Private Charles Edward Cottrell

64356, 22nd (Tyneside Scottish) Bn. Northumberland Fusiliers died April 11th 1918 Age 37

The birth of Charles Edward Cottrell was registered at Congleton in 1882. A family bible for the Cottrell family records his date of birth as December 28th 1881 at Gillow Heath. He was the son of John and Mary Hannah and had five siblings. His father was a bricklayer and from a family of builders who had lived and worked in Gillow Heath for many generations. In 1881 the family lived in Mow Lane, Gillow Heath. Later census returns give the address as just ‘Gillow Heath’. Charles and his family would have been well known in this small, rural community.

In 1892 his mother died at the age of 40 and she was buried at St. Lawrence on July 13th. From then, it would seem that his only sister, Edith, took over mother’s role of housekeeper. His father died in 1903 aged 58 and by 1911, Edith was described as ‘Head’ of the household in that census. Charles, aged 29 and single in 1911, was employed as a miner.

We know that Charles enlisted with Ernest Edge, also from Gillow Heath, during the Whitsuntide holidays in 1915. The weather had been exceptionally hot and Charles and Ernest were recruited by Lance Corporal Edgar Wilshaw (who earned himself two extra days holiday for his efforts). An article in the Weekly Sentinel which appeared on May 29th 1915 sets the scene beautifully; the weather and scenery, the fetes and fun and also the cancellation of cricket matches at Knypersley through lack of players.

Staffordshire Weekly Sentinel 29th May 1915

The Whitsuntide Holidays

“Throughout the Whitsuntide holidays perfect weather was experienced in the Biddulph District. Some slight inconvenience may have been caused by the local heat wave to the crowds of holiday makers, but the powerful rays of the sun were tempered by a refreshing breeze and a remarkable clearness of atmosphere.

“Quite a large number of soldiers were also over for a holiday furlough. Owing to many players having joined the colours, the holidays were without the attraction of the brilliant society function and interesting cricket, invariably a feature of Knypersley Cricket Club’s Whitsuntide programme, and the charming enclosure lying under the shadow of the huge Black Bull works was drawn blank for the first time in the history of the club.

“Lance-Corpl. Edgar Wilshaw, one of the 2nd/5th North Staffords from Harpenden, was smart enough to mix his holiday furlough with a little profitable recruiting. He succeeded in bringing two men to the recruiting station on Tuesday, and as they both passed for Captain John Ward’s Navvies Battalion, he secured a two days extension of his leave. Both recruits, Ernest Edge and Charles Edward Cottrell, were from Gillow Heath.”

At Stoke-on-Trent in May 1915 Charles enlisted in the Middlesex Regiment. The article in the Weekly Sentinel tells of him joining “Captain John Ward’s Navvies Battalion”; almost certainly this means the 18th Pioneer battalion of the regiment, which trained at the newly built Clipstone Camp, Mansfield. Here they attached to the 33rd Division. In early August the division moved to Bulford and Tidworth camps on Salisbury Plain for their final intensive preparation for the field.

After an inspection by Queen Mary, the 33rd Division prepared to embark at Southampton, crossing the channel on November 14th 1915 bound for Le Havre, as Charles medal card confirms. Soon the 33rd Division moved inland for their assembly at Bethune. The 18th Middlesex were based in the village of Gorre where they found their billet very dirty and in poor condition. However Charles and his mates were soon at work in La Bassee area making good water-logged front line trenches under a barrage of shells and within days the pioneers had lost six men.

At some point Charles changed regiments. However, no service records have been found so the details remain inconclusive. His new unit was the 22nd Battalion (3rd Tyneside-Scottish) Northumberland Fusiliers, 102th Brigade. This battalion came to France attached to the 34th Division in January 1916. Charles may have joined them soon after this date. Now in an infantry unit, he saw action in July in the Battle of the Somme and actions in the Albert area, Bazentin Ridge and Pozieries Ridge. Their next major action was in March to April 1917 during the Arras Offensive at Scarpe and Arleux, followed by further attacks in August at Hargicourt.

The dreaded Ypres salient was to become the battle ground of the Tyneside-Scottish in October when they transferred to fight in the Third Battle of Ypres. Appalling conditions had to be endured by the gallant troops and on this battlefield of mud they were to lose many men. The division in April 1918 took part in the Battle of Lys, fighting at Bailleul and Kemmel. During these actions on April 11th 1918, sadly Private Charles Edward Cotterell fell in battle. He was 37 and has no known grave and is now remembered on the Ploegstreet Memorial. Of the original contingents of the battalion no one was awarded the 1915 Star. However for his early entry with the Middlesex regiment Charles did received this medal as his medal card shows.

Private Charles Edward Cottrell is remembered on the Biddulph memorials. The CWGC and Soldiers Died all use the spelling “Cotterell”. His birth was registered using the variant “Cottrell” and it is this spelling that was used consistently in census returns and is still used today by descendants of the family in Biddulph. However, for some reason, his name appears as “Cotterill” on all of the Biddulph memorials.

Michael Turnock and Elaine Heathcote.

 

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1918