Charles Ralphs – Named Charlie in some documents, was born in 1899 in Hanmer (but this place of birth varies on different sources). He was recorded in the census of 1901 living with his family at Dymock’s Mill Lane (Cottage). Head of the household was Charles Ralphs senior. He was 39 and an Agricultural Labourer. His wife Ellen was 38. She was originally from Manchester. Their listed children were Thomas 12, Ambrose 10, Lizzie 7, Clara 4 and Charles who was 1.
The next census in 1911 places the family at Tallarn Green. Charles senior was 53 and still a Farm Labourer. His wife of 31 years, Ellen was 49. She had given birth to 9 children, 8 of whom were living. Listed in the household were just two of them. Lizzie aged 17 – a Dairy Maid. Charles the youngest was 12 and at school.
UK Soldiers who died in The Great War 1914-19, accessible on www.ancestry.co.uk includes an entry for Charlie. It tells us that he resided in Middleton (which is in what we now call Greater Manchester). This source says he was born in Willington, Cheshire. He enlisted in Bury, Lancashire. He was killed in Action. His medal index card, also on Ancestry lists his two medals and gives us his regimental number 53644 and also his original number TR4/41682 when he was in the Training Regiment.
Charlie’s Army Service Records have survived and are accessible on Ancestry.com. They are not in brilliant condition and some parts are really difficult to interpret. It is possible, however, to pick out some elements of his story.
He was called up for conscription and enlisted and attested on the 19th September 1917 in Bury Lancashire. (He was only just 18 years and 1 month old – so not yet old enough to fight in the war which is why in the first instance he was placed in a Training Regiment). He gave his address as 31 Thomas Street, Middleton. His Trade was ‘Blacksmith’s Striker’. His application was approved on the 29th of September 1917 and he became a Lancashire Fusilier. At the time of enlistment he was 5 feet 8 & 3 quarter inches tall. His chest measured 35 inches with en expansion range of 3 inches.. He gave his father’s name as his next of kin (Charles Ralphs Tallarn Green, Malpas).
He spent at least some of his Training period in Kinmel Park Camp in 1917.
He proceeded to join the British Expeditionary Force in France on the 6th April 1918. (He was still not 19)
He was transferred to the Cheshire Regiment and posted to the 1st Battalion on 12th April 1918 and joined them on the 29th April 1918.
He was reported wounded and missing on the 30th June 1918. He was at a Casualty Clearing Station but rejoined his battalion the next day.
He was killed in action on the 28th October 1918. The Records say the he “became non effective by – killed in Action”
There is some evidence in the Records that Charlie’s father had written to the Infantry Records requesting information about his son. His letter had been passed to the War Office. There is a fragment of the reply to Mr Ralphs and it is possible to make out the words “Missing 30.6.18″
The records contain other correspondence – internal to the army and also between the army and Charlie’s Father.
There is one internal army memo instructing that Charlie’s personal effects and medals should be sent to his father in Tallarn Green. There is a subsequent memo to Mr Ralphs detailing Charlie’s personal effects. These were a pouch, a wallet, photos, letter and postcards.
There is a receipt signed by Mr Ralphs in 1922 for Charlie’s two medals.
Mr Ralphs was entitled to receive a commemorative plaque (“Death Penny”) and a scroll. Before they could be dispatched the army required the family to complete a form listing all of Charlie’s living family members. This form, completed by Ellen Ralphs (mother) in 1920, provides a snapshot of her family at that time. The form gives us ..
Father Charles and Mother Ellen Ralphs both of Tallarn Green.
Full Blood Brothers Albert 38 Middleton, John 34 Dinks Farm, Tom 32 Tallarn Green, Abrose 28 Tallarn Green.
Full blood sisters Sarah Elson 37 ? Malpas, Lizzie Hewitt 26 Tallarn Green, Clara Warner 24 Tallarn Green
There is a receipt signed by Charles Ralph for the said plaque and scroll.
The Register of Soldier’s Effects, in which the Army calculated what moneys were owed to deceased soldiers includes an entry for Charlie. His father Charles received a total of £16 .. 19sh ..10d in two separate payments.