Photograph of Charles in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MR2/20/15
(L to R) Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Cape Colony', 'Transvaal', 'Wittebergen', 'South Africa 1901'; 1914 Star with clasp '5th Aug.-22nd Nov. 1914'; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal; 1911 Coronation Medal
Charles was born on the 22nd March 1877 in Devonport near Plymouth in Devon. His father was called Charles Hamilton and his mother was Dorothea Magdalena. He had an older sister called Mary Penelope Florence and 3 younger siblings: Henry John Hamilton, Arthur Philip Hamilton and James Fitzgerald Hamilton. The family had lost one other child by 1911. We don't know their name.
Charles Hamilton had served as an officer in the 32nd (Cornwall Light Infantry) Regiment of Foot and reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. By 1881 he had retired to Oakwell in the Blean House in Tyler Hill near Canterbury, Kent. He was now a 'farmer of 111 acres employing 1 bailiff, 4 men and 1 boy'. The house and land had been a wedding present when Charles Hamilton's father (Charles Joseph) had married.
Charles was educated at King's School in Canterbury. He then decided to follow in his father's footsteps and train to become an Army officer. He entered the Royal Military College at Sandhurst in January 1896. He did well in his training and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Manchester Regiment on the 9th September 1897.
We don't know why Charles chose the Manchester Regiment. He had a loose family link to the area, as his great-grandfather Thomas Wesley Trueman had been a merchant in Manchester. Although officers and soldiers could apply to join any regiment Charles' descendants believe this connection helped make up his mind.
Charles left the UK soon after he was commissioned. He sailed to Aden, now in Yemen, at the end of October and joined the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment there. The battalion had just left India after many years and was to spend around a year in Aden. Charles was promoted to Lieutenant on the 17th August, and travelled back to the UK with the 2nd Battalion during November 1898.
The 2nd Battalion was stationed in Manchester, Lichfield in Staffordshire and Dublin, Ireland over the next 18 months. During 1899 Charles travelled to the Army School of Physical Training at Aldershot in Hampshire and qualified as a gymnastics instructor with a 1st Class pass.
Over the course of 1899 tensions between British and Boer settlers in South Africa were rising. War broke out in October 1899. The first few months of the war saw a number of significant defeats for the British, and they began sending as many soldiers as possible to the country.
The vast distances in South Africa meant that the Army needed more mounted soldiers. Each battalion being sent to South Africa was ordered to convert a Company into Mounted Infantry. Mounted Infantry were not cavalry; they would still fight on foot with rifles. Their horses allowed them to cover ground more quickly and comfortably. H Company of the 2nd Battalion was chosen, of which Charles was a member.
The battalion set sail on the 16th March 1900. They arrived in the country during April 1900 and fought there for the rest of the war. Charles and the Mounted Infantry Company were present at the fighting around Wittebergen in July, and then spent most of the rest of the war taking part in long patrols intended to find and pin down the Boers, who fought in small groups as guerrillas. This was difficult, tiring work, but there were few large battles. They also served as guards in the blockhouses and fence lines that restricted the Boer's movements.
Charles was promoted to Captain on the 9th January 1901. He continued to serve in South Africa until the 8th November, when he was sent back to the UK.
The Boer War had led to the Government increasing the size of the Army. Two battalions of the Manchester Regiment were among the new units formed. Charles had been sent home to join the 4th Battalion at Kinsale in Ireland.
In June 1902 Charles qualified as an Instructor of Musketry. This allowed him to supervise soldiers undergoing training in rifle shooting. Over the next 3 years he also began to take examinations so that he would eventually become eligible to be promoted to Major. As well as his professional interests, Charles was a keen singer and piano player. He had his piano installed in the Officer's Mess Ante-room early in 1904, so 'we have great music every night'.
In October 1905 the 4th Battalion left Ireland for Aldershot. The Boer War had ended in a British victory in May 1902, so the extra battalions were no longer needed. They were disbanded in 1906, and Charles rejoined the 2nd Battalion, who were split between the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Alderney. We don't know where Charles was based.
The battalion returned to England in late 1907 and was stationed at Portsmouth in Hampshire. Charles left them in April 1908 and travelled to Aldershot. He had been appointed Superintendent of Gymnasia for Aldershot Command. A large number of soldiers were based in and around Aldershot, and keeping them fit through gymnastics and sport was of vital importance. Charles was Superintendent until the 31st August 1909, and then became Assistant Inspector of Gymnasia in the same location until the 22nd April 1912.
When the 1911 Census was taken in April Charles was visiting Mary Haynes at her home in Cricket Hill, Yateley, Hampshire. This is very close to the Royal Military College where Charles had trained, although we don't know how they knew each other.
After he left Aldershot Charles returned to the 2nd Battalion, who were now at The Curragh Camp in County Kildare, Ireland. By 1913 Charles was a member of the Battalion Sports Committee, as well as a keen golfer and cricketer. He was also able to demonstrate his singing talents during a series of popular concerts held in the battalion's Recreation Room. At one concert 'he gave us the song 'A Pair of Sparkling Eyes' from 'The Gondoliers'' by Gilbert and Sullivan. He 'assisted in making these concerts a success'.
Charles was on the team that won the Inter-Regimental Golf Cup for the 2nd Battalion in 1913. The next year he was a member of the cricket team. Professionally, by the middle of 1914 Charles was the Officer Commanding A Company.
The First World War broke out on the 4th August and the 2nd Battalion was ordered to mobilise and proceed overseas. The battalion arrived in Le Havre, France on the 16th August and disembarked and unloaded their equipment overnight. They were then taken by train to Le Cateau and began marching towards the Mons-Conde Canal at Warmes and the invading German Army.
The 2nd Battalion first saw action on the 23rd August as the British encountered the Germans and began to fall back. They retreated over the next 3 days until they were back at Le Cateau. The British decided to make a stand here on the 26th.
The Battle of Le Cateau was fought against heavy odds against a much larger German force. The 2nd Battalion was held in reserve at first, but heavy German attacks forced them to support their comrades in the front line. Charles led his company to the right of the British positions. The German attack was concentrated on this area though, and as more and more men were killed and wounded it became clear that the British could not hold on. More German units were beginning to outflank the battalion's position, so it was decided to retreat.
Charles was not with the battalion when they left the battlefield. He had been seen to be wounded, and was reported missing, but it soon became clear that he had been killed. He was 37 years old. He had never married and had no children.
The 2nd Battalion lost around 350 men killed, wounded or missing at Le Cateau, out of a total strength of just over 1000. The battle had slowed the German advance, and bought time for the British and French to regroup and stop the German advance at the Battle of the Marne in early September.
Charles' body was later found and he was buried in Le Cateau Military Cemetery. The area was occupied by the Germans throughout the war, and they originally laid out the cemetery. His modern grave reference is III. A. 3. Charles is one of 511 British and Commonwealth soldiers buried there.
Dorothea died on the 19th November 1914 aged 67. It is believed that the shock of Charles' death was responsible. Charles Hamilton was 77 when he died on the 14th February 1917.
Like their older brother Henry and Arthur also became Army officers. Henry was commissioned in the 43rd Erinpura Regiment of the Indian Army. During the First World War he fought in Mesopotamia, now called Iraq.
Arthur reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in The Buffs (East Kent Regiment). He also saw service during the First World War. He survived the war, but both he and his wife Violet Victoria died on the 26th November 1918 in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. They were victims of the Spanish Flu pandemic that swept the globe in 1918 and 1919.
If he had lived Charles would have inherited Oakwell in the Blean from his father, but now it went to his younger brother Henry. Henry's only child Jean Hamilton Trueman inherited the house after he died in 1922. Although the Trueman name ended when she married Rodolf Cecil Drummond Haig in 1935, the house is still owned by the family as of 2013.
Charles' medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in January 1989.