Lance Corporal 6388 Charles Hicks Swann

Swann Charles 96 513x600

Died of Wounds on Monday, 15th March 1915, age 36.
Buried in Grave III. D. 13. at Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, Pas De Calais, France.

3rd Bn., Worcestershire Regiment. 7th Brigade of 3rd Division.

Son of Charles Hicks Swann, and Sarah Ann Swann, of 20, Newhall St., Prince's End, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Sedgley, Enlisted: Dudley, Resident: Upper Gornal.

First landed France & Flanders, 12th September 1914.
Medal entitlement: 1914 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

Commemorated on the Tipton Library, and St. John's memorials.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/45965/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
7 Eve Lane, Sedgley, Staffs.
Charles H Swann (47, Fire Brick Maker, born Quarry Bank), his wife Sarah (48, born Stourbridge), and their 8 children: Charles H. (21, Bricklayer's Labourer, born Sedgley), Emma (20, born Sedgley), Frances (17, Coal Miner, born Sedgley), Maurice J. (16, Fender Maker, born Sedgley), Mary A. (14, born Sedgley), William (12, born Sedgley), Leonard (9, born Sedgley), and Dorothy (6, born Sedgley).

1911 Census
5 Church View, Sandal, Nr Wakefield, Yorkshire.
Charles Hicks Swann (31, General Labourer, born Sedgley) who was boarding with Mr and Mrs Turbill.
His father and family were living at 10 Back of 52, George Street, Ettingshall, Wolverhampton.

Personal Data

On 6th June 1901, Charles Swann signed up at Dudley for seven years with the Worcestershire Regiment, followed by 5 years with the Reserves. He was 21 years and 1 month of age, 5 ft 2¾in tall with a 33in chest, weighed 128lbs, had a fresh complexion, grey eyes and black hair. Despite being a small man, he was described as having good physical development, and "should develop".

In April 1904, he signed to extend his service to 8 years 'with the colours'. Between June 1906 and October 1908, Charles was stationed in Malta with the 4th Battalion Worcesters. His military career seemed to have a few ups-and-downs. He was appointed unpaid Lance-Corporal on 21st December 1905, and then paid Lance-Corporal on 26th January 1906, then deprived of his Lance-Corporal stripe on 7th June 1906. He was granted his Good Conduct Badge on 6th June 1906, it was forfeit on 7th August 1906, but restored on 7th August 1907, and again forfeit on 2nd December 1907. He was posted to the 3rd Battalion Worcesters on 20th October 1908, and finally transferred to the Reserves on 5th June 1909.

On 11th March 1913 Charles Swann signed to extend his service with the Reserves by a further 4 years, this was in Pontefract, Yorkshire. At this time he was 5ft 4in tall with a 39in chest and 33½in waist. His parents, Charles and Sarah, were living at 33 Newhall Street, Tipton. His brother Frank was living at 5 Church View, Sandal, near Wakefield, the address given for Charles on the 1911 census.

As a Reservist, Charles was recalled to the Colours on 5th August 1914, and posted to the 6th Battalion on the next day. Presumably after some 'refresher' training, he was posted to the 3rd Battalion and moved to France on the 12th September; the Regulars of the 3rd Battalion had landed in France on 16th August 1914. Charles would have been a reinforcement, as by the end of September 1914 59 men of the 3rd Battalion had been killed. After a gap of 8 years, Charles was again appointed unpaid Lance-Corporal on 28th October 1914, and then paid Lance-Corporal on 25th February 1915.

Charles would have missed action at the Battle of Mons and subsequent retreat, at Le Cateau, and the Battles of the Marne and Aisne. His first action is likely to have been the Battle of Armentieres in October 1914, followed by action at Ploegsteert Wood (Plug Street), and spent the winter between Kemmel and Messines Ridge. There was no Christmas truce for the 3rd Battalion who were in trenches just below Spanbroek Mill, as "Casual sniping continued as usual throughout the day". Conditions were pretty awful with muddy slush so deep that the sentries had to stand in barrels almost floating in the mud.

After the war, the 'Statement of Living Relatives' completed in June 1919, showed that his mother, Sarah, had died, and his father, Charles Hicks Swann, was living at 20 Newhall Street, Tipton. His father died in 1919, and his brother Frank wrote to the authorities saying that he was now the next of kin, and wished to receive Charles' medals at his address of 4 Tibbington Road, Princes End, Tipton.

From the available records it does not seem that Charles Swann ever lived in Tipton, and also do not show that he ever lived in Upper Gornal. It would appear that he is commemorated on the Tipton Memorial because requested by his father or brother who were living in Tipton.

Action resulting in his death

On 12th March, the 3rd Worcesters were to attack and consolidate Spanbroek Mill, as a prelude to further advances. This was to have commenced at 8.40am, but the dense white fog caused its postponement. The attackers lay out in shallow trenches, the Germans were well aware of the impending attack so their own artillery was very active, and more accurate when the fog lifted; casualties were heavy. Two companies of the 3rd Worcesters attacked at 4.10pm, and despite yet more losses they broke though the wire and managed to secure a short length of trench. Naturally the Germans looked to take this back, and attacked the Worcesters on both flanks with bomb and bayonet. The Worcesters stoutly defended this small gain until dusk, reinforcement was impossible and only evacuation could save them from annihilation. Casualties were taken back, and the remaining men retraced their steps back to the British lines.

This small action, which resulted in no gains, was significant for the 3rd Worcesters with 9 Officers and 77 men losing their lives on the day; more would die from their wounds in subsequent days.

Charles Swann's 'Soldier's Papers' record that he was "Wounded in action 12th March at Lindenhoek", this being the general name for the Spanbroek area. We cannot know the details of when he received his wounds, but can be fairly sure that it was from artillery fire. He would have been moved through the Casualty Clearing system, and reached Boulogne. It is recorded that he died at 2.00am on 15th March at No. 13 Stationary Hospital (Boulogne) from the effects of shrapnel wounds and leg fracture (femur). Charles was buried at Boulogne Eastern cemetery. He had continuous service of 13 years 283 days with the Regular Army and Reserves to his death in March 1915.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald 13th March 1915
Miss Grace Round, Dame President of the Tipton Habitation of the Primrose League, is constantly receiving letters from Tipton soldiers and others expressing their thanks for the receipt of parcels of clothing sent by the League.
Lance-Corporal C. Swann, of the 3rd Worcesters, with the British Expeditionary Forces, writes: "I thank you and the ladies of the Primrose League for the parcel of body belt and mitts, which are a very useful gift, as the weather is still very wet and cold. It is very difficult to keep oneself warm in trenches that are none too dry. I don't know how the Germans go on, for those I have seen captured, although well up in flesh look very miserable indeed for the want of a few home comforts."