Private Charles Henry FRANCIS
(Served as: Henry Charles)


Regiment/Service:
York and Lancaster Regiment
[Formerly: Sherwood Foresters
(Notts and Derby Regiment)]
Unit:
18th Battalion
Service Number:
62240
(Formerly: 89354 Sherwood
Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment)
Date of Death:
10 October 1918 - Killed in Action
Age:
19
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Reference:
II. J. 2.


Personal History:
Charles was born in Walsall, Staffordshire in March 1899, the son of Charles Henry (Porter - LNWR) and Emma Elizabeth (née Hammerton) Francis. By 1901 (Census RG 13/3269) the family had moved to Buxton, living at 1 Oakland Cottages, Fairfield, Buxton. He had two older sisters, Florence and Lily, and four younger siblings, Walter, Emma, Herbert and Frank (1911 Census RG 14/21233 and Service Papers).

In 1911 they lived at 27 Fairfield Road, Buxton. By the time of Charles' enlistment the family had moved to 5 Hogshaw Villas, Lightwood Road, Buxton. At that time he gave his employment as "Fishmonger".

Military History:
Charles originally enlisted into the  Sherwood Foresters at Buxton on the 30th June 1917, expressing an interest in the R.A.M.C., but was posted to the 14th (Training Reserve) Battalion, Sherwood Foresters, on the 4th July 1917. (His Service Papers record that he served as "Henry Charles")

On 18th June 1918 Charles (Henry) transferred to the York and Lancaster Regiment (18th Battalion). The Battalion was newly formed (11th June at Margate, Kent) and was attached to 41st Brigade in 14th (Light) Division. After suffering heavy losses early in 1918 the Division had been moved back to England for re-establishment on 17th June. The refreshed Division, although still short on numbers, moved back to France and joined Second Army, and so on the 3rd July 1918 Charles embarked from Folkestone for France, landing at Boulogne.

In September and October 1918 the Battalion was part of the "Advance into Flanders", where the forces in the Ypres Salient were part of a pincer movement designed to take the City of Liège. On the 28th September the advance began along the Ypres-Zonnebeke road and on the first day advanced 6 miles [9.6 kms.]. Despite appalling underfoot conditions, following heavy rain, the British took the high ground around Ypres and by the 1st October had occupied the left bank of the River Lys. German reinforcements arrived, but fighting continued.

On the 18th October 1918 Charles was reported as having been killed in the field on the 10th, after just 99 days in France. His Division was taking part in the final advance through Flanders which began on the 28th September. From the account below it would appear Charles was killed during enemy shell fire on the Battalion's trenches. Four other men of Charles' Battalion were killed on the same day (see below),

In reporting his death on the 2nd November 1918, 'The Buxton Advertiser' quoted a letter sent to Charles' relatives from the Captain of his Company as follows:

"He was, with others occupying an advanced post, when a Bosch shell landed amongst them, killing four and wounding one. Your son was unfortunately among the killed. The poor fellow suffered no pain, as he was killed instantly. Your son was always such a brave lad, and cheerful under the most trying circumstances. His platoon officer thought a great deal of him, and always had a good word to say for him. The loss of him and others has cast a gloom over my Company and we all officers N.C.O.s and men offer you our most sincere and deepest sympathy in your great loss. The body was brought in last night with others to my headquarters and tonight I will send him down the line where he will have a good burial …"

Charles' C.O.'s promise was carried out and he was buried with his comrades in Kandahar Cemetery.

Footnotes:
· The four other men of the 18th Battalion who died with Charles on the 10th October 1918 were: Pt. William Henry ELFORD;
   Sgt. John William MILNER; Cpl. Rees Lloyd WILLIAMS (all Killed in Action) and Pt. Harry BENTLEY (Died of wounds).

Sources:
· I am grateful to Frederik Sohier for the photograph of Francis' grave.
· 'The Buxton Advertiser' 2 November 1918
Link to CWGC Record
Pt Charles Francis' Grave
Pt Charles Henry Francis
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