Charles Marshall had been born on 13 October 1888 in Nottinghamshire. His parents, William and Sarah, lived at Greenwood Lee, The Park, Cheadle Hulme. William Marshall was employed as the Public Analyst for the Borough of Hyde and had his laboratory on Ladybrook Road. Charles had studied medicine at Manchester University and, after qualifying, worked as house surgeon at Bradford Royal Infirmary. For four years, he had been engaged to a Miss Hook, who was also training to be a doctor at Guys Hospital, London.
Charles’ unit should not be confused with the modern usage of the word “ambulance”. A Field Ambulance in the Great War was usually based only a few hundred yards behind the front line. It dressed wounds and carried out some emergency operations, before passing wounded soldiers further to the rear. Charles’ Ambulance had been formed in Manchester and was attached to 42 Division (which included the Manchester Regiment Territorial battalions) at Gallipoli.
At the time of his death, he was aboard the troopship HMS “Royal Edward”. The ship had arrived off Alexandria in Egypt on 10 August, setting sail for Mudros on the 13th, taking replacement troops to Gallipoli. The German submarine, UB14, spotted her at about 9 a.m. on 13th when she was about 400 miles north of Alexandria and around 7 miles west of Kandeliusa Island. She fired off one torpedo which struck the Royal Edward in the stern. Within 3 minutes she began to settle by the stern and in another 3 her bows were in the air. Charles Marshall’s body was never recovered and identified and it is presumed he drowned.
Later a Lieutenant Wilson wrote to his father “They struck a mine coming from Alexandria and spent 3 or 4 hours in the water, before being picked up by a hospital ship and a destroyer. Am much afraid that Marshall who was with them went down with the ship. After seeing all his men off the ship and encouraging them, he was last seen leaning on the rail of Captain’s bridge, looking down quite calmly at them. He was so very tough and so much at home in the water, that we have not lost hope that he was picked up by some other vessel. It was very characteristic of him to get all the men off in the way he did and then to stem any panic among them by calmly standing about the bridge. It helped them a lot because several men have told me that after seeing him so calm they were led to look on the whole thing as more or less of a joke. He would fight for his life like a fiend when he got in the water.”
Lieutenant F B Smith of the Ambulance wrote in a letter home. “Of the 50 men of our Ambulance, only 3 are lost. I have not told you what a corporal of our section has told me, that he saw Capt. Marshall, long after he himself was in the water, still on the highest deck with the captain of the ship, revolver in hand, encouraging and controlling the men. He had no need to use his weapon because discipline was splendid. The men knew his worth and not one but has spoken to me sadly of our loss. Such a cool courageous “sticking to duty” was characteristic of the man he was.”
Also aboard was another local man, Harry Turner, also on his way to Gallipoli with a Field Ambulance unit.