Charles Anthony

5627, Sergeant, “C” Company, 2nd Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps

Died of Wounds on the 3rd April 1916 aged 29

Sergeant Charles Anthony

Charles was the son of Samuel & Emma Anthony of Back Lane, Stevenage. His mother died on the 7th January 1896 at the age of 41, as a result of giving birth to his younger brother, Frank. As a consequence, both he and Frank, along with their sister, Nellie, went to live with their older brother, Fred, in Alleynes Road, Stevenage.

Charles joined the Kings Royal Rifle Corps on the 23rd November 1903, and is described at the time of his initial enlistment as an 18 year-old man who was 5' 3"tall, with Grey eyes, Dark Brown hair and a number of distinctive tattoos. However, records show that Charles had lied about his age as he was actually only 16 years-old when he enlisted. He served with the Regiment until 1909 when he became a Reservist and immigrated to Canada, where he eventually settled in the town of Riondel. He was, for two years, employed at the Bluebell Mine in Riondel, and was captain of the Riondel football team for the season of 1914.

One of seven brothers to serve in the forces during the First World War of whom one other, Frank, was reported as Missing on the 19th January 1917. Charles was married on the 12th August 1914 in Kaslo, British Columbia, Canada, to Lucy Maria Gomsford and returned to England on the 8th September 1914. He re-joined his Regiment and was posted to France on the 2nd November 1914.

In a letter to a friend in Riondel dated 31st October 1915, Charles describes his involvement in the Battle of Loos;

 “I know you must have read of the great advance made by the French and us on Sept. 25. I want to tell you about the great battle as I went through it all up to Oct. 13. The Germans on all parts of their line were very strongly entrenched and their positions fortified, having held them for 10 months. We had the usual four days’ bombardment, with artillery of all calibres, and on the morning of Sept. 25 all were eagerly awaiting for the order to advance. At 6 o’clock in the morning the order came through and the way the boys climbed the parapets and advanced to what seemed certain death was something to talk of. Thinking over the thing now, when I am here billeted and away from the sound of the guns, I wonder how it was that the Germans gave way to us, and yet while I still wonder, I know. It was the determination of our men who were out to win no matter what the cost. I have since heard that my battalion, the 2nd K.R.R.’s, was the first to move in the big advance. We had about 600 yards to go before we came to the enemy’s barbed wire. Of this they had three lines. First a trip wire and two lines eight yards in depth and 15 yards apart. Our boys actually swung their rifles on their shoulders as if setting out on a route march and our officers well to the front heading their companies. Such spirit as this must surely win the war. All went well with us until we came to their first line of entanglement wire, which was only slightly damaged by our artillery, and it was while we were trying to force our way through this that the enemy discovered our move and opened a rapid fire with rifles, machine guns and hand grenades by the hundred. On right and left of us, of course, other battalions were advancing, but we did not know how they were faring. One does not know much about the other fellow in a big thing like this. The Germans were pouring a most terrible fire on us and we had the order to retire. We came back to where we started from had a rally and advanced again. We got up to the entanglement but could not make it under such a hail of bullets, and had to retire again. Once more, we rallied and advanced. By this time we were very much weakened, our losses were very heavy and we had again to retire, but at the fourth time up we managed to dislodge them, and after many hours of facing death and having trying times we captured their first and second lines of trenches and about 800 prisoners. Both our flanks had advanced and gained ground, capturing many prisoners. We formed up after this and skirmished across open country, taking up all the enemy’s positions, 3000 yards in depth on a five-mile front. This was the greatest victory for the allies since the war began. You can guess our losses were heavy after under a murderous fire for 10 hours. My battalion alone lost 650 rank and file and many officers. I think we lost more men than any other individual regiment, but all lost heavily. The price was dear, but we gained our objective. I had done some big fighting before this big move, being in the thickest of the scrap when the Kaiser was on his way to Calais (I don’t think), but this beat anything I had been in previously and I could go on indefinitely almost telling you of the days between Sept. 25 and Oct. 13. I am at present billeted here about 17 miles from the “Bocks” and we are having quite a good time. I have had two games of football since I came here. We won one and drew another. I was pleased to hear you again had a football team at Bluebell, and look forward to your next letter telling me of the game with Nelson. Both teams will have quite a different personnel to what they had when I was one of the boys.  I do look forward eagerly to the time when the war is over and I am back again among the old bunch. I have not seen anyone I knew in the pre-war days, although I have been trying ever since the Canadians came here. Give my kind regards to all the old bunch who may be back at Bluebell, also any of the Nelson and Trail boys whom you may run across. ”

On the 3rd April 1916 the Battalion were positioned at Les Brebis, about one mile south of Mazingarbe. At 7.17pm a mine was detonated in the Hulluch Sector and British transport began to move along the Loos Road. This resulted in German artillery fire being brought down in the area where the Battalion were situated and the Unit War Diary records one man being killed and three wounded. One of the wounded was Sergeant Charles Anthony who later died of his injuries. At the time of his death his wife, Lucy Maria Anthony, was living at Deans Haven, Riondel, British Columbia, and the following articles were returned to her; Knife, whistle, wallet, photo cards, identity disc, comb, gold ring, watch, & pouch.

He is buried in the Noeux-Les-Mines Communal Cemetery, Pas De Calais, France. (Grave Reference: I.T.1)

Medal Entitlement: 1914 Star, British War Medal & Victory Medal

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