Charles was born at Brindley Ford circa 1891. His parents were William and Bridget Kelly (possibly Bridget Healey – married 1867 in a civil ceremony and registered at Wolstanton). His father had been born in Ireland, probably moving to England as a small child in the late 1840s. In 1851, William lived in Newcastle-under-Lyme with his parents, both Irish, and the family remained in the Newcastle area for many years, living in Pepper Street. By 1891 William, Bridget and their young family were all residing at Brindley Ford and Charles appears in this census return as a baby only one month old.
The 1901 census finds nine year old Charles as a schoolboy living with his family at 26, Victoria Street, Brindley Ford. His father and some of his older brothers were employed in the ironworks. Ten years later the family still lived at 26, Victoria Street although his mother had by now died. Charles was employed as a miner.
Charles formerly served in the East Surrey Regiment, number 203969, enlisting at Biddulph. At some point he transferred to the 2nd/6th Battalion (Rifles) The King’s Liverpool Regiment. This was a second line battalion which in February 1915 came under the 171st Brigade, 57th (2nd West Lancashire) Division. Training was at Blackdown and Deepcut camps at Aldershot before they concentrated in Kent in preparation to cross the channel in mid-February 1917. On arrival in France the division assembled at Merris on February 23rd. Without service records and without a date of entry on the medal card of Charles it is assumed he was with this initial detachment.
By February 26th 1917 the division had taken over the trenches at Le Tilleloy, near Laventie, where they stayed until ordered to fight in the Third Battle of Ypres. The 2nd/6th Rifles joined the action during the terrible fighting in the salient to gain the ruined village of Passchendaele from October 26th to November 7th 1917; a salient with ever deteriorating conditions which was made worse by heavier than normal rainfall and the constant bombardment of shells.
The following year Charles and his mates were involved in the Second Battle of Arras fighting at Scrape in August 1918. Then in early September the 2nd/6th Battalion bravely fought in actions during the battle for the Drocourt-Queant Line, an area in the northern part of the enemy’s Hindenburg Line. The tanks joined the battle dragging grapnel hooks and steel cables to clear a mass of wire to allow the infantry to pass through.
More open warfare developed moving forward at a faster pace. This was in a push to regain ground lost to the enemy in the previous months, although this came at a heavy cost.
Soon after this action, on September 12th 1918, Rifleman Charles Kelly sadly fell on the battlefield. He was 27 years old. He now rests in the Moeuvres Communal Cemetery Extension near Cambrai.
He is remembered on the Brindley Ford memorial.
Michael Turnock and Elaine Heathcote.