Charles Pointon was born circa 1895/6 in Congleton and was the son of Charles and Eleanor (née Oakes) who had married at St. Peters, Congleton in 1886. In 1891 Charles and his wife resided at West Terrace, Fegg Hayes, with two of their children. By 1901 the family had re-located to Congleton and had expanded to include Lucy, Esther, Thomas, Charles, Bertie, Ellenor and baby Grace. Charles senior was a collier who had been born in Biddulph. In 1905 tragedy struck the Pointon family; mother Eleanor died and four years later, Charles senior, aged only 43, also died. Young Charles would only have been eight years old when he lost his mother and by the age of 13 he was orphaned.
It would seem that their eldest sister, Esther, was by this time married to Arthur Whatmore. The Pointon siblings, Thomas, Charles, Bertie and Grace all moved in with their sister and brother-in-law and can be found on the 1911 census at 38, Samuel Street, Packmoor. The three brothers all worked as colliers.
With the outbreak of war Charles enlisted at Biddulph on September 14th, joining the specially formed ‘Biddulph Company’, the 2/5th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment, regimental number 3373 serving in D company. He gave his address as 21, Shepherd Street, Biddulph and his age as 19 years and 3 months. His occupation was recorded as a collier at the Chatterley Whitfield Colliery. His brother Tom also enlisted and joined the 1st Scottish Rifles.
After training, his service records suggest that on June 28th 1915 he crossed the channel from Southampton to Le Havre. Disembarking, he moved to the assembly area at St Omer. Charles may have been in a reinforcement draft as 2/5th battalion didn’t go to France until 1917.
In Flanders there was a change of battalion for Charles when he was posted to the 1/5th Battalion on August 22nd. This battalion was attached to 137th Brigade 46th North Midlands Division. As a further complication, his new regimental number on CWGC is given as 300675 and on his medal card and service records as 200675, the latter being correct.
The 46th Division served in the Ypres and Hooge area until early October when they were ordered to the Loos area of the Western Front. The Battle of Loos was being fought amid the mining villages of Flanders, an area similar to the North Staffordshire coalfields. On the afternoon of October 13th battalions of 137th Brigade 46 Division were to retake at the Hohenzollern Redoubt, the trenches of Big Willie and Fosse Alley. It was disastrous. Exposed to machine gun fire from the redoubt many of the battalion soon fell. This was to become a Black day for Biddulph and Staffordshire. Sadly eight of his Biddulph pals were lost that day.
The division was soon to be withdrawn from the Loos battlefield to recuperate and refit after so many men were lost. Mid-December saw rather unusual orders issued to the 46th Division. They were to entrain for a long and slow journey south through the length of France. Their destination was Marseilles docks. Their simple Christmas dinner could well have been taken in a truck of the French Railways. At least it was warm and dry and without any fear of shelling.
On January 5th 1916 at Marseilles the soldiers boarded a troopship. Our Biddulph lads were to sail through the Mediterranean to Alexandria in Egypt. They’d had an awful time of it and well deserved a pleasant change. Hopefully they were able to enjoy the journey. They arrived on January 12th 1916. However within a month their orders were changed and the division, for an unknown reason, were to return to France. So now the journey was reversed and the 1/5th North Staffords were going back to the mud and trenches. The division arrived back in Marseilles on February 11th.
Back in Flanders, the 1/5th Battalion defended their lines with the normal front line life of infantry soldiers until the summer of 1916, when the whole division prepared for the Battle of the Somme in which they were used in a diversionary attack in the north of the battle front at Gommercourt. In this action one of the Biddulph pals, John Bowers, fell on July 1st. The Somme offensive lasted from July until November when the winter weather brought the battlefield to stalemate.
In March 1917 the battalion bravely fought in actions at Ancre, Retternoy Graban and the Hindenburg Line losing many men. It was sadly in this action, on March 14th 1917 at the age of 22 that Private Charles Pointon fell on the field. He now rests in the Rossignol Wood Cemetery at Hebuterne in the Somme district.
Private Charles Pointon is remembered locally on the Biddulph memorials.
Elaine Heathcote & Michael Turnock.