Herbert was the son of ironworker Richard Chalstrey and his wife Emma (née Herbert). Herbert’s birth was registered in Sandbach in 1890 using the surname spelling of ‘Calstrey’. His mother was from Tipton and on some census returns his father was also described as being born in the West Midlands while on others he gave Sandbach as his place of birth. In 1871 the young couple lived with her parents in Tipton and Richard described himself as a puddler. The family had moved to Union Street, Sandbach, by the time of the 1891 census and it is on this census return that Herbert first appeared aged one and born in Sandbach. By 1901 the family resided at 23, Bourne Street, Brindley Ford. Oddly, Herbert was recorded as Abraham H. Chalstrey on this return. No doubt Robert Heath’s iron works had been the reason for the family to move to the area, as had many other ironworkers from the West Midlands. By 1911 Emma was widowed and she and Herbert had moved into the home of her married daughter, Elizabeth Meakin. Isaac and Elizabeth Meakin and their young family also lived at Brindley Ford, at 15, Bourne Street.
In April 1914 Herbert enlisted at Stoke-on-Trent, presumably at Shelton barracks. Without service records details are uncertain, however, an article in the Sentinel records that he served in the 7th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment. This battalion trained at Tidworth in 1914 and in January 1915 went by train to Basingstoke where the battalion had their billets. Following a route march to Aldershot and Blackdown in March and with their training complete, the battalion attached to 39th Brigade 13th Western Division and received orders to embark for war.
The division sailed from Avonmouth, Bristol on June 20th 1915, through the Bay of Biscay and into a pleasant Mediterranean with a stop off in Malta; their destination was Alexandria in Egypt. The division then sailed on to the Dardanelles landing at Mudros, the British naval base, in July and then forward to the Gallipoli Peninsula. The 13th Division were there to relieve the 29th Division at Cape Helles on the July 11th and it was here that Herbert and his mates were met by an immediate baptism of fire, being shelled on disembarking.
Actions at Achi Baba saw the brave 7th North Staffords suffer many casualties. In early August the battalion sailed to Anzac Cove and the costly battles at Sari Bar, Russell Top and Hill 60 followed at the end of the month. The terrain was very hilly and inhospitable. The war in Gallipoli had been raging since April. Now with deteriorating and abysmal conditions, torrential storms caused rivers from the surrounding hills to flood and destroy many of the trenches. This left many brave soldiers to drown or die from exposure.
Early September found a further move to Suvla Bay. Here a Biddulph soldier, Tom Lancaster, arrived in a replacement draft. In November Herbert was wounded although no details are available. Reconstruction of the defences was carried out and on December 19th the lads were withdrawn for seven days rest in the Helles area.
By this time the battalion was reduced to 300 men before a draft arrived to strengthen their ranks. At the start of 1916 there were terrible blizzard conditions and on January 7th the enemy made their last attack of the campaign. Frost bite caused Herbert serious problems and in April 1916 he was invalided home to England for treatment. The 13th Division had been evacuated on January 21st 1916 from Gallipoli sailing aboard HMT Varova to Port Said in Egypt. It is not known if Herbert went with them or was already being treated for frost bite in a base hospital in the Mediterranean area.
Following his treatment and recuperation in England, Herbert was fit for duty again and returned to the battlefield, this time the Western Front was his destination. A transfer of battalion for Herbert followed, to the 8th North Staffords, a battalion which had served in Flanders since July 1915. He joined the new battalion in January 1917 in a quiet area of the Somme district. Spring of 1917 found the division still holding the front line until early summer when the 8th Battalion were ordered north into the Ypres salient. The 19th Division were south of the ruined town of Ypres and fighting on high ground in the Messines area. Here the troops were preparing for the Battle of Messines.
It was during this time that Private Herbert Chalstrey, on May 24th 1917, fell on the battle field at the age of 27. He now rests in the Railway Dugout Burial Ground Transport Farm near Zillebeke in Belgium.
On July 14th 1917 the Staffordshire Weekly Sentinel reported on the death of Private H Chalstrey of Brindley Ford which included the following details: “He joined the colours in April 1914. He was invalided home from the Dardanelles with frost bite in April 1916 and was drafted to France in January 1917. Private Chalstrey was formerly employed as an ironworker at Messrs. Robert Heath & Sons, Black Bull works. He was 27 years of age.“
Private Herbert Chalstrey is remembered locally on the Brindley Ford memorial.
Michael Turnock & Elaine Heathcote.