Charles Thomas FOX
Rank: Gunner
Number: W/1440
Unit: A Battery, 119th Brigade ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY
Date of Death: 19 April 1918
Age: 33
Cemetery: Ebblinghem Military Cemetery, France

Charles died at an army field hospital of wounds he’d received in action. An examination of official records suggests that he was injured on the 16th as mentioned below.

Nothing is known of his early life, except that army records published after the War indicate he was born in Stockport. In 1909, he married Eliza Ann Sharples at St Matthews Church and they would have four children together. They lived at 40 Gilmore Street, Shaw Heath. Before the War, he worked for the London & North Western Railway Company as a loader at its Heaton Norris depot and enlisted into the army on 4 February 1915. For some reason, he chose not to enlist locally but travelled to Chester to join up. Perhaps he wanted to make sure he joined the Cheshire Regiment which had its Headquarters there, but he found himself in the artillery nevertheless. He was assigned to the newly formed 119th Brigade and will have gone overseas at the end of the year.

On 9 April 1918, the Germans launched the second phase of their spring offensive. As the attack the previous month, the assault was overwhelming and the British were rapidly driven into a fighting retreat. By the 16th, Charles and his comrades were in their gun positions behind the front line near to the French village of Vieux Berquin (some 10 kilometres south east of the town of Hazebrouck). At 2.20am, the Germans could be seen massing in the village in preparation for an attack. All the guns of the Brigade were brought to bear on them and over 5000 rounds were fired over the next few hours. It was successful in breaking up the attack and the British infantry holding the front line found it relatively easy to repulse the assault.

The rest of the day was spent in registering the guns onto new targets and firing harassing shots onto the roads behind the German front line in the hope of killing reinforcements moving up. However, the German artillery was not silent and, at 6pm, “A” Battery’s reserve area was shelled killing seven men and wounding another 13. Charles was almost certainly one of the 13. He was evacuated to either 2nd or 15th Casualty Clearing Station (field hospitals) then at Ebblinghem – 20 kilometres west behind the front line. There all that was possible would have done for him but the fact that he remained there for three days, rather than being further evacuated to the more sophisticated facilities on the Channel coast almost certainly means that the doctors determined there was no hope for him. He would have been made as comfortable as possible, no doubt receiving heavy doses of morphine, but there would have been no further treatment.

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