Charles Henry INGHAM
Rank: Sapper
Number: 442542
Unit: 432nd Field Company ROYAL ENGINEERS
Date of Death: 22 March 1918
Age: 35 (probably)
Cemetery: Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France

Charles had been born at Ludworth (probably in 1883) but had lived at Marple Bridge for many years. He worked, as a blacksmith, with his brother at Greenfield, near Oldham. In February 1916, he joined the army. It is, perhaps, no surprise that his craft skills were recognised by the army and he was assigned to the Royal Engineers. The 432nd Company (originally called the 3rd East Lancashire Field Company) was part of the Territorial Force but, by this stage of the War, there was no real distinction between Territorial units and others. In June of that year, he married his fiancée, Emma Booth. The service may have been at the local Congregational Church where he worshipped and where he was a gifted member of the choir.

Charles will have gone overseas with the Company when 66th Division, of which it was part, went on active service in March 1917.

In the Army, men are first and foremost fighting troops before they are specialist troops. Engineers were always issued with a rifle, although not a bayonet and, in the spring of 1918, they knew they would probably have to use it. A German offensive had long been expected and the attack finally came in the early morning of 21 March. Charles and his comrades had spent the night at Montigny Farm, near the village of Roisel. At 6am, orders were received for them to "man battle stations" and No. 1 and No. 3 Sections, together with a company of infantry took up a defensive position near Jeancourt. This was someway behind the front line but it was already anticipated that the Germans might break through.  They were joined by gun teams from 17th Company, Machine Gun Corps who set up their two heavy Vickers machine guns. The night passed quietly although reports started to be received that the infantry in front of them were retiring under the weight of the German attack.

By dawn on the 22nd, reports were now arriving that the enemy was working round the flanks of their general position through the Leveguier valley. The Major commanding the Field Company later wrote his report which is included in the unit's War Diary held at the National Archives:-

"The enemy commenced an intensive bombardment with heavy howitzers and caused considerable casualties to my small garrison (8 officers, 150 other ranks). I had one MG (note: machine gun) mounted to command each valley and fired them until ammunition gave out to harass (the enemy) concentration in the valley.......I decided as my flanks had gone to retire and did so fighting a running fight with the enemy who attacked ......I took up a position just in rear of Brown Line (where) I received at about 10.30am two MGs from a cavalry division and with them and Lewis guns succeeded in keeping the enemy from penetrating the western houses of Jeancourt.....At about 4.30pm, I received orders to withdraw fighting a rearguard action to Green Line just east of Berne. This I then did holding the enemy firstly at railway line at Montigny and then at about 6.30pm reaching the Green Line, where according to my orders, I handed over to officers of 50th Division."

The Company then withdrew from the fighting area. Sometime during the day, Charles had been killed. His body was, no doubt, buried by the advancing Germans once the fighting had subsided. Whilst the burial will have been dignified, they will not have had any particular interest in identifying individual soldiers. Charles has no known grave and probably lies in a War Grave Cemetery with a headstone marked "Known unto God."

On 21 April, a memorial service for Charles and several other local men who had died in recent fighting was held at his church.

Further information about Charles, including a photograph, can be found in the book "Remembered" by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff.

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