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Charles Whitehead was born at 143 Brook Street in Preston and was baptised at Emmanuel Church in the town on the 13th October 1897 by his parents Thomas and Alice (nee Wilkinson).  His parents had married in the same church on the 15th April 1897 and Charles was the eldest of five children, the others being; Thomas (1901), John (1904), Alice (1906) and Harold (1913).  Not long after Charles was born his parents moved to 18 Leyland Street in Preston, his father was a railway stoker. Charles` maternal Aunt, 20 year old Grace Wilkinson, a cotton weaver, was also living with the family at the time.

By 1911 Charles and his family had moved house again, this time to 50 Whittingham Street, Ashton on Ribble which is where they would remain for a number of years. The 1911 Census record shows that Charles, not yet 14 years old, was already working in a cotton mill as a `reacher`, his father was still a stoker on the railways. By the time war had been declared, Charles had left his job at the mill and had gone to work on the railways as a train booker in No. 4 signal box at Preston.

Unfortunately Charles` service papers are no longer available but we know from his Medal Index Card that he embarked for France with reinforcements on the 25th October 1915. On arrival he was posted to the 1/4th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and subsequently became a member of “A” Company. In January 1916 the 1/4th Battalion was transferred from the 154th Brigade in 51st (Highland) Division into the 164th Brigade of the 55th (West Lancashire) Division.

During the months of April and July 1916 movement had become quite static and the Battalion spent most of their time alternating between billets and trenches in Monchiet, Dainville and Barly, there was however, a steady flow of casualties, both killed and wounded during this period. Charles was severely wounded at some point and sadly he never recovered, his date of death recorded as 9th July 1916. His family was informed and then the Preston Guardian published the news of his death;

Charles was later laid to rest at St. Hilaire Cemetery, Frevent. After the war his parents would take receipt of his 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals to which he was entitled and would also  receive his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice.

Charles is remembered on the Roll of Honour in the Harris Museum and Library in his hometown of Preston and he is also remembered on St. Mark`s Church War Memorial Plaque (pictured below);

Roll of Honour – St. Mark`s Church, Ashton on Ribble, now housed in St. Michael and All Angels Church, Ashton on Ribble.

Janet Davis
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