Returning Medals to Rightful Owners

No.4 Mk.1

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Charlie was was taken POW on 25th March 1918, as the North Staffordshire Regiment was fighting a rear guard action against the German Operation ‘Michael’ Offensive



Here are some retrospective accounts from the North Staffordshire's recounting the start of the German offensive - original documents courtesy of the Staffordshire Regimental Museum and the team of researchers there.

Sounds pretty grim.

"You are already aware of the Bn. dispositions and the kind of morning 21st March was, and as you know I was with Shute who was commanding C.Coy, with two platoons in Malsemey, and two platoons in Esselling Redoubt, with Redfern in command.

The bombardment opened out at 4.30 a.m. and went out to "stand to" and we got what men we had in the trench just north of Headquarters, and the bombardment at (sic) gas continued till about 8.30 a.m. after that there was a lull, but at 9 a.m. the Boche started again with H.E. and kept it up till about 11.10 a.m. when the situation seemed to improve and get much quieter; up to this time we saw no-one come back, either had we heard xx any rifle fire, but about 12 o'clock machine-gun bullets found us, coming from direction of Vadencourt Chateau; we took up a position in Maisemey and enemy infantry came in contract with us, and we hung on till 12.30 p.m. when they attacked us from the front in over-whelming numbers.

Just a few men were now falling back on us, R.F.A., one or two of our a. Coy., and A. Coy, and two men of B. Coy.

Major Graves of the R.F.A. came along and took command of the line and gave orders for everyone toretire to the brown line Just in front of Villecholles,which we did a few at a time.

When I got back there I met Byno and we counted the remaining men of the battalion up and collected them together, and there were 22 men, 3 officers; Shute, Byno, and Myself.

The Boche did not drive us back that day any further, and at 2 O'clock on the morning 22nd March we were relieved, by 16 men of the 11th Hussars, and we went back to Vermand, and placed under the command of Colonel Winyon.

We stayed in Vermand till 10 o'clock and then were sent to Puilly to fight a rear guard action whilst the 24th Division went through the 30th Div. and then we followed last; we had no casualties this day.

After we left the 30th Div. to hold the line we were marched to Monchy - Lagache and the whole of the 24th Division was mustered and promised a rest, but two hours later the whole division had to reinforce again as the Boche was breaking through, but he was checked, and an organised retirement was arranged for 9 o'clock on the morning of the 23rd, and at the said time we marched in parties and crossed the Somme river at Licoufct, fighting rear guard actions all the way, five or six lines in depth.

We stayed at Licourt the night and on the morning of the 24th the 8th Division relieved us and we went back to Chaulnes and stayed about five hours and after we marched forward again to Fonches where we stayed the night; up to this time enemy artillery had been very heavy but at Conches just one or two 8-inch were all he had forward."
Staffordshire Regiment Diary 2.jpg
 

No.4 Mk.1

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3rd page of the Staffordshire Regiment (retrospective) diaries, starting on 25th March 1918, the day Charlie was taken prisoner.

"On the morning of the 25th we had to take up a position in front of Fonches, a village I do not know the name of, and here about 20 more men were sent to us, returned from leave etc., also the drums.

Everything was quiet up to 3 o'olook and then enemy machine guns troubled us and about 4 o'clock Byna got one in the, leg, and Cryer(?), the Adjt. to the Kents, got hit in the hand.

This day Hayward and Whiting joined us and the position was a critical one, for we had very few men and no rations, but we stuck to the position as we had been ordered not to retire further at any cost, and we fired rapid and bluffed the Boohe a bit, and stopped him for the time being, and here we had about 6 men killed and 5 wounded.

We hung on till 2 o'clock on the morning of the 26th and then had orders to retire to the Hallu line which was about 8 miles, and we reached our destination at about 5 o'clock; here we had a good position, a good trench, and plenty of barbed wire, and we held on till 10 a.m. and then both flanks went, and Colonel Winyon ordered & retirement but the Surrey's 0.0. was at Brigade and they would not go, so Major Clarke went back but he was taken prisoner; Captain Diamond had started back but hearing of Major Clarke's fate, went back, but could do no good so was taken as well, and we went back to Warvillers and stayed there the night in billets, the first billet we had since the show started.

On the morning of the 27th March we had orders to take up a position in an advanced post between Warvillers and Rouvroy, which we did about 1 p.m.; it was very quiet then but about 3 o'clock we were fired on from Rouvroy and Whiting was killed, Sergt. Cooper mortally wounded, and several others wounded about the same time, then Hayward was sniped and as we had no-one on either flank and thought the wisest plan was to go back to the Rents, who were the main line of resistance 500 yards in rear, so this i did and we had about 12 men wounded in doing so, only one seriously; Whiting and Hayward were left unburied and no personal effects taken from them.

We stayed in the main line of resistance till 2 a.m. on the morning of the 27th March and then what few were left of uslwere taken to Warvillers and we rested till 10 a.m. in a dug-out, then the Boohe had attacked again and was coming on very fast.

Pierson had now joined us and we waited for the line to fall baok and then we fought a rear guard action to the Quex / Quesnel Line which was about 5 miles away, and took up a commanding position there about 2 p.m. the afternoon, but one hour later both flanks gave way and the remaining men of three divisions were nearly surrounded and we had orders to retire via Boucourt to Villers where we reached about 7 o'clock and rested in a barn until 9 p.m. and after that we marched to Castel and were commandeered by the Brigadier for piquet over the brigde, but person knows more about that than I do.

