Charles Oldroyd BUCKLEY
Rank: Rifleman
Number: S/12785
Unit: D Company, 7th Battalion RIFLE BRIGADE
Date of Death: 15 September 1916
Age: 22
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

Charles was born in Stockport in 1894, the son of Thomas and Lilian. He was their eldest child and had four younger siblings – Jennie (born about 1895), Doris (about 1897), Thomas (about 1900) and Robert (about 1907).

Nothing is known of his early life until, on 6 June 1915, he travelled from home at 3 Hall Street into Manchester and enlisted into the army. His service papers still exist at the National Archives and these show he was 5’ 8” tall with a 37” chest. The examining doctor noted he had perfect vision and a good physical development.

Two days later, he started his training at Winchester. This was completed by 23 March 1916, when he was assigned to the 7th Battalion. He left Britain the next day and joined his unit on 1 April, when he was posted to “D” Company.

The Battle of the Somme had opened on 1 July and, after the first day, the advance had continued in series of smaller scale attacks. Nearly 200,000 men would take part in the “smaller scale” attack planned for 15 September which would push the front forward capturing the villages of Flers, Courcelette and Martinpuich, in the south of the battlefield. They would be supported by a new weapon of war – the very first tanks to go into action.

For the first two weeks of the month, Charles and his comrades had been resting well away from the battle area but moved back into assembly positions on the 14th, near Delville Wood. In their sector, two other battalions would first assault the German front line. 7th Rifle Brigade and 7th Kings Royal Rifle Corps would then overlap them to capture Gap Trench some 500 yards further on.

Just prior to the first wave going “over the top”, at 6.20am, the British artillery opened an intense barrage of the German positions. They immediately came under heavy machine gun fire but quickly advanced. In fact they advanced so quickly that they got caught up in their own barrage. Only one of the three tanks managed to start the attack (the other two having broken down) and this was knocked out as it crossed the German front line. Ten minutes after the start, Charles and the other Riflemen started their attack, from the east of Delville Wood  (Devil’s Wood to the Tommies).

As with the leading troops, 7th Rifle Brigade suffered many casualties from machine gun fire but small parties pushed on to take Gap Trench which it found to be relatively lightly defended, although machine gun fire from nearby trenches was still very heavy. The men held the captured ground until they were relieved about midnight. The Battalion had suffered 280 casualties – dead, wounded or missing. Charles was recorded as being wounded and missing but his body was never found and identified. On 24 August 1917, the War Office made the decision that 15 September should be regarded as “acceptance of death for official purposes”.

   
           
   
     
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