Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Charles Moon - nineteen years in the army

Charles Patrick Moon does not appear in Reverend Jellicoe’s roll call of serving Chailey parishioners but he was born in Chailey in 1875 and so is included on this blog. Although the family had moved away from the parish by the time the 1881 census was taken, the Moon family was well established in Chailey, Charles’s grandfather Simeon having been the village blacksmith during the mid 1800s. The 1881 census return though, notes Charles living at Farnborough, Hampshire. The household comprised Chailey born Thomas Moon, head, married, a 42 year old army pensioner; his wife Mary, aged 28, born in Ireland, and their four children: Thomas (aged nine, born in Cork), Charles (aged seven, born in Chailey), Harriet (aged four, born in Plymouth) and Elizabeth (aged one, born in Guildford, Surrey).

By the time the 1891 census was taken, Charles was a seventeen year old at Gordon Boys’ Home in Chobham, Surrey. The home, built in 1885 as a memorial to Major-General Charles Gordon, maintained 240 boys who were trained for civil, naval or military life; according to their preference. Charles’s brother Thomas was living in Chailey at this time. He appears on the census as the 18 year old nephew of James and Esther Smith. The boys’ parents and siblings were still living in Farnborough. The household, located at Smith’s Cottage, York Road, now comprised Thomas and Mary (Thomas is recorded as “pensioner and fish dealer” and Mary as “fish hawker”) and five children: Harriet Agnes Moon (aged 14), Elizabeth E Moon (aged eleven), James Moon (aged eight), Caroline Annie Moon (aged six) and Simeon Moon (aged 20 months). The last three children had all been born in Farnborough.

It would seem likely that Charles’s spent his time at Gordon Boys’ Home preparing for a life in the army, as on 17th December 1898 he enlisted in the Oxfordshire Light Infantry in London for a period of seven years with the Colours and five years on the Reserve. His stated aged was 23 years and three months and he gave his trade as labourer. He was already a serving member of the 3rd Hampshire Regiment, a militia outfit, at the time of his enlistment in the regular army, and was five feet three inches tall and weighed 122 lbs. He had a medium complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair. Distinctive marks are noted as tattoos of anchor and flags on his left forearm and a bugle and “A” on his right forearm. He joined his regiment at Oxford on 20th December 1898 and was given the service number 5985.

On 8th April 1899 he was posted to the 1st Battalion and the following year, on 7th December, posted to the 2nd Battalion. He was posted back to the 1st Battalion on 15th October 1903 and on 1st April 1904 extended his service to complete eight years with the Colours. He was granted his first Good Conduct Badge on 26th December 1904 and the following September extended his service again to complete 12 years with the Colours. Having been posted back to the 2nd Battalion and then again to the 1st, he received his second Good Conduct Badge on 26th December 1906.

During his time in the army, Charles Moon was extremely well travelled. He was in England from the time of his enlistment in December 1898 until 22nd December 1899 when he sailed for South Africa and the Boer War. He remained there until 30th May 1900 when he returned home, staying in England until December that year. He then set sail for India where he remained for nearly four years, returning home to England in November 1904. In October 1905 he sailed for India again, spending a further 38 months in that country. He then travelled over the border to Burma, arriving there on 6th December 1908 and remaining there until 25th September 1910. Then it was back to India for a further four months before he returned to England at the end of January 1911. For his service during the Boer War he was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with clasps for the Relief of Kimberley and Dreifontein.

On 20th February 1911, Charles was placed on the Army Reserve but was recalled to the colours when Britain declared war on Germany in 1914. He was certainly in France during the first year of the war but was returned to England on 16th December 1914 with dental caries. (His medical record notes that he’d already been supplied with artificial dentures at Government expense when he was in Burma). Although his service record is not clear on when he transferred to the 1st Garrison Battalion of The Royal Warwickshire Regiment, he was certainly discharged from this unit as a time-expired soldier (number 13939) on 19th February 1916. In the intervening months he had been abroad again, this time to Egypt, where he had arrived on 20th August 1915.

Charles’s next of kin was originally noted as his mother, Mary Moon, of 4 York Road, Farnborough, Hampshire but on 6th January 1912 (by now on the Army Reserve), he married Ann Udey (spinster) at the Wesleyan Chapel in Farnborough. Three children are also noted: Mary Kathleen, born 3rd October 1912 in Farnborough and Elizabeth Agnes Caroline Ann, born 25th April 1915, also in Farnborough. Sadly, his second daughter died on 23rd October 1915. A son, Charles, was born on 8th November 1916.

In March 1915, Charles’s address is noted as 12 Government Buildings, Camp Road, Farnborough, Hants. Nevertheless, he re-enlisted at Oxford on 5th August 1916. He served overseas with the BEF from 21st October 1916 until 12th October 1917 and then returned home to England until his discharge on 22nd May 1918. Army Form B.179 (Medical Report on an Invalid), dated 1st May 1918 notes that Charles was suffering from chronic bronchitis which originated at Rouen, France in October 1917. It reads, “He states he was quite well until he had an attack of bronchitis for which he was admitted to No 6 General Hospital, Rouen. From there he was sent home to hospital in England – in hospital six weeks, discharged 24.11.17 since then has done very little duty and has had a cough and been shortwinded.” The report notes that his bronchitis was attributable to service due to exposure to wet and continues, “Prematurely aged man. Some ankio-sclerosis. Has scattered coarse rhonchi both sides. Chest altered by coughing… cough loose and rattling.” The following page notes, “chronic emphysema” and concludes by assessing him at 30 per cent disability.

At the time of his discharge, Charles was serving as WR40707 Pioneer Charles Moon with a Roads and Quarries company of The Royal Engineers. He was 42 years old and was certainly awarded a pension until May 1920. He received a further allowance of 11/8, reduced to 3/6, for each of his children. Charles Moon’s discharge papers note that his military character was very good and that his character awarded in accordance with King’s Regulations was “very satisfactory”. In total, he had served eighteen years and eleven months in the British Army.

Medal index cards courtesy of Ancestry.

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