I think Pierson has told you what happened after we reached Castel - I may add that I cannot say much of what happened after that till we entrained at Saleux for St. Valery; I certainly oould not give in truth the movements of 29th, 30th, and 31st March, and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd April."
Page 3.jpg

 
Good for you, I know the family will appreciate it.
I say this because of all the memories of my dad, the thing that is missing is his medals. All my mum could tell us is that some bloke turned up on the doorstep one day and talked him into parting with them for some cash. We were a working class family so I don't doubt that the cash was needed, but boy, would I love to have my dads medals.
edited to add, I take great care of my own, one day I hope my sons will cherish them in the way that I would have cherished my dads.
 

No.4 Mk.1

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Good for you, I know the family will appreciate it.
I say this because of all the memories of my dad, the thing that is missing is his medals. All my mum could tell us is that some bloke turned up on the doorstep one day and talked him into parting with them for some cash. We were a working class family so I don't doubt that the cash was needed, but boy, would I love to have my dads medals.
edited to add, I take great care of my own, one day I hope my sons will cherish them in the way that I would have cherished my dads.
I hope Charlie is somewhere appreciating it - a life cut short at just 19.

I'm overdue a battlefield tour which includes the area close to where Charlie is buried. If anyone makes it there sooner take a moment to remember this young man please.
Whiteland_C remembered.png

Note: It is now believed Charlie died two days later - on the 22nd June 1918. He is recorded as dying from pneumonia in a German Field Hospital about 10km from this cemetery.
 

No.4 Mk.1

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Hankies ready please...

After 3 years of on and off efforts i have finally made contact with Charlie's closest living relatives. Charlie was just 19 when he died so was never married or had children, and so i'd expected that even if i did find a relative it would be distant and maybe even a forgotten connection. But no, i couldn't have been more wrong:

As per @Spode 's search & post - his name was added to his home town list of fallen in 2010, and in just 2014 another of Charlie's relatives dedicated a published book to his memory. Charlie's plaque will soon be on it's way back to where it belongs - with those closest to his memory.

Many, many thanks for interest, research and tips on here - as it does from time to time, arrse came up trumps again.
 

No.4 Mk.1

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Charlie's plaque back with those closest to his memory - the gentleman asked me to pass his sincere thanks to contributors here for their interest and efforts.

Charlie's dedication is in a beautiful presented hardback military puzzle book published in 2014; a signed copy now on my book shelf. :-D
Charlie Whiteland018.jpg


 
I know this cemetery. @brettarider asked me to trace a relative who is buried there. The CWG graves are all deceased from a hospital that was nearby.
Here are a couple of pics from my archive, if anyone needs info on Eastern France WW1 or WW2 sites, ping me.
DSC_0090.jpg
DSC_0102.JPG
DSC_0103.jpg
 
I know this cemetery. @brettarider asked me to trace a relative who is buried there. The CWG graves are all deceased from a hospital that was nearby.
Here are a couple of pics from my archive, if anyone needs info on Eastern France WW1 or WW2 sites, ping me.
View attachment 238566 View attachment 238567 View attachment 238569
My Dads G/Father was a bit different his body was repatriated to there around 1921 from Germany after dying of the flu in a POW camp in June 1918 this must have been deemed the nearest CWGC site.

Family appreciated the photo's
 
Actually looking at the full thread I'm wondering if he was along side my dads G/Father dates of death are almost the same he's down as the 21st of June although the war graves list him as 21st Mar start of the spring offensive.
 
My Dads G/Father was a bit different his body was repatriated to there around 1921 from Germany after dying of the flu in a POW camp in June 1918 this must have been deemed the nearest CWGC site.
Family appreciated the photo's
My pleasure.

Thanks for correcting me, the "local" hospital story turned out to be inaccurate - I remember now. Guys were brought there from many places, the fact that there was a field hospital near there appears to have been coincidental, as it was closed before many of the CWG gravestone dates.
 

No.4 Mk.1

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Actually looking at the full thread I'm wondering if he was along side my dads G/Father dates of death are almost the same he's down as the 21st of June although the war graves list him as 21st Mar start of the spring offensive.
The dates & circumstances are incredibly close and Charlie is listed as succumbing to pneumonia. There is also a listing for him in a German POW camp far from the cemetery so i wonder if his journey was the same as your Great Grandfather?

Where did the c.1921 repatriation info come from please?

It also seemed strange to have succumbed to pneumonia in June, and i had wondered what part gas had to play, or spanish flu even. I don't know what living conditions were like for a POW either - do you know the camp your Great Grandfather was? Maybe there is something to be found out by researching that side...
 
My dad still has the letters sent to his gran from the WGC informing that his body had been moved and yes he was in a PoW camp well inside Germany he also has the location of this as well including the red cross card informing he was safe.

Pow conditions were pretty bad the RN had a naval blockage stopping food getting into Germany and the population was starving I think the winter of 17/18 was known as the turnip winter as that is what they were down to food wise.

Due to the poor living conditions in the camps this is what helped the spread of the flu.

I'll try and get the info off my dad about the dates/camp etc.
 
Would certainly be an odd bit of fate/luck if these two gents were known to each other prior, I've got a unit history published not long after by an officer which deals with 82 RFA between March-Nov 18 and describes the action in which A Bty was over run and my dads G/father being captured PM me your email addy if you want a copy.



Sorry got the date of death wrong

 

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