Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Charles Pearce

Charles Pearce :

Charles Pearce : Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Cape Colony', 'Transvaal', 'Wittebergen'

Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Cape Colony', 'Transvaal', 'Wittebergen'

Charles was born between July and September 1877 in Chester. His father was called George and his mother was Alice. He was the oldest of at least 6 children. His siblings were James, George, William Joseph, Albert Edward and Arthur Dudley.

George senior was a soldier in the 96th Regiment of Foot, which later became the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. We believe he died between 1896 and 1898. Alice remarried between January and March 1899 to John Charles Onn, a Corporal in the Royal Engineers. They had at least one child, John Charles junior, on the 7th June 1901.

Charles followed in his father's footsteps and joined the Manchester Regiment, just like most of his brothers would after him. He enlisted in around August 1891 and was given the service number 3313.

In 1895 Charles was a member of the 1st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, who were based in Preston, Lancashire at the time. He was serving as a Drummer in C Company.

Tensions between British and Boer settlers in South Africa rose during 1899, and war broke out on the 11th October. It did not begin well for the British and by the end of the year the Army was sending as many soldiers as it could to the country. Charles was a member of C Company of the 2nd Battalion when he set sail for South Africa on the 15th March 1900. He had been promoted to Lance Corporal.

After they arrived the 2nd Battalion took part in fighting to the west of Harrismith during July 1900, which qualified Charles and his comrades for the 'Wittebergen' clasp.

By this time the Boers had begun to fight in small groups as guerrillas. This made them harder to find and defeat. To deal with this type of warfare the 2nd Battalion took part in long patrols intended to find and pin down the Boers. They also served as guards in blockhouses and fence lines that restricted the Boer's movements.

The Boers were not the only threat to British soldiers. Around two thirds of the 22,000 British soldiers who died in South Africa died from disease. Charles was one of them. He died in Winburg in the Orange Free State on the 24th January 1901. This is now in the Free State Province of South Africa. He had been promoted again and held the rank of Corporal when he died. He was 33 years old. The war ended on the 31st May 1902.

Albert, Arthur, James and William followed Charles and their father into the Manchester Regiment. We believe they all enlisted as Boys. Charles was the first of 3 brothers to die on active service. William died on the 13th June 1916 in Mesopotamia, now called Iraq and Arthur died on the 23rd April 1917 during fighting near Arras in France.

James survived both wars and Albert lived through the First World War. They both went on to have long careers with the Regiment. James died on the 7th October 1948 and Albert on the 23rd December 1958. John Charles junior died in August 1996.

The medals of all 5 brothers and their father were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment on the 16th April 1960.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf

Telephone: 0161 342 5480
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Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund logo
Army Museums Ogilby Trust logo
Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council