PoppyHRFHS Area Servicemen Who lost Their Lives in WWI, June 1917

Click on the link: WWI Killed in Action June 1917

Charles William WHITEMAN – Killed 7th June 1917

Charles represents those from the Hastings & Rother area who lost their lives in the Great War during June 1917.

Many of the casualties in the Great War came from quite large families and, indeed, many families suffered the loss of more than one family member. There are no degrees of grief in all of these stories but each bears its own particular sadness. For the family of Charles William Whiteman it is that he was an only child of William and Cecilia.

William Whiteman was born in Udimore but was brought up in Hastings where his family had a bookselling and stationery business. There were eight children in all, the sons all being engaged as assistants as soon as they were old enough. William married Cecilia Maria Thomas in Hastings at the start of 1895 and their one and only child, Charles William, was born in December of that year.

Within a few years, William left Hastings with Cecilia and young Charles to take up a job as manager of a bookstall in Gillingham, Kent. In 1911, aged 15, Charles entered an apprenticeship to become a printer with Messrs Mackay & Co. Ltd, a local printing works. He had good prospects and the family was no doubt quite comfortable.

However, it is quite likely that Charles was not totally committed to the printing trade as he enlisted in the Army before there was any real call to do so and certainly when he was still very young. He joined in Rochester, 3rd April 1913, aged 17 years 5 months. He still had three years to go on his apprenticeship. Private Charles William Whiteman, G/18543, was signed on to the Royal West Kent Mounted Rifles. He was originally in the territorials, due to his age and based at ‘home’ until he was attached to the British Expeditionary Force, 11th Battalion, R W K Regt from 21 Sep 1916. The following day he landed with his comrades at 38 Infantry Base, Etaples, France.

Three weeks later he was in the field, arriving there on Hastings Day, 14 Oct 1916. Eight months of horrific conditions and constant dangers ended for Charles when he was killed on 7th June 1917. He was 22-years-old. Charles’ name was added to the many thousands on the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate). His parents’ hopes for the future of their only son had been shattered and the effects would have been felt deeply through the wider family.

It is fair to say that the Government of the Day made every effort to ensure that the fallen would not be forgotten, just as successive governments have continued that cause. Great care was taken to return the personal effects of casualties to their families and to provide the appropriate medals. This was not without difficulty and in Charles’ case it was apparently quite protracted. An original memo on 27 Feb 1918 from the War Office to Infantry Office, Hounslow requested all personal effects of Charles to be sent to Mr William Whiteman, 122 High Street, Merton, Surrey. They had not been received 18 months later when, in October 1919, Cecilia Whiteman requested them. It was not until about 1922 that Charles’ personal belongings were sent to his parents in Gillingham. The list makes poignant reading: photos; letters; pocket book; handkerchief; razor; cigarette case; knife; fork; spoon.

 The full list for the duration of WWI can be found in the Members’ Area. If you are a member simply log in and scroll the Resources section. If you are not a member why not consider joining? Go to: http://www.hrfhs.org.uk/details-rates/

You may well wish to search for photographs of those lost and there is an ideal website which provides just that – all those lost from the area are included. Pictures of the fallen were published in the Hastings Advertiser at the time and these have been painstakingly collated by Kieron Pelling. You can visit the website:http://www.ww1rollofhonour.co.uk

NB Kieron Pelling is not a member of the HRFHS and the Society has no interest in his website other than to recommend it.

Return here to find those in following months as the commemoration anniversary arrives