Charles Ernest WALKER
Rank: Private
Number: 12700
Unit: 2/5 Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 21 March 1918
Age: 19
Cemetery: Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France

In the late summer of 1896, Charles Walker married Mary Bertha Brown at St John's Church, Longsight, Manchester. By the time of the Great War, they had moved a little further south to live at 17 Green Lane, Heaton Moor. It is not known how many children they had, but their eldest son was almost certainly named after his father.

Charles' service number is very low, suggesting an enlistment soon after War was declared. Joining up at 15 or 16 was, in spite of one of the popular myths of the War, not that common. However, it looks as though that's exactly what Charles did. Of course, his age may have been realised and, if so, he may not have gone overseas at this early age. But it is possible. More likely, is that he spent quite a lot of time in the UK and only went overseas in March 1917 when the 2/5th Battalion first went on active service.

In the spring of 1918, a large scale German attack had been anticipated for some time and British defence plans had been well laid. On 20th March, the Battalion was in the front line. There was nothing more that could be done except wait. The Battalion's War Diary notes "Quiet. It is considered likely that the enemy will begin his offensive tomorrow."

At 4.45 the next morning, the diary writer's predications were fulfilled, with a heavy artillery bombardment being opened on the British lines with high explosive and gas shells. Within 15 minutes, the Battalion's telephone communication with other units had been cut.

At 8.30, the Companies in the front line reported no movement by the German infantry. They had listening posts set up in No Man's Land, just 50 yards from the German wire. They could hear considerable noise.

The next recorded entry is at 10.15 when a cook arrived at Battalion Headquarters to report that the Germans had worked round the Battalion's flanks and had taken the cooks, in the rear trenches, prisoner. This meant that the forward companies must have been overrun and been cut off. Headquarters officers now made desperate attempts to destroy secret papers, codes, etc. The officers, with about 30 men, now managed to fight their way out of being encircled and made it back to the second line positions being held by the 6th Battalion. Soon, the men of the 5th and 6th Battalions came under attack and had no option but to retreat. This was first to Bernes and then to Cartigney. Charles was one of 57 members of the Battalion who had been killed in the German onslaught. Many, many more had been wounded and/or taken prisoner.

   
           
   
     
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