Rank: Rifleman
Number: Z/2400
Unit: 10th Platoon, C Company, 2nd Battalion RIFLE BRIGADE
Date of Death: 9 May 1915
Age: 25
Cemetery: Ploegsteert Memorial, Hainaut, Belgium

Charles lived at 39 Jackson Street, Cheadle, with his wife Annie. She remarried after his death to a Mr Hulme. Charles’ parents, Joseph & Sarah, lived at 1 Lapwing Lane, West Didsbury, Manchester.

He was born in 1890 in the Burnage area of Manchester but the family had moved to Didsbury by the time the 1901 Census was taken and was living at 36 South Road, where Joseph Bradbury earned his living as a labourer. Charles was the eldest of five children; his younger siblings being Alfred, Ethel, Joseph and Samuel.

Charles’ service papers still exist at the National Archives and these confim that he was slightly below the average height of the time, standing at just under 5’ 5”. He weighed 112lbs and had a sallow complexion, with brown hair and eyes. He had given his religious denomination as Church of England and recorded that he worked as a clerk. He joined up at Manchester on 2 September 1914 and went overseas on active service on Boxing Day.

On 8 May 1915, thousands of British troops were moving to their assembly positions ready for a pincer attack on German trenches near Neuve Chapelle (itself the scene of heavy fighting a few weeks before). Commanders had not been given specific objectives but told to press on as far as possible. 

At 5.00am on 9 May, a British bombardment started with field guns throwing shrapnel at the enemy barbed wire and howitzers firing 4.7 inch shells at the enemy trenches. Many of these shells were falling short, causing casualties in the British front line. At 5.40, the first line of the attack moved off. It was a fine sunny day, after the recent heavy rain. Minutes later, Charles and the rest of “C” Company left their positions to advance the 100-200 yards to the enemy. They had barely got 30 yards before machine guns opened up on them, supported by heavy rifle fire. There were many killed or wounded as the machine guns were set to fire at knee height.

The remaining men of the battalion had secured their first objective – 250 yards of enemy trench. However, the attacking units on either side of them had not been successful and, by 8.30am, the Rifle Brigade men were effectively cut off. They held their position throughout the day, but the casualty total continued to grow as the enemy were throwing grenades from positions they still held to the sides. At 7.50pm, there was an enemy counter attack which was driven off with the help of a captured machine gun. The remainder of the evening was quiet, but during the early hours of 10 May, the battalion had to withdraw back to its own line. The battle of Aubers Ridge was acknowledged to have been a failure. The 2nd battalion had suffered 654 casualties, of which Charles and another local man, Alexander Cornish, were among the 239 killed. His body was never found and identified.

(NB: Original research by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website)

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