Service number: 6639 | Rank: Private | Regiment: York and Lancaster Regiment.
Killed in action, April 23, 1915, in Flanders.  Aged 30.
Buried at NEW IRISH FARM CEMETERY, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.
Husband of Mrs Kent, Stanley Row, Town Street, Brandon.
Born and enlisted in Brandon.
(CWGC: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/452595/kent,-charles/)

WHAT I KNOW ABOUT CHARLES …

On 17th October 1901, nineteen-year-old Charles walked into an Army Recruitment Office in Brandon and enlisted for a career in the Army. At this time he was merely a boy weighing 8½ stone and a little over 5’ 5” tall. There was some discussion about whether he was the age he had claimed to be, but anyway he was accepted into the Army. He was sent off to train at Pontefract, West Yorkshire, for a couple of years before going overseas to India with the York and Lancaster Regiment and saw out the rest of his service with them. December 1909 saw Charles reach the end of his eight year term in the Army and he left India for a return to the cooler climate of Pontefract. A few days later, in early January 1910, he arrived back home to Brandon. Charles appeared to have been eager to retain his status in the Army and immediately applied, and was accepted, to serve as a Reservist in the York and Lancaster Regiment. During this time he was employed in civilian life as a labourer in Brandon, but still travelled up to Pontefract for his Army manoeuvres. Every year he re-applied to stay as a Reservist for another one-year term, and every year he was accepted. His service record recorded him as having an exemplary character.

In September 1912 Charles and his girlfriend, Emma Dixon, became proud parents to a boy who would be Charles’ only child, and the boy is given the same name as Charles’s father – Robert Charles Kent. Charles and Emma then did the decent thing and tied the knot at St Peter’s Church in Brandon on 4th July 1914 … a month before war erupted in Europe. In August 1914 Charles was mobilised and told to report back to his unit in Pontefract. He stayed in the UK for a few months and during that time he was given a two-day pass but he failed to report back on time and was confined to barracks for seven days and forfeited three days pay. This appears to have been his only recorded misdemeanour in all his fourteen years in the Army and all things considered it was not too bad an achievement. On 24th February 1915 Charles, who was now aged 30 years old, joined the British Expeditionary Force in north France. Two months later Emma received a telegram from the War Office notifying her that he has been killed in action.

The war diary of the 1st Battalion, York and Lancs Regiment gives an insight of how Charles may have met his end. At 1.15am on the 23rd April, Charles’ battalion was ordered to move to St. Jean where the Germans were attacking the French trenches. Charles’ battalion was ordered to reinforce the line. At 5.30am the battalion arrived at their destination under severe artillery shelling and the trenches they found themselves in were not deep enough to protect them from the shrapnel. There was no alternative but to dig them deeper and so under artillery fire they dug, all the time taking casualties from red hot shrapnel. The shelling continued all morning and then at 4pm the battalion received an order to attack the Germans. Ten minutes later they moved out of the safety of their trenches. The Germans were ready and they opened up with accurate shelling and rifle fire which caused very heavy casualties to Charles’ battalion. Another attack by his battalion ended in failure when the men were met with enemy machine gun fire. Still again the men were ordered to push forward over open ground but by now the men were few in number and extremely exhausted, no doubt morale was also very low especially as the Colonel commanding the battalion had been killed. It was decided to sit tight until night and then withdraw under cover of darkness, which they did at 8pm. The battalion remained in their trenches for another two days, constantly coming under heavy artillery fire, until they were able to withdraw. Although Charles lost his life amid this nightmare, there was some consolation for his wife because by marrying her the year before he ensured he left her with an Army widow’s pension of 15/ – a week.

“THY GRAVE,
IS FAR AWAY TO SEE,
BUT NOT TOO FAR
TO THINK OF THEE”