Lieutenant Charles Bertram Underhill

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Killed in Action on Tuesday, 28th March 1916, age 22.
Buried in Grave VI. A. 1. at Elzenwalle Brasserie Cemetery, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.

12th Bn., West Yorkshire Regt. (Prince of Wales's Own). 9th Brigade of 3rd Division.
Formerly 16481 7th Canadian Infantry.

Son of F. T. Underhill, M.D., and Beatrice A. Underhill, of 3789, Yale St., Vancouver, British Columbia.
Born: Tipton Green, Enlisted: Valcartier, Canada, Resident: Vancouver, Canada.

First landed France & Flanders, September 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 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/456099/

Genealogical Data

1891 Census
37 Owen Street, Tipton, Staffs.
Frederick T. Underhill (32, General Practitioner, born Tipton), his wife Beatrice A. (27, born Norwich), and their 4 children: Muriel B. (4, born Tipton), Reginald (3, born Tipton), Ella M. (1, born Tipton), and Frederic C. (6 months, born Tipton).
Also a GP's Assistant, Medical Student, Governess, Cook, Housemaid, Domestic Nurse and a Groom.

1901 Census
Burrard, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Frederick T. Underhill (42, Doctor Surgeon, born England), his wife Beatrice A. (37, born England), and their 7 children: Reginald (13, born England), Clare - actually Frederic C. (10, born England), Jim (8, born England), Bertie (7, born England), Bill (5, born British Columbia), Sybil (4, born British Columbia), and Enid (2, born British Columbia).

1911 Census
Valor Park, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Dr. Frederick T. Underhill (53, Doctor, born England), his wife Beatrice Alice (48, born England), and their 11 children: Reginald (22, Bookkeeper, born England), Ella Margueritta (21, born England), Frederic Clare (20, Civil Engineer, born England), James Theodor (19, Surveyor, born England), Charles Bertram (17, Schoolboy, born England), William Leslie (15, Schoolboy, born British Columbia), Sybil Mary (14, Student, born British Columbia), Enid Anna Cathleen (12, Student, born British Columbia), Helen Elizabeth (10, Student, born British Columbia), John Edward (8, Student, born British Columbia), and Richard Walter (3, born British Columbia).

Personal Data

Charles Underhill was born on 20 August 1893 in Tipton, the fourth son of Dr. Frederick and Mrs Beatrice Underhill. Dr. Underhill was the General Practitioner and Factory Surgeon living and working at 37 Owen Street. Charles was resident in Tipton for little more than a year, as in 1894 the Underhill family emigrated to Canada. They initially settled in Fraser River in British Columbia, and then in Vancouver where he became the Medical Health Officer. His fascinating life is covered in the book 'Dr. Fred and the Spanish Lady' - this refers to the Spanish Influenza pandemic.

Five Underhill brothers volunteered for service during the Great War. The eldest brother, Reginald, was also killed. Frederick Clare and James Theodor served with the Canadian Artillery and were both wounded but recovered and served until the end of the war. The fifth brother would have been William Leslie, there is no trace that he served overseas. Charles attested at Valcartier, Quebec, on 18th September 1914, becoming Private 16481 of the 7th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. Charles's eldest brother, Reginald, attested on the same day and place, and in the same unit.

Charles was 21 years old, 5 feet 5½ inches tall with a 39-inch chest. He had a fair complexion, blue eyes, light brown hair, and moles in centre of his neck and above his left nipple. His occupation was given as 'student', and had served 3 years in Cadets of the Duke of Connaught's Own Rifles, one of the Canadian militia units. His next-of-kin was his father Dr. F.T. Underhill, City Hall, Vancouver, BC.

The 7th Battalion sailed from Quebec on 4th October 1914 aboard the S.S. Ruthenia and arrived in England on 14th October. Training took place at Lark Hill, Salisbury Plain. Charles was struck off the strength of the 7th Battalion on 1st January 1915 when he was commissioned into the New Army, in effect joining the British Army to train as an officer.

Action resulting in his death

Extract from 'The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War', referring to "The Action at the St. Eloi Craters, 27th March - 16th April".
"On 25th March the 12th West Yorkshire Battalion relieved the 8th East Yorks in "P" trenches (St. Eloi Sector). Orders had been issued and preparations made for an attack to take place on 27th March, with the object of "straightening out the line at St. Eloi and cutting away the small German salient, which encroached on the semi-circle of the British line in the Ypres Salient to a depth of about 100 yards, on a front of some 600 yards." The 12th West Yorks were in support of the 1st Northumberland Fusiliers, and their part of this attack was to set to work, immediately the six mines had been exploded, on the craters thus formed, reclaiming trenches and consolidating the line. The work of consolidation was carried out under terrible conditions; the enemy's shell fire was very heavy, his snipers were busy and his machine guns extremely active. The communications trenches were full of mud and water, the men being frequently immersed up to their waists. Heavy casualties on the 27th and 28th were sustained by the Battalion; two officers were killed (Second-Lieuts C.B. Underhill and H.S. Wooler, died of wounds 28th March) and six were wounded. In other ranks, the battalion lost eight killed, seventy wounded, and seventeen missing."

Charles Underhill is buried in Elzenwalle Brasserie Cemetery, about 3 miles south west of Ypres towards Kemmel.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald 8th April 1916
SECOND LIEUT. UNDERHILL KILLED IN ACTION. Underhill killed in action. Educated at Vancouver and McGill University
Second Lieut. Charles Bertram Underhill, West Yorkshire Regiment, whose death in action on March 28th was officially reported on Tuesday, was the fourth son of Dr. F.T. Underhill, formerly of Tipton, Staffordshire, and now Medical Officer of Health of Vancouver, British Columbia. Lieutenant Underhill, who was 32 years of age, was born at Tipton, and was educated at Vancouver, and McGill University. At the outbreak of war he was assistant city analyst, but joined the 1st British Columbia Regiment, 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion, and came over with the first contingent. In December 1914 he was gazetted to the West Yorkshire Regiment, and went with his Regiment to the front last September.

De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour
UNDERHILL, CHARLES BERTRAM, Lieut. 12th (Service) Battn. The Prince of Wales's Own (The West Yorkshire Regt.), 4th son of Frederick T. Underhill, F.R.C.S.E. Medical Health Officer, D.P.H., Vancouver, late of Tipton, co. Stafford, by his wife M. Beatrice A.,. 2nd daughter of C.E. Muriel, of Norwich, co. Norfolk, M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P.; and brother to Lieut. R Underhill (Q,V,); born Tipton 20 Aug. 1893; educated Vancouver High School and McGill University; was subsequently assistant City Analyst; volunteered for Imperial Service, and joined the 7th Canadian Infantry Battn., 1st British Columbia Regiment in Aug. 1914, after the outbreak of war; came over with the first contingent in Oct.; was gazetted 2nd Lieut. The West Yorkshire Regt. 18 Dec 1914, and promoted to Lieut. in Sept. 1915; served with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders, where he acted as Machine Gun Officer, and was killed in action at St. Eloi 27 March 1916. Buried at Elzenwalle Brasserie. He was a thorough sportsman, being a keen football player. Unmarried.