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charnley-clarence frederickClarence Frederick Charnley was the son of Yorkshire-born parents Herbert and Eliza Charnley. He was born in Colne on 27th August 1894 and was baptised on 14th October at the town’s Christ Church. In 1901 the family were living at 25 Elm Street, Colne.

At the time of the 1911 census he was 16 years old and living with his mother and father at 15 Church Rd, Prestolee, Stoneclough Nr Manchester. Other members of the household that night were two sisters Elsie and Hannah, and younger brother Herbert. A second brother, William (3 years younger) was away from home the night the record was taken.

Pre-war Clarence worked as a side-piecer in the spinning room of Irwell Bank Mill, which was probably at the same mill his father worked as a cotton warp-dresser. It was said by that he was a bell-ringer at Prestolee Church, although research appears to suggest that this church didn’t have a bell to ring.

Clarence enlisted into the Army in Bolton and joined the 6th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment with the number 11186. After training on Salisbury Plain the Battalion were sent to Blackdown near Aldershot. He left Farnborough station from Avonmouth and sailed as part of the transport party on the Japanese Prince to Galipolli.  The main body of the Battalion sailed on the ship Braemar Castle on 17th June 1915. Upon arrival in Gallipoli they were bivouacked at Seghir Dere in Gully Ravine before being shortly thereafter sent to the front line to relieve the 29th Division. On 31st July they were sent to Mudros where they remained for four days before proceeding back to Gallipoli and landing at Anzac Cove on 4th August 1915.

Five days later on 9th August 1915 whilst the Battalion were in action at Chunuk Bair (read a personal account of Chunuk Bair) Clarence sustained a bullet wound in the arm and survived a shrapnel attack by the Turks as he was being stretchered on a lighter to the hospital ship.

He was quickly treated in Cairo before being returned to Gallipoli where he was wounded again in September and was taken back to a convalescent camp in Cairo. Sent back again, during his forth time in Gallipoli that year, he then contracted dysentery and was invalided back to England where he spent 13 months in hospital.

Upon release from hospital he was sent to France to join ‘B Company’ of the 1/4th (Territorial) Battalion, this would be in late 1916/early 1917.

Clarence was shot and killed by a sniper early in the attack of 31st July 1917, the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres at Passchendaele.

At 03:30hrs on 31st July 1917 the British opened up a heavy artillery barrage on the enemy. Later, the 1/4th Bn, part of 164th Brigade were tasked to seize and secure Gheluvelt-Langemarck line.

Mid-way into their advance towards the objective, casualties began to get particularly heavy, owing to enemy sniper, machine-gun fire and shelling from two sides. A number of Officers had also been killed. The Battalion continued to push forward and succeeded in securing their objective by 11:40 hrs. The line was held up until around 14:30 hrs, until the enemy successfully counter-attacked and forced the Brigade to fall back.

Casualties had been high, just over fifty men from 1/4th Bn killed; and another 250 men were wounded or missing during the attack.

Clarence’s body was not recovered from the battlefield and as such he is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial. Sometime between 1911 and 1917 the family had moved to 105, Hall Lane, Moses Gate, Farnworth. His next of kin would later have received his 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Allied Victory Medal & a memorial plaque and scroll in recognition of his sacrifice.

Rank: Private
Service No: 11186
Date of Death: 31/07/1917
Age: 23
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.

Unfortunately his service records appear to have not survived.

Notes: It is recorded that his two brothers and father also served during the war. There was a 4824 Private Herbert Charnley in the 5th Battalion Loyal North Lancs from 20th May 1915 to 13th August 1916 being discharged as sick – this was probably his younger brother or father. There is also a mention of a H Charnley in the 4th Battalion Loyal North Lancs, number 200207 in ‘Daily Orders’ 11th April 1917 – this is probably the other Herbert. There were two William Charnleys in the Loyal North Lancs, numbers  27653 (7th Battalion) and 265831 (1/12th Battalion). Frustratingly none of these records appear to have survived although 27653 was killed in action and SDGW records his place of birth as Hurst Green (Clarence’s brother was born in Colne) which leads me to suppose his brother was either 265831 or served in a different regiment.

Paul McCormick
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