Charles R THORPE
Rank: Private
Number: 303184
Unit: 23rd Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 22 October 1917
Age: 24 (presumed)
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium

Regimental records published after the War indicate that Charles had been born in Stockport and enlisted into the army in Salford. Although he cannot be identified with certainty on the 1901 Census, he may well be the 8 year old Charles Thorpe then living at 88 St James Street, Salford who had been born in Stockport. If this is the future soldier, then his parents were John and Mary. He had two older siblings, George and Annie, who had been born in Cadishead. The family must have then spent time in Stockport during the mid 1890s when Charles was born, before moving to Salford where Grave and Elizabeth had both been born fairly recently.

His service number suggests that when he joined up, he was assigned to the 8th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment and this was around the beginning of 1917. At some point, whilst overseas, he was transferred to the 23rd. This may have been after recovering from a wound which had kept him away from duty for some while. When he was fit enough to return, the 23rd may have been in greater need of replacements.

The Third Battle of Ypres (often known as Passchendaele) had started on 31 July and was still grinding on nearly three months later. The British troops had slowly advanced up the Passchendaele Ridge in a series of "bite and hold" attacks. Another small scale advance was scheduled for 22 October. It would involve 4 British Divisions - approximately 70,000 men.

On the 35th Division front, the attack would be led by 23rd Manchesters on the right and 17th Lancashire Fusiliers on the left. Throughout the whole campaign, there had been heavy rain and deep mud but the ground had dried out a little and it was hoped the men would be able to make quick progress. They attacked at 5.35am. The Regimental Archives holds an unpublished history of the Battalion, which now takes up the story:-

"The first objective was reached with slight casualties. From this point, however, resistance was more stubborn and very heavy rifle and machine gun fire was experienced on both flanks. In fact so devastating was the fire that all the officers were either killed or wounded and it was almost the same with the NCOs and men."

In fact, the machine gun fire was coming from some huts which had been overlooked in planning the attack. One small group of Manchesters attempted to attack pillbox near "Six Roads" but without success.

"..the Battalion was unable to make further progress. Such survivors as could be collected - that is about 50 other ranks, under a Company Sergeant Major, withdrew to their original line.

The attack had been failure. When the roll was called, 28 men were known to be dead, 120 wounded and 56 were still missing. The final death toll was 65, including Charles and two other local men, Harry Turner and William Pollard.

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