Friday, January 01, 2016

12419 Pte Charles Chambers, 7th Norfolk Regt

Charles Chambers was a patient at Hickwells some time between September 1915 and April 1916.  His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album reads:

All honour to our soldiers true
Who fight in honour’s name
And honour to their dead chums too
For they shall share their fame

Pte C Chambers
12419 Norfolk Reg

He shares this page with SR/7386 Private William Haydon of the 1st Royal Fusiliers.

Charles Robert H Chambers was born at Morningthorpe, Norfolk on 29th March 1894. He was the son of Charles and Caroline Chambers and he appears on the 1901 census living with them and his two sisters at Hall Road, Morningthorpe. The household comprised: Charles (head, married, aged 37, working as a cowman on a farm), Caroline (aged 30), Edith M Chambers (aged 11), Ellen M Chambers (aged nine) and Charles Robert Chambers (aged seven).

By the time the 1911 census was taken, Charles was living with his parents and older sister, Edith, at The Vineyards, Bracon Ash, Norfolk. Charles, aged 17, is recorded as a farm labourer, and his father, Charles senior, as a farm bailiff.

Charles attested with the Norfolk Regiment at Norwich on 27th August 1914, enlisting for the duration of the war. He gave his occupation as farm labourer. He was given the army service number 12419 and posted to the 7th Battalion.

The 7th Norfolks, formed part of the 35th Brigade of the 12th (Eastern) Division. Although when Charles enlisted, the division was incomplete, training in the form of drill and route marching began immediately, the men drilling with wooden rifles in the absence of the real thing. By the end of May 1915, having re-located from Hythe to Aldershot (where four other K1 Divisions were also going through their final paces), the men were ready to embark for France. Divisional advance parties left on the 25th followed by the men, artillery, horses and transport. By 4th June, all units of the 12th Division had reached their concentration area. The following day the Division joined III Corps.

Charles arrived in France on 30th May 1915 and served with the battalion until wounded by a shell on 8th August that year. That month, the battalion was in trenches at Ploegsteert. The diary entry for the period 5th - 9th August reads:

“These days were spent furnishing working parties. Norfolk Avenue trench is well on the way to completion. Gaps in the wire entanglement, every 40 yards, in front of subsidiary line constructed. Nothing of importance happened during these days.”

At the end of the month the diarist details, in chronological order, the number of casualties sustained. Charles appears on the 9th August as: “12479 Pte C R Chambers. B Coy. Severely wounded.” The date in the diary is incorrect as by the 9th Charles was already in a hospital bed at Le Treport.

Charles was wounded in the feet and left arm and was taken first to number 88 Field Ambulance at Pont de Nieppe and then to the Number 2 Casualty Clearing Station at Bailleul. The following day he was taken to the 2nd Canadian General Hospital at Le Treport where he remained until 2nd September. He was then transported back to England aboard the Hospital Ship Newhaven.

The next entry on his service papers is for 9th April 1916, when he was posted to the 3rd Battalion. In the preceding months it is reasonable to assume that Charles would have been transported first to the 2nd Eastern General Hospital at Brighton and then to Hickwells. His wound had been severe enough to keep him in a Canadian hospital on French soil for three weeks and then kept him in English hospitals for a further seven months. He was discharged from the army on 13th September 1916 as no longer physically fit for war service. He had served his King and Country for over two years, of which a little over three months (95 days) had been served abroad.

On 23rd October that year, Charles wrote to the military authorities form his home address at Brockdish, Eccles, Norfolk, requesting his silver war badge. His character, noted on army documents, is recorded as “Very Good – honest and sober”.

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