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Charles Frederick


1890 - 1915

Early Life


CHARLES FREDERICK MATTHAMS was born in 1890 in Great Waltham, the son of Thomas and Emma Matthams (née Tyrrell). His parents were married on the 27 September 1872 in the Parish Church in Great Waltham and were both residing in the parish at the time of their wedding. Thomas was an Agricultural labourer living at 81 Sheepcote Cottage, Little Waltham with his parents, Thomas and Susannah. Emma was a Housemaid (Domestic Servant) at Herongate House, East Horndon, for a new Public Elementary Boarding School, which opened in 1871.

Charles was Thomas and Susannah’s seventh child and one of nine children. He had two elder brothers, Harry, b. 1875 and Thomas Nathan, b. 1877 and four elder sisters, Ellen Susette, b. 1873, Elizabeth Emily, b. 1880 (died aged 2 years in April 1882), Florence Lucy, b.1883 and Alice Mary, b.1887. His two younger brothers were Edward, b. 14 August 1893 and Albert John, b.1898.

Charles was baptised at St Mary & St Lawrence Parish Church on the 2 November 1890 by the Vicar, Revd. H E Hulton.

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In 1891 the family were recorded as living at 158 Minow End, Great Waltham.

By the time of the 1901 Census, the family had moved to 63, Minow End and Charles was now 10 years old. In the 1911 Census Doris Nellie (daughter) was staying with the family but she was actually the daughter of Harry, Charles’s elder brother, a Bricklayer from Walthamstow and Ellen (Lily) Matthams, born in 1903.

Charles was a Tenor Bell Ringer at the Parish Church, his name recorded on a peal board in the Church ringing chamber. The date of the peal was the 28th March 1914. This was arranged as a birthday compliment to Mr William Dannatt, the Churchwarden.

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Military Life


Charles joined the Essex Regiment as a Private Regimental No. 12260, in the 9th Battalion.

Formed at Warley in August 1914 as part of K1 (volunteers -Kitchener’s Army) the 9th Battalion came under orders of 35th Brigade in 12th (Eastern) Division. The Regiment moved to Shorncliffe and in March 1915 went to Blenheim barracks at Aldershot. Charles entered France on the 30th May 1915.

The Regiment were part of the mighty offensive, known as ‘The Big Push’ at The Battle of Loos from 25 September to 18 October 1915. Taking place on ground not of their choosing and before stocks of ammunition and heavy artillery were sufficient, the opening of the battle was noteworthy for the first use of poison gas by the British Army. Despite heavy casualties, there was considerable success on the first day in breaking into the deep enemy positions near Loos and Hulluch. But the reserves had been held too far from the battle front to be able to exploit the successes and succeeding days bogged down into attritional warfare for minor gains.

The Loos battlefield lies immediately north of the mining town of Lens, in the heart of the industrial area of north-east France. The ground here is uniformly flat, dominated by slagheaps connected with the coalmining in the district. In 1915, the various mining villages, collieries and other industrial buildings presented a difficult challenge for any would-be attacker. The area is little changed today except that the mining activity has declined; some of the old slagheaps and pit-heads are no longer there, and some are much larger than they were in 1915 (especially so in the case of the Loos Double Crassier which today is immense and visible from several miles in all directions).

1-3 October 1915
Close fighting is renewed in the Hohenzollern Redoubt, and all but Big Willie Trench is lost to the enemy. 12th (Eastern) Division relieves 1st and 2nd Guards Brigades in area of the Chalk Pit. They are put to work on completing preparations of new trenches, roads and positions in preparation for the assault. Heavy enemy shelling causes many casualties among the working parties. Major-General Wing, OC 12th Division, is among those killed. The renewal of the offensive is delayed until 6th October, to enable preparatory attacks on Fosse 8 and Hill 70 to take place. Following the days loss of the trenches of Hohenzollern Redoubt, this area takes priority. The 12th and Guards Divisions are ordered to capture the Quarries and the Fosse 8 / Hohenzollern respectively, on 9th October.

 8 October 1915: German counter-attack
Noon: German artillery opened a bombardment on the whole front between the La Bassee Canal and Lens, increasing in intensity at 3.00pm. At around 4.00pm, their infantry attacked between the Double Crassier and the Chalk Pit. On the Allied right, the shelling failed to sufficiently damage French wire, and the German attack was halted with heavy loss. At the same hour, enemy bombers attacked from the Quarries and Fosse 8 against the forward British positions in Quarry Trench and Big Willie. On the left of the Loos attack, the attack fell against the 2/Royal Munster Fusiliers, 1/Gloucesters and 1/9th King's of 1st Division, between the Loos-Puits 14 bis track, and North of the Chalk Pit. Despite heavy shellfire casualties among the defenders, British machine-guns destroyed the attack within 40 yards of the front line. On the Hohenzollern Redoubt front, the 2/Coldstream Guards repelled all attacks, as they were by now armed with many Mills bombs. The 3/Grenadier Guards were pushed back some way, but eventually formed a block and then counterattacked (supported by two companies of the 1/Scots Guards and the bombers of the Irish Guards) recovered the lost trenches and caused heavy loss to the enemy.
6.15pm: 37th Brigade of 12th Division, led by 6/Royal West Kents, attacked against Gun Trench near Hulluch, but after gaining a footing in the trench had to retire due to lack of grenades.

(The Battle of Loos The Long Long Trail The British Army 1914-1918)

Death and Memorial

Charles died of wounds on the morning of the 8 October 1915 aged 24 years. He was one of ten casualties and two civilians, from the strong counter attack by the enemy on their positions west of the Hulloch, accompanied by heavy bombardment of the front support lines and of Vermelles Halte and Noyelle Les Vermelles.

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Charles was buried at Vermelles British Cemetery.

Map Reference 44a.G.7.d.9.2. INDEX NO. FR.423.I.L.29.        


Vermelles was in German hands from the middle of October 1914 to the beginning of December 1914, when it was recaptured by the French. The cemetery was begun in August 1915 (though a few graves are slightly earlier), and during the Battle of Loos, when the Chateau was used as a dressing station, Plot I was completed. It was laid out and fenced by the Pioneers of the 1st Gloucesters, and known for a long time as "Gloucester Graveyard". The remaining Plots were made by the Divisions (from the Dismounted Cavalry Division onwards) holding the line 1.6 kilometres East of the cemetery until April 1917, and they incorporated a few isolated French graves of October 1914. From April 1917, to the Armistice, the cemetery was closed; but after the Armistice some graves were re-grouped and others were brought in (to Plots II, IV and VI) from the battlefields to the East.

There are now over 2134 First World War casualties commemorated in this cemetery. Of these, 198 are unidentified and special memorials are erected to six soldiers from the United Kingdom, known to be buried among them. This cemetery also contains the graves of 11 casualties of other nationalities.

Charles is also remembered on the War Memorial in Great Waltham.

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Charles' Medal Card

Charles was awarded the Victory Medal, the British Meda and the 1915 Star Medal.

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