Lest We Forget

1914 - 1918

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.

Not listed on the memorial

West, Charles Robert

Private, 18th (Pioneer) Battalion, Middlesex Regiment.
Service Number
about 1887 at North Queensferry
Joseph and Susan West, of 27, Commercial St., Middlesbrough
Date of death
24 August 1917 (Aged 30)
III. B. 29.Coxyde Military Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Other Memorials
Scottish National War Memorial (Edinburgh Castle)

Other Information

His birth does not appear to have been properly registered. His father was a contractor’s engine driver, originally from Yorkshire. The family do not appear to have lived here very long. In 1901 they were living in Llanvaches, Monmouthshire and in 1911 Charles (aged 23) was on his own, lodging in Portsmouth and himself employed as an engine driver on a dock construction project.

He told the census enumerator that he had been born in North Queensferry.

In 1913 he was living at 21 Glebe Park, Inverkeithing when he married Sarah Turner of the same address, in St Peter’s Episcopal Church, Inverkeithing on 22 March.

He enlisted at Stafford on 15 March 1915, but gave his home address at that time as 100 Hut, Rosyth, presumably in the Dockyard and his trade as “Navvy”. Curiously he gave his wife’s address as 1 Hut, Guards Crossing, Gretna.

He was presumably assigned to the Pioneer Battalion because of his construction background.

After training on Salisbury Plain they landed in France on 15 November 1915.

His military career was somewhat chequered as he was reported absent from duty a number of times

He was promoted Lance Corporal (unpaid) in August 1916.

In 1917 he was actually court martialled for desertion, after he over-stayed his leave in the winter of 1916.

He had two weeks leave at the beginning of December but did not return until the 30th.

The charge was reduced to absence without leave and he was sentenced to 3 months field punishment.

He was reduced to Private again for inefficiency in June 1917

The battalion were attached to 33rd Division and carried out a variety of tasks, often in the front trenches, but not actually as infantry. Despite this, during the Somme battles they at times became engaged in hand to hand combat in an effort to repulse German attacks, living up to the regimental nickname of “Die Hards”

They also seem to have been involved as infantry in the attack on Mametz Wood. As much of this took place in November 1916 it may help to explain his apparent reluctance to return over Christmas.

In 1917 they took part in the battle for the Hindenburg line and then the 3rd Battle of Ypres, often called Passchendaele.

It was at this time that he was killed in action.


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Scottish National War Memorial (Edinburgh Castle)

National Archives. Service Record. Soldier’s Effects

Scottish National Archives. Marriage Certificate

Census 1901, 1911

Soldiers Died in Great War

Here dead we lie, Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land, From which we sprung.

Life, to be sure, Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is, And we were young.

[A.E. Housman]

When You Go Home,
Tell Them Of Us And Say,

For Your Tomorrow,
We gave our Today

[Kohima, attributed to John Maxwell Edmonds]

Poppy Poppy

If you have been interested by this material,
we ask that you make a donation to the Poppy Appeal