With Thanks to Peter Bailey for this research.
Charles, or Charlie as he was known, was born in 1890 at Marshgate, near Camelford to Thomas and Ann Medland and later moved to Polinnick Cottage. After leaving school he worked as a farm labourer for Walter Smith at Egloskerry. A strong Wesleyan, Charlie became a local preacher. His two brothers also served in the War, one in the A.S.C., and the other, a stoker, on H.M.S. London. At the outbreak of World War 1 he joined the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry 6th Battalion Lance Corporal (Regimental No. 17128).
After their training the Battalion landed at Boulogne in May 1915 as part of 43 Brigade, 14th Light Division. The Division saw action at Hooge and Bellewaarde in the Ypres salient and had the dubious honour of being the first to be attacked by flame throwers! Charlie had a strong trait in his character of thoughts for others and he displayed much heroism in rescuing a number of wounded men, bringing them in amidst a perfect hurricane of German shell fire; a Wesleyan chaplain of his Battalion stated that Charlie was worthy of the Victoria Cross over and over again. By August 1916 the 6th Battalion was in the line of attack on German trenches in and beyond the Northern edge of the Bois de Ville at Longueval, know to the soldiers as Devils Wood, and was the scene of fierce fighting and many casualties. The area encountered intense German shelling. On August 18th, Charlie took part in a charge with the Battalion captured a German trench in the face of persistent resistant fire. Many were killed or wounded in going over, but Charlie got across safely. He, however, ‘spent himself for others’ as the chaplain explained in a letter to Charlie’s parents. Seeing a wounded comrade in danger, he went out to rescue him, and succeeded in bringing him across the open ground, Charlie was shot in the head by a sniper just as he was lifting his wounded comrade over his own parapet. He died instantaneously. Charlie was the first Wesleyan local preacher in the Launceston circuit to be killed in the war.
The Wesleyan chaplain connected with the Brigade wrote this to Charlie’s parents on his death:
‘Charlie was a great friend of mine and I feel his death more than I can tell. He was one of the best men I ever knew, and the whole battalion feels his loss. His life in our midst was an example we shall never forget. He followed Christ faithfully, and every officer and man held Charlie in great respect. As a soldier he was entirely without fear and he lost his life in trying to save others. On Friday afternoon he went over in the attack on the German trenches. Many of our officers and men fell either killed or wounded going across the open ground, but Charlie reached the enemy trench unharmed. Immediately he began making new defences, and then with that splendid courage he always showed under fire he began to bring wounded men under cover. Had Charlie lived he would certainly have been recommended for some distinction. But God willed otherwise and took Charlie Home to Himself. He earned the Victoria Cross time after time. On Friday, just as he was lifting a wounded comrade over the parapet, a German soldier 30 yards away fired at him and Charlie fell dead in the midst of his noble work. The German who killed him must have seen that he was rescuing a wounded man and this act adds another crime to the list. Let us thank God Charlie was spared all suffering. I know even in your great sorrow you will be glad to know this. Time fails me to write all I wish about you noble son. The day before going to the trenches we all had communion together in the open and two nights earlier we had service together. His work for Christ in this regiment will never be forgotten. When I have more time I will tell you about it. Just at present I have so many letters to write to other mothers whose sons have fallen in the fight. We must not be sorry, for Charlie is better off; all his hardships are done and now he is at rest with God. We can leave him there with perfect trust. Your boy was one of the best workers God ever had and now he has received his reward. Some day you will go to him in God’s own time and be with him for ever. Until then only the great God can help you bear your loss and he will not fail. Remember that God also gave his son to die and so He knows your heart in this dark hour and because God knows he is able to comfort.‘
The Church of England chaplain, who was formerly with Charlie’s regiment, wrote:
‘I counted him as a very dear friend. He was one of the saints. His life has been a steady power for good and a witness for Christ ever since he joined the army, and his death has crowned it with perfect sacrifice. He always was fearless and the end came during and exploit of the utmost gallantry. Dear man one has no fears for him but measuring your love for him by the standard of the affection that sprung up around him everywhere. I pray that God may help you bear your great loss.‘
He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, Pier and Face 6 B, and also on the South Petherwin War Memorial.
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