Born in the summer of 1896, Grandad Charlie was one of 11 children born to John & Ann, with a further three younger half-siblings. He lived his entire life on the Welsh border. Even as some siblings moved away for work, Grandad preferred to stay in the area he grew up in, the rural area generations before him had lived their lives. Only The Great War could drag him away.
Grandad Charlie enlisted on 11th December 1915 but was called up for service in the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers on 5th March 1917. He served as a Lewis Gunner on the Western Front, I believe he was in the Battle of Passchendaele (also known as the Third Battle of Ypres). We have been told he was rescued by another man in the field, but I don’t know any details (I can only be eternally grateful).
In September 1917, the War Office Weekly Casualty List noted Grandad as wounded. He was also listed as missing in the 5th November 1918 Casualty List, but the family had already received a postcard in October from the British Red Cross stating that although wounded he was reported as a Prisoner of War (Camp not stated). So there was must have been a delay in reporting.
On 27th November 1918, Grandad was admitted to the 31st Ambulance Train at Valenciennes and taken to Calais. He arrived at Dover on 1st December 1918. Grandad was transferred to the Army Reserve on 22nd October 1919 and he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his service in the Great War.
As with many other soldiers in The Great War, Grandad didn’t talk about his time in the war. It just wasn’t the done thing back then. He sadly died when I was two years old, so I never got to ask him myself.
Unfortunately, Grandad’s World War I service records seem to have been among the two-thirds of the 6.5 million soldier records destroyed by fire thanks to an incendiary bomb at the War Office Record Store in September 1940. However, he kept the paperwork he had been given and so I’m lucky enough to have them in my own personal files.
On 30th June 1924, Grandad re-enlisted in the Territorial Army Reserves and was discharged again on 29th June 1928.
During World War II, Grandad served his country once again, this time in The Home Guard. Grandad was certified as having attended a practical examination at a Bombing Range and was qualified to assist in the throwing of live grenades. During this time, my grandparents also took in several evacuees (mainly cousins from other parts of the country).
Grandad Charlie died at the grand old age of 86. I only wish I’d been old enough to know him properly.