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Charles Gillett was born in 1893 in Farington near Lostock Hall to William and Emma Gillett (nee Cole). William Gillett was originally from Kirkham and his wife Emma was from London and they were married somewhere in the Fylde area in 1885.

Charles was one of seven children born to William and Emma but sadly their first two children died in infancy.

  • Mary Elizabeth (1886-1886)
  • Arthur (1887-1887)
  • Arthur William (1888)
  • Ethel (1890)
  • Charles* (1893)
  • Henry (1896)
  • Elizabeth (1901)

The couples` first child Mary Elizabeth was born in Kirkham and after she died the family moved to Farington near Lostock Hall. In 1901 Charles`s father was working as a domestic gardener and the family were living at 2 Higher Ash Cottages in Farington.

At some point after the 1901 Census Charles`s father died and by 1911 his mother had moved to 13 School Lane in Leyland with Charles and his siblings Ethel, Henry and Elizabeth. Charles had found a job in the rubber works in Leyland and his two sisters were both employed in the cotton industry.

On the 3 August 1914 Charles made the short journey to Preston to enlist. His address at the time was 2 Bridge Cottages in Farington and his occupation was still a rubber worker. He was allocated the number 330 and posted to the 4th Battalion. Charles noted his mother as his next of kin and she was living at the same address. He appears to have been quite a well-built young man standing at 5`10” tall and with a 37” chest.

After a few months of training an advance party of the 1/4th Battalion left Bedford by train on the 2nd May 1915 and after arriving at Southampton they boarded the SS “Rossetti” with the Battalion transport. Charles left Bedford the following evening with the remainder of the Battalion and boarded the SS “Onward” at Folkestone and sailed for Boulogne in the early morning of the 4th May.

A week after the 1/4th Battalion arrived in France they became part of the 154th Brigade in the 51st (Highland) Division but in January 1916 they were transferred to the 164th Brigade in the 55th (West Lancashire) Division.

At the beginning of February 1916 the Battalion left Airaines when the 55th Division had been detailed to relieve the 88th French Division who were occupying the sector south of Arras from Wailly to Bretencourt. February and March were fairly uneventful but there had been heavy snowfalls followed by a thaw and so the trenches had become very wet and uncomfortable for the men.

Raids were now taking place on a regular basis and in the middle of June 1916 a special battalion raiding party was organised. The party was composed of Captain E.M. Gregson with 2nd Lieutenants Martin, Roscoe and Walker and sixty other ranks.

A daylight raid was organised to take place on the 28th June. The preparations were detailed, gas and smoke were to be discharged on a two mile front, to be followed by raids in no fewer than six different places by parties from the 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers, 1/4th Loyal North Lancashire, and the 1/5th, 1/6th, 1/7th and 1/9th Liverpool Regiment. Unfortunately at the crucial moment a change of wind took place and the discharge of gas was only partially successful.

Extract from the Battalion War Diary – 28th June 1916

Raiding party of 3 Officers and 56 other ranks (B) Party

In accordance with pre-arranged scheme this party left our trenches at the point where GAMBLER STREET enters the fire trench. They left promptly at 5.35pm and advanced in two rushes to within 15 yards of the enemy fire trench. Here they came under heavy fire from machine guns, rifles and rifle grenades and were held up. At 5.50pm communication was established by telephone with our fire trench and it was reported that they could get no further and were suffering heavy casualties. Major J.A. Crump who was conducting the operation of this party gave orders for them to retire. This they did in very good order suffering few casualties on the return journey.

Sadly, it was during this raid that Charles Gillett was killed when leading a bombing party. The following article was printed later in the Preston Guardian.

gillett-charlesEmma Gillett later received just a few of her son`s personal items including, 1 ID Disc, 2 pocket notebooks, 1 prayer book and a packet of photos.

Charles was awarded the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals which his mother Emma signed for.

His body was never recovered from the battlefield and so his name is remembered on the Arras Memorial to the Missing.

Charles is also remembered in his local church of St. Paul`s in Farington where he lived. His name has been inscribed on the Memorial Window along with many other Farington men who died.

Photographs and additional information on St. Paul`s Memorial Window can be found here.

Rank: Private
Service No: 330
Date of Death: 28/06/1916
Age: 22
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.

Janet Davis
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