A short war


My great grand father, Charles Ralph Shears, was born in Winterslow, near Salisbury. My interest in his story started because my grand father, Harry, would never talk about his family or his childhood. We knew that his father had died in the war and that his mother remarried but that was all we knew.

I started researching and found his details on the CWGC site along with a certificate giving his date of death and where his memorial was. He is commemorