this award was published in the London Gazette on the 15th November 1918:
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He led his men brilliantly to the attack after his officers had become casualties. Though wounded he remained at duty, directing and assisting in the protection of an exposed flank until the line was handed over to a relieving unit. He set a splendid example to his men.
Although the war was almost over Charles was still setting a high standard for the soldiers he was responsible for. Charles was awarded the Military Cross for his part in another of these attacks. The citation for this award was published in the London Gazette:
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in the attack on the Fonsomme Line on October 1st/2nd 1918. He showed great ability in leading his men to the attack after his officers had been wounded, and his company had suffered heavy casualties. He not only gained his objective, but tenaciously held the ground gained and caused the enemy extremely heavy casualties in his repeated counter-attacks against the newly won line. It was largely due to his fine work that the line was retained intact at a critical period.
At the end of the First World War Charles stayed with the 2nd Battalion until April 1919. By then they were based in Bonn, Germany. Charles held the rank of Warrant Officer Class II (WOII) when he returned to the UK. On the 10th April he was granted 28 days leave.
Any hopes Charles may have had of spending much time in the UK were dashed in February 1920 when the 2nd Battalion was sent to Mesopotamia, now Iraq.
Between April and July the Battalion was based in Tikrit, they then moved to Hillah. Most of the soldiers in Iraq were inexperienced and were not fully trained on all the Battalion's weaponry. This made men like Charles invaluable. He was the most senior soldier in Captain George Henderson's D Company and had the job of Company Sergeant Major.
On the 24th July 1920 the Battalion was around 20 miles outside Hillah when it was attacked by Arab tribesmen. They held off the Arabs until nightfall, and then D Company was ordered to hold position to allow the rest of the Battalion to get away.
During the night Charles had gathered a group of 79 soldiers around him, including Edward Harvey, but they had not been able to get back to Hillah so at dawn Charles decided he had to surrender.
The party was held by the Arabs for three months. They were released on the 19th October at Najaf. They had been forced to make long marches across the desert with little food or medical attention. As the most senior of the prisoners Charles was credited with ensuring their safety and well-being.
Charles and the 2nd Battalion left Mesopotamia on Boxing Day 1920 and moved to Kamptee in India. He received a new service number at around this time: 3512230.
The 2nd Battalion was now back in its peacetime routine. An important element of this was soldiers' education. Charles passed an examination for his 1st Class Certificate of Education on the 21st June 1921.
In early 1923, for the first time since before the First World War, Charles and the 2nd Battalion parted company. He returned to the UK and became Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) of the Manchester Regiment Depot at Ashton-under-Lyne. He replaced Joseph Lemon, whose medals are also in the Museum of the Manchester Regiment.
The Depot was where new recruits to The Manchester Regiment were trained, and the RSM was the most senior soldier based there. Charles stayed in this influential position until June 1931. He was responsible for the training of hundreds of recruits and his last Commanding Officer described him as being 'a brave and capable leader and an excellent instructor'. He inspired 'confidence, affection and loyalty amongst those with whom he has worked'.
This esteem was shown with more than words. In late 1926 Charles was presented with his Long Service and Good Conduct Medal for 18 years service. He was watched by a full parade of the soldiers and workers at the Depot. He was also permitted to stay in the Army for longer than usual on at least one occasion.
One of the highlights of Charles' time at the Depot must have been when he was chosen to attend an inspection of the Manchester Regiment by their Colonel in Chief, King George V. This took place at Buckingham Palace on the 16th May 1930.
Even with extensions of service Charles could not remain in the Army forever. He retired in mid 1931 and a farewell dinner and concert had been planned for the 23rd June. Unfortunately Charles had fallen ill with appendicitis three months earlier. He required two operations and recovered slowly, which meant the dinner had to be cancelled. He was finally discharged on the 13th September 1931 after 23 years and 206 days.
The Manchester Regiment had not seen the last of Charles. He had joined the Old Comrade's Association (OCA) in 1927 and was a regular attendee at reunions. After he retired the OCA could contact him through the Drover's Arms in Openshaw, Manchester.
We don't know what Charles did after he left the Army. We do know that his many years of bachelorhood ended in the summer of 1939 when he married Mona Seddon in Manchester. They very quickly became solidly linked in the minds of his friends in the OCA, and when they talked of Charles 'the name of his wife invariably cropped up too'. They were described as 'quite indispensible, the one to the other'.
Soon afterwards the Second World War broke out. Like so many old soldiers Charles joined the Home Guard. He was soon commissioned as an officer and served as Adjutant to the 51st Battalion based in Ashton-under-Lyne. Charles eventually held the rank of Captain.
After the war Charles continued to be a highly respected member of the OCA. He and Mona were one of a small number of old soldiers presented to the Regiment's Colonel-in-Chief Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother) when she inspected the Manchester Regiment at Dunham Park on the 1st June 1948.
Unfortunately both Charles and Mona frequently fell ill. There are many notices in the Regimental Gazette between 1947 and 1953 stating that one or other of them had been 'not too well', 'very ill' or 'not enjoying good health'. They were greatly missed by their friends.
On the 10th March 1953 Charles was well enough to return to the Manchester Regiment Depot and inspect a class of recruits at their Passing-Out Parade.
Sadly Mona went into hospital again and died in early December 1953. She was buried on the 11th December at Dukinfield Crematorium.
Charles stayed active in the OCA, and on the 17th April 1955 he formed a new Audenshaw, Droyslden and District branch, becoming its first President. Shortly afterwards he was back in hospital. One of his fellow branch members asked him if his frequent hospital stays were because of the 'extremely attractive nurses' always around him!
Charles was in and out of hospital many times over the rest of his life, and he finally died in Manchester Royal Infirmary on the 4th December 1960 after an operation. He was 70 years old.
When he died Charles was living at 22 Milton Road in Audenshaw, we don't know how long he had been there.
Charles' funeral took place at Dukinfield Crematorium on the 7th December. He was always known as Charlie to his friends, and many of them attended in order to say goodbye.
His medals were presented to the Regimental Museum shortly afterwards.