Serjeant 6/2108 Charles Henri Coles

Coles Charles 96 345x600 Coles Charles 96 434x600

Killed in Action on Thursday, 20th December 1917, age 29.
Buried in Grave XI. L. 1. at Hooge Crater Cemetery, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.

New Zealand Machine Gun Corps, No.2 Company.

Son of Herbert and Nettie Coles, of 18, Hopkins St., Burnt Tree, Tipton, England.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Christchurch, New Zealand, Resident: Christchurch, New Zealand.

First landed Balkans, 28th July 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on Commonwealth War Graves site.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/457739/

Genealogical Data

Birth of Charles Henry Coles registered March quarter 1889 in Dudley (born 4th January 1889).

1891 Census
9 Hopkins Street, Tipton, Staffs.
Herbert Coles (34, Blacksmith, born Oldbury), his wife Nettie B. (nee Wilks, 26, born Oldbury) and their 3 children: Elizabeth (4, born Tipton), Charles Henry (2, born Tipton), and Lavinia G. (1 month, born Tipton,)

1901 Census
11 Hopkins Street, Tipton, Staffs.
Herbert Coles (43, Tool Smith, born Oldbury), his wife Nettie (36, born Oldbury), and their 8 children: Lizzie (13, born Tipton), Charles (12, born Tipton), Gladys (10, born Tipton,) James (8, born Tipton), Louise (6, born Tipton), William (4, born Tipton), Lottie (2, born Tipton), and Florence (2 months, born Tipton).

1911 Census
105 Walford Street, Tividale, Tipton, Staffs.
Herbert Coles (54, Widower, Tool Smith, born Oldbury) and 9 of his 10 children, Charles having emigrated to New Zealand. Lizzie (23, School Teacher, born Tipton), Gladys (20, Dressmaker, born Tipton), James (18, Fitter, born Tipton), Louise (16, Domestic at home, born Tipton), William (14, House Painting Assistant, born Tipton), Lottie (12, School, born Tipton), Florence (10, School, born Tipton), Samuel (9, School, born Tipton), and Violet (6, School, born Tipton).

Personal Data

After the death of his mother in 1909, Charles Coles emigrated to New Zealand, a place he described as 'God's own land'. In 1915 he gave his address as Christchurch where he was living at the house of his cousin Valerie Betts.

Charles enlisted on 26th February 1915 at Trentham, New Zealand and was posted to 'C' Company of the 4th Reinforcement Brigade. He was a tall but slight man, 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighed 124 pounds, but had only a 30-inch chest expanding to 34 inches. He had a fresh complexion, blue-grey eyes, dark brown hair and was Church of England, and was employed as a Dyer. The Medical Officer noted: "His physique is slight and his chest measurement on expansion hardly reaches standard, but in view of general health and likelihood of improvement, I recommend acceptance."

He embarked from Wellington on HM NZ Transport 21 "Willochra" on 17th April 1915, their destination was Suez, Egypt. On 28th July 1915 he landed in Gallipoli and was posted to 1st Company of the Canterbury Infantry Battalion. He came through the Gallipoli campaign, including Suvla Bay, unscathed. After the evacuation from Gallipoli he was in Egypt for a short time when he transferred to the NZ Machine Gun Corps, before landing in France in April 1916.

Charles would have seen action at the Battle of the Somme (Flers, Morval and Le Transloy) before moving to Belgium where he was wounded at the Battle of Messines on 14th June 1917, re-joining his unit 2 weeks later. During the 3rd Battle of Ypres, the New Zealanders were in action at Battles of Polygon Wood, Broodseinde and 1st Passchendaele. Charles was promoted to Corporal on 20th December 1916, and then to Sergeant on 12th October 1917.

Action resulting in his death

Charles had 2 weeks leave to the UK from 1st December, and had only been back with his unit for a few days when he was killed on 20th December 1917. The 3rd Battle of Ypres had drawn to a close in November 1917, but artillery fire did not cease. Charles and his machine Gun section were positioned near the Menin Road, Hooge when hit by a German artillery shell.

A comrade wrote to Charles' father about the circumstances of his death: "they had just got established in a new position when the enemy opened out with heavy fire, and a shell landed right beside their dugout blowing it all in, and Sergeant Coles was killed instantly. He was afterwards buried about 100 yards away and a cross placed at the head of the grave, this being done with considerable difficulty as heavy shellfire continued the whole of the day."

Charles is buried in Hooge Crater Cemetery, about 2 miles east of Ypres.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald 15th December 1917
Brothers in Arms
Sergeant Charles Coles, (of Tividale), of the New Zealand Forces, returned to France this week. His wide circle of friends wish him well. His brother, Jim, is also serving with the New Zealand contingent, and Private William Coles, R.A.M.C., is also in France.

Tipton Herald 5th January 1918
The news of the death in action of Sergeant Charles Coles, of the New Zealand Forces, and eldest son of Mr. Coles and the late Mrs. Coles, Hopkins Street, Burnt Tree, came as a great shock to his relatives and friends. As recorded in our issue of three weeks ago, the unfortunate soldier only returned to France after 10 days leave on December 15th, and he is reported to have been killed in action on the 20th - only 5 days later.

Tipton Herald 12th January 1918
As briefly announced in our last issue, Sergeant Coles is yet another Tividale boy to give his life for King and Country. He was an old scholar of the Burnt Tree School and a member of St. Michael's Church. After the death of his mother nine years ago, he emigrated to New Zealand where he was very successful and spoke of the country as "God's own land". At the outbreak of war, like many Englishmen in foreign lands, he must do his bit for the old motherland, and joined the New Zealand forces early in the war. He was among the first contingent that landed in Gallipoli. He took part in the struggle in Suvla Bay and came through unscathed. When the troops were withdrawn he was sent to Egypt for a short time, and later on transferred to France, where after nine months of active service he came home for a short leave. He returned about Christmas 1916, and was in the firing line until December 1st 1917, when he was again granted fourteen days leave. He set sail on the 14th and had only been there five days when he met his death on the 20th December.
A comrade writing to his father says there were only four in his gun team, and they had just got established in a new position when the enemy opened out with heavy fire, and a shell landed right beside their dugout blowing it all in, and Sergeant Coles was killed instantly. He was afterwards buried about 100 yards away and a cross placed at the head of the grave, this being done with considerable difficulty as heavy shellfire continued the whole of the day. He is the eldest son of Mr Herbert Coles, Hopkins Street, Burnt Tree, who has two other sons with the colours, namely Private Jim Coles, still in training in New Zealand, and Private William Coles, R.A.M.C, lately transferred from France to Italy. The latter met his unfortunate brother in the field somewhere in France only a few days before he came on his last leave. Sergeant Coles would have been 29 had he lived until the 4th of this month.
The following letter is from his officer, who was his friend when they were together in the ranks as Privates:- "Dear Mr. Coles, In writing to express my sympathy with you in the loss of your son, Charlie, I would like to say how much his death is felt by his company. During the past three years I have been with him as a Private, and as his brother N.C.O., and a truer friend or a better soldier I never expect to meet. Had he been spared he would now have been Company Sergeant Major. As a soldier and a comrade his death is mourned alike by officer and man. Please accept my deepest sympathy with you and your family in your loss."

Tipton Herald 21st December 1918
In Memoriam.
COLES.- In loving memory of Sergt. Charles H. Coles, New Zealand Machine Gun Corps (Hopkins Street, Burnt Tree), who was killed in action in France December 20th 1917. Ever remembered by father, sisters and brothers.