Charles was born in Biddulph in 1886, the eldest son of James Charlesworth and Sarah Ann née Mould. His parents had married in 1878 at St. Peter’s Church in Congleton, his father originating from Congleton but mother Sarah coming from Mow Cop. At first the young family lived at Mow Cop near the Wesleyan Chapel and in 1881, James and Sarah Ann being just 20 with baby Ada age one and a boarder.
In 1891 the family are living at Brook Street in Brown Lees. Father is 36, and employed as a wood sawyer. The children include Ada 11, Sarah nine, Ethel seven, Charles Morris six, Emma three, Martha two and James Bruce just five months.
There is an entry for the baptism of Charles at Biddulph on 30th July 1893. By the turn of the century in 1901 James is still working as a sawyer and Charles is now 16 and employed as a driver in the coal mine. Sister Ethel, Martha Ellen and brothers James and Tom the youngest at age four. Tom Charlesworth would also enlist in the army and sadly died on September 2nd 1918.
Charles had been a regular soldier since January 14th 1905. His earlier service records show he served in the 4th Battalion B Company North Staffordshire Regiment. This was a home based unit and his regimental number was 6362, however from another source, it is almost certain that he re-engaged again on July 18th 1908 when he joined at Tunstall, transferring to the 2nd Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment. This battalion served in India and did so throughout the Great War. His medal card shows code “5F” meaning Charles served in the Asiatic Theatre, Tochi Valley; a campaign of 1897-98 on the North West Frontier, India.
In the 1911 census he is listed as Charles Charlesworth, private, age 26, unmarried, of The North Staffordshire Regiment, with his birthplace given as Staffordshire, Congleton. His family were living at 3, New Pool Terrace.
Without his Great War service records we cannot know the details of his re-engagement in the army at that time. However during the Great War it is known that Charles served in the 7th battalion North Staffords. A battalion that trained at Tidworth in 1914 and then, in January 1915, they went by train to Basingstoke where the battalion had billets in the town and schools. A route march to Aldershot and Blackdown followed in March and as an already trained soldier he would have known the ropes. Training complete, and now attached to the 39th Brigade, 13th Western Division, orders were received to embark for war. A final leave and on return, Wolseley sun helmets were issued – so the lads guessed a hot destination was on the cards.
The division sailed from Avonmouth Bristol on June 20th 1915, through the Bay of Biscay and into a hot Mediterranean. There was a stop off in Malta and with the threat of mines it was a dangerous journey. Their destination was Alexandria in Egypt. The division then sailed on to the Dardanelles landing at Mudros in July and then forward to the Gallipoli Peninsula. The 13th Division was there to relieve the 29th Division at Cape Helles. On July 11th, Charles and his friends were met by an immediate baptism of fire, being shelled on landing.
Actions at Achi Baba saw the 7th North Staffords with many casualties. The battalion moved on to Anzac Cove in early August with the costly battles at Sari Bar, Russell Top and Hill 60 at the end of the month. The terrain was very hilly and inhospitable and 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 and the battalion moved to Suvla Bay and it was here that another Biddulph soldier, Tom Lancaster, arrived in a replacement draft. Reconstruction of the defences was carried out before December 19th when 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. It is believed that fellow Biddolfian Thomas Lancaster received serious wounds in this action. A few days later the 13th Division were evacuated from Helles and by January 21st had left Gallipoli and sailed aboard HMT Varova to Port Said in Egypt. The battalion now enjoyed bathing and good food to restore their vigour and morale. Then for a short period the battalion were used in the defence of the Suez Canal until orders came to transfer the division to Mesopotamia.
February 12th 1916 found the division on a sea journey to the Persian Gulf aboard HMT Marathon. Then Charles and his mates were in the torrid desert as part of an army being assembled to relieve the garrison at Kut al Amara. On March 27th this action came under orders of the Tigris Corps who were based, as one soldier put it “at the bearable Sheikh Saad camp“ and after months of bitter fighting the action failed and Kut al Amara fell to the enemy. The Tigris Corps spend the rest of the year rebuilding their army. With boiling hot days and bitter cold nights the men only wore light drill, without greatcoats.
Then a ten day route march, with mules pulling their GS waggons loaded with ammunition, supplies and water tanks. By December 13th 1916 they prepared for battle. The Corps was now ready for further attacks on the Hai salient and Kut al Amara. These actions were to be successful but before its conclusion, the 7th North Staffords had lost many valiant soldiers. Sadly Charles was one of the fallen. On January 26th 1917 aged 31, Private Charles Charlesworth, fell in battle. He now rests in the Amara War Cemetery Iraq.
His name appears on the Biddulph memorials and the Brown Lees memorial tablet.
Michael Turnock and Kathleen Walton.