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Charlton, B.H., Lieut.Col., MC., MiD., 1916

Bernard Hedley Charlton

Guisbrough Grammar School looking South West

Medal Index Card

In the Roisel Communal Cemetery Extension is the Commonwealth War Grave of Lieutenant-Colonel Bernard Hedley Charlton, serving with the 1/4th Battalion, Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment who died 22/03/1918.

Bernard Hedley Charlton was born on the 22nd May 1885 at Guisborough, North Yorkshire, the only son of William Charlton, who came from nearby Eston, a Mining Engineer and Manager of the local Spawood Ironstone Mine. [He gained the name of "Ratchet Willie" when he introduced a new drill in the mines], and Frances Elizabeth Bartlett. The family lived at West Garth, Westgate, Guisborough.

Bernard was educated at Guisborough Grammar School from September 1895, and was a keen sportsman, became Vice Captain of the School XI in 1899, left Guisborough School in March 1900, and became a boarder at Rossall School, Fleetwood, Lancashire, where he was Captain of the Bisley Team. He went on to graduate as a Mining Engineer at the Royal School of Mines.

In 1908 he was gazetted a 2nd Lieutenant commencing from 1st April.

In the 1911 census, age 25, he was the Manager of the Guisborough Ironstone Mines.

He had already joined the Territorial force, for when the Territorial Force was established on the 1st April 1908 and became the 1/4th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment Bernard is shown as a Second Lieutenant. In "D" Company at Guisborough. In 1913 he presented a miniature rifle to the school.

Between 1911 and 1914, he was appointed Manager of Messrs S B Samuelson’s Hedley Hope Collieries, Co Durham.

A local newspaper reported his presence on the 14th January 1915 at the funeral in Guisborough of fellow Officer, 2nd Lieutenant A J B Richardson, who had contracted cerebro-spinal meningitis on service.

Captain Bernard Hedley Charlton was with the Battalion when they first went out to France on the 18th April 1915 and were almost immediately involved in the Second Battle of Ypres when their charge at Fortuin and defence alongside the Canadians prevented a German breakthrough.

On the 25th May 1915 in another German attack on trenches astride the Menin Road outside the village of Bellewaarde, he was badly gassed and spent some time in Hospital.

On the 28th October he was appointed Adjutant of the 1/4th Battalion and on the 10th November was mentioned in Despatches. On the 16th of November 1915 Bernard married Dorothy Frances, daughter of Mr C H Joliffe of Newbus Grange, Darlington.

In the New Year's Honours List for 1916 he was awarded the Military Cross.

Bernard Hedley Charlton was presented with a gold watch [see above photo] by the citizens of Tow Law for this.

At Kemmel on the 16th June 1916 he was wounded when the 1/4th Yorkshire Battalion suffered a heavy German bombardment of their trenches.

By September 1916 the 1/4th Yorkshire Battalion were involved in the latter stages of the Battle of the Somme. Bernard had by this time been promoted to Major and was signing the War Diary as the Officer Commanding. During 1917 the Battalion were involved in fighting at Arras and from October in the final stages of Passchendaele, Ypres. Major Charlton was again mentioned in Despatches. On the 27th December 1917 he was given official Command of the Battalion and promoted to the rank of Acting Lieutenant Colonel.

In March 1918, the Germans were able to bring their Divisions from the East and with a great superiority in numbers make a final drive to win the War on the Western Front.

At the Battle of St Quentin the 28 British Divisions were driven back many miles by the 76 German Divisions towards Amiens and the 50th Division, of which the 1/4th Yorkshire Battalion were a part, were placed in the centre of this offensive.

On the 22nd March Lt Col Charlton was killed in action. The Battalion War Diary says that in a thick misty morning Companies had lost touch with each other and Lt Col Charlton along with Adjutant Captain J S Bainbridge had gone up to rally the Company on the Left.

The writer of his obituary in the Green Howards Gazette said:- Colonel Charlton’s death will be much felt in the Battalion, in which he took the keenest interest. Zealous, tactful and full of sound common-sense, he possessed the complete confidence of those who were privileged to serve under him; he was the type of Officer that can ill be spared. To have risen so quickly through the officer ranks he must have been a very confident and capable man. How sad he was never able to fulfil his potential like so many others of that generation. The Auckland and County Chronicle 28/07/1921 recorded the unveiling of the Church Memorial:-

There was a large congregation present on Friday night at the Church of SS. Philip and James on the occasion of the unveiling and dedication of the Church War Memorial.

The memorial, which takes the form of a section of new panelling, together with brass tablet, the latter containing the names of those associated with the church who fell in the Great War, was unveiled by Mr. W. Charlton, of Guisborough, whose son, the late Major B. H Charlton, figures in the honoured list.

The Green Howard, The Magazine of the Green Howard Regimental Museum, October 2012 reports that the original grave marker from the burial of Lieut. Col. Bernard Hedley Charlton had been handed over to the Museum from the Church of St.Philip and St. James at Tow Law. It also has an Obituary and a photo.

There were many sources consulted:-Dave Charlesworth; The Gazette; War Diary; The Green Howards; Yorkshire Remembered

Bernard Hedley Charlton and his wife were residing at 61 Earls Court Square, SW London.

Bernard Hedley Charlton is remembered at Tow Law on T57.01, T57.03 and T57.10, at Newcastle NUT009 and NUT238, also on at least another 11 Memorials throughout the UK.

Yorkshire Remembered
The CWGC entry for Lieutenant Colonel Charlton

If you know more about this person, please send the details to janet@newmp.org.uk