7th (Service) Battalion, Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment).

Born Tuesday 28 August 1888    Died Friday 29 September 1916. Aged 28.

Son of Robert Day and Elizabeth Day (née Butler) of Gains Cottage, West Brabourne, Ashford, Kent.

Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France. Pier and Face 11 C as shown above left, and in the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) Book of Remembrance in St. Faith’s Church, Maidstone, Kent.

Charles was born in the hamlet of Grafty Green, Maidstone, Kent where his father was employed as a General Labourer. His birth is recorded in the Hollingbourne, Kent Registration District during the fourth quarter of 1888.

By the time of 1891 census the Day family had moved from Grafty Green, and were living at Milwards, Loughton, Hailsham, Sussex where Charles’ father, 31 year old Robert Day had changed his source of employment and was recorded as being a Gamekeeper. Another move had been made by the time of the 1901 census, with the family was residing at Dean Land, Ripe, Hailsham, Sussex, where Charles’ father was again recorded as being employed as a Gamekeeper.

The compiler of these brief tributes has thus far been unable to learn when exactly it was that the Day family had moved to Cold Blow, Bonnington, which is where the family resided at the time of the 1911 census and at the time of Charles death. Both Charles and his father were recorded as being employed as Under Gamekeepers. Although not shown on the 1911 census entry, other records document Robert and Charles Day as having both having been employed as Under Gamekeepers at Bilsington Priory.

Unfortunately military records and data specific to Charles are scant. In Part 53 of ‘Soldiers Died in the Great War,’ Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment), both in book and C.D. versions, Charles is shown as having been born at Lenham, Kent which as can been seen above is incorrect. S.D.G.W. also records Charles as having died on 29 September 1915, which again is erroneous, it also records Charles as having enlisted in the army at Guildford, Surrey which might or might not be accurate. Due to the fact that the compiler has been unable to find any trace of Charles’ location post the 1911 census, it is of course possible that at the time of his enlistment he was living and working as a Gamekeeper in the Guildford area of Surrey.

We do know that Charles was posted to the Western Front for service with the British Expeditionary Force on Monday 26 July 1915, as a Private in the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment).

At the end of September 1914 the German Army took the area around the village of Thiepval and established a line through the area with troops from its 26th Reserve Division. Soldiers from this division were still in occupation when Commonwealth forces launched their assault on Saturday 1 July 1916, it being the first day of the costly Battle of the Somme. During the attack on Saturday 1 July 1916, the 36th (Ulster) Division were detailed to attack the German positions north of Thiepval, known as the Hansa Line and the Schwaben Redoubt. Launched from Thiepval Wood, initially their assault was successful and some leading elements even reached as far as the German’s second line of defence (Stuff Redoubt). However, by the end of the day, as a result of the units on either side of it failing to take their objectives (in particular the 32nd Division’s failure to take Thiepval), the 36th (Ulster) Division had been forced back to the original German front line. It would take until the 26 September 1916, before the village of Thiepval finally fell to the 18th (Eastern) Division to which as part of the 55th Brigade the 7th (Service) Battalion, Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) belonged.

The following is a brief extract about his battalion from the Great War regimental history of Charles regiment, during its attack on the Schwaben Redoubt. “All through that day extremely hard fighting continued; the German bombing attacks pressed especially heavily against the right, where C Company, after repulsing one attack, was driven back but quickly recovered the ground by a vigorous counter-attack. In the evening an effort was made to master two strong points known respectively as Points 19 and 39; but though the attack was at first successful bombs and grenades ran short and the Germans, who were in great force, at length forced the assailants back. In the intervals between the attacks the position was steadily shelled by the Germans and this and the activity of their snipers made consolidation extremely difficult. However, the work was pushed steadily on, and during the day the various detached parties rejoined so that it proved possible during the night to take over an additional section of the captured trenches on the left, as far as a point known as the Pope’s Nose. C Company, moreover, managed in the course of the day to get touch with The Queen’s on the right, and thanks to the training the men had received in intensive digging, one of the points on which the Divisional Commander, General Maxse, was most insistent, a fairly good line was established. But the ground was a mass of churned-up earth and half destroyed trenches, and one of the greatest difficulties was to make certain where the line actually did run.”

Charles was numbered among the 2 officers and 19 other ranks in his battalion who died on Friday 29 September 1916, 14 on whom have no know grave and are all commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing of the Somme. Every time that the compiler has visited Mill Road Cemetery, Thiepval which has 815 unidentified casualties, and virtually opposite at Connaught Cemetery where approximately half of the 1,268 graves are those of unidentified casualties, he has been left wondering if any are the final resting place of Charles.

Thiepval remained under Allied occupation until Monday 25 March 1918, when it was lost during the great German Spring Offensive which had commenced on Thursday 21 March, but it was retaken on Saturday 24 August by the 17th and 38th (Welsh) Divisions.

Connaught Cemetery at Thiepval referred to above was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield, whose parents are at rest in the churchyard of the parish church of St. Martin, Aldington, where his father had for a number of years been the Vicar from 1868.