Menu

Forbes Charles

The 1901 census on Ancestry.co.uk for Scotland reveals that the Forbes family were living at 2, Charles Court, Upper Kirkgate, Aberdeen, Scotland.

The Head of the family was Isaac Forbes age 54 born in Aberdeen, a Ferryman at sea by trade.

His wife Mary age 54 born in Ellon, Aberdeen and their children, Nellie age 19, Mary age 12 and Charles age 11 born on 14th January 1891.  All the children were born in Aberdeen.

I cannot find the family on any Census returns for 1911.

Library and Archives of Canada. Soldiers of the First world war 1914-1918. Particulars of Recruit – Attestation Papers for Regimental Number Sapper 472733, Charles Forbes, 11th Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops.

Charles Forbes enlisted into the 11th Battalion of the Canadian Railway Troops on 1st December 1915 at Saskatoon, he was a Farmer by trade and had served previously with the 4th Gordons Volunteers for one year.

After completing basic training in Canada, Charles embarked for England on 20th June 1916 aboard The Empress of Britain, and on arrival on 28th June 1916, was posted to Bramshott Army Camp to complete his training.

Charles embarked for France with the 72nd Battalion (Seaforth Highlanders) on 12th August 1916 and landed in Havre on 15th where he served in the Field until he received a gunshot wound to his lower left leg and arm during the opening stages of the Battle of Arras.

The following information is from The University of Oxford Website

The Battle of Arras was a major British offensive during the First World War.  From 9th April to 16th May 1917, troops from the four corners of the British Empire attacked trenches held by the army of Imperial Germany to the east of the French city of Arras.  The ground and date chosen for the battle was dictated by a desire to cooperate with the French, whose forthcoming offensive, planned by their General Nivelle, was to fall on the German positions topping the Chemin-des-Dames ridge, an area of high ground north west of Rheims. Closer cooperation with the French was ruled out, as the devastation of the Somme battles in July to November 1916 had so destroyed the infrastructure behind the lines that another offensive physically linked to the right flank of the French armies was judged unlikely to succeed. However, an attack in the Arras region was not the choice of the British Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal Haig, who wanted the main effort of his armies to be directed north, around the Ypres salient. He hoped to clear the Belgian coastline, increasingly important to the Germans’ submarine offensive, and capture the strategically important railhead of Roulers, whose loss to the Germans would seriously hamper their war effort on this sector of the Western Front.  However, Haig’s plan was overruled by Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister, who also made attempts to have Haig put under the direct control of Nivelle.

Following heavy losses in the fighting on the Somme, the Germans had taken the decision to shorten their lines. For the preceding nine months, Russian prisoners and support troops of the German army had been engaged in building a fearsome new defensiveposition, called by the British ‘The Hindenburg Line’. Beginning with local retirements, by the 18th March 1917 the German army had completed their withdrawal behind this line.  This created serious complications for the British, dislocating their battle plans on the eve of the offensive.  For the French the problem was even more acute, as their forthcoming attack was intended as a breakout from a salient that no longer existed. However, Nivelle decided to proceed with the attack. The British were to begin their operations a few days before those of the French, the intention being that the German reserves would be transferred north to counter their attack around Arras. With these now committed to battle, the much larger French force would punch through the German lines to the south and roll up the German army unopposed from the rear. This was to be the knockout blow on the Western Front, and Nivelle had boasted that his offensive would end the war. This was proved not to be the case.

Geographically, much of the battlefield of Arras is relatively flat. However,  to the north of the city rises Vimy ridge, held by the Germans and dominating the local countryside. Capture of this ridge formed one of the major British objectives of the battle: so long as it was held by the Germans, the British lines of communication were under constant observation.

The Arras offensive has been divided into ten distinct actions, comprising battles, and flanking, subsidiary and subsequent attacks. The first two actions of the first phase, The Battle of Vimy and the simultaneous First Battle of the Scarpe, took place during the 9th –14th April. These are considered to have been a great success for the British and Imperial troops.
Attacking Vimy Ridge, the Canadian and British forces of General Horne’s First Army were able to eject the German defenders; here and in the attacks south of the ridge made by General Allenby’s Third Army, advances were preceded by a considerable artillery barrage comprising both high explosives and gas. Third Army’s attack was so successful initially that advances were made up to a depth of three and a half miles, the farthest advance achieved in the west since the advent of trench warfare in 1914. This sudden triumph seemed to offer the possibility of a breakout, and cavalry were rushed forwards in the hope of pouring them through the gap and attacking the enemy’s lines of communication. Such hopes, however, proved bloodily deceptive.

Charles was transferred to 1st then 10th Canadian Depot followed by 3rd Large Convalescent Camp on 31st May 1917. Charles suffered from ill health with Chronic Bronchitis and was transferred to 3rd Canadian Labour Battalion on 6th July 1917 joining his unit on 9th July. After returning from leave between 22nd August 1917 and 9th September 1917 he was with his unit until 20th October 1917 when he fractured his right Tibia and was transferred to number 14 General Hospital and eventually returned to England on 28th October when he was admitted to Manchester, 2nd Western Hospital.

When Charles was eventually discharged he was posted to a number of Army camps in U.K. Purfleet, Seaford, Whitley and eventually at the end of the war, Kinmel Park Camp, Rhyl, on 1st December 1919 to await repatriation to Canada.

Unfortunately shortly after receiving his discharge medical check on 14th January 1919, Charles contracted Influenza and was admitted to 12th Canadian General Hospital where he died at 3.45 pm 6th February 1919.

He is buried in St. Margaret’s Cemetery at Bodelwyddan.

Charles is commemorated on the Virtual Memorial for Canada.


Learn more about the other soldiers on the Bodelwyddan Memorial

Back to top