Tom’s birth was registered at Leek in the first quarter of 1897 and he was baptised at St. Lawrence, Biddulph on February 28th 1897. He was the youngest of ten children born to James and Sarah Ann Charlesworth of Brook Street, Brown Lees. His father was a sawyer. By 1911, the couple had been married for 32 years and of their ten children, two had died by 1911. They were to lose another two sons to the war.
The 1911 census records that the family lived at 3, Newpool Terrace. Although aged only 14, Tom’s occupation was given as ‘miner’. On August 14th 1917 Tom married Annie Elizabeth Green of 38, Albert Street, Biddulph. His brother, Private Charles Morris Charlesworth had been killed in action in January of that year.
Tom formerly served as a soldier with the South Staffordshire Regiment, number 49414. This may have been pre-war service although without records this remains unsure. However a Sentinel report of October 1918 states he had been called to the colours in April 1918, which was believed to have been at Burslem.
A change of regiment occurred when Tom joined the Royal West Surrey Regiment (The Queens) and posted to the 1st/24th (County of London) Battalion – part of the 47th (2nd London) Division. If the Sentinel date is correct this transfer must have taken place in the field as a draft replacement as this division was already in France fighting in the Battle of St. Quentin. This famous division would see more action at Bapaume and the Ancre. A pal from Biddulph Moor, William Biddulph, also joined and served in this battalion during this period.
The war was soon to take on a more mobile form away from the static trench warfare of the earlier years. The enemy push had stalled after their March Offensive and the British divisions along the front in their own sectors would move forward. By August 1918 the Battle of Albert was fought on the old battlefield of the Somme. Unlike those previous battles in 1916 this time a successful advance had commenced with the enemy falling back. Tom and his mates were again in action bravely fighting a retreating enemy, which continued into the Second Battle of Bapaume from August 31st to September 3rd. These bitter fights to gain the ground previously lost to the British were costly and sadly 21 year old Private Tom Charlesworth fell in these actions on September 2nd 1918. With no known grave he is commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial at Hancourt.
His death was reported in the Staffordshire Weekly Sentinel of October 26th 1918: “He was called to the colours in April. Previously he was a miner and worked at Victoria Pit, Black Bull. Much sympathy is felt in this mining village for the widow and parents of the young man, who possessed a charming disposition, which made him very popular. He was musical and spent his spare moments with his violin, and was always willing to give his services to help a good cause.
He was a member of the Brown Lees Football Club and also of the Mow Cop Male Voice Choir. Early in 1917, Mr. & Mrs. Charlesworth lost their eldest son, Private Charles Charlesworth, who fell at the relief of Amara, Mesopotamia on January 26th. He had seen nine years of service in the Army and had spent eight years on the Indian frontier when war was declared.”
Private Tom Charlesworth is remembered on the Biddulph and Brown Lees memorials.
Michael Turnock and Elaine Heathcote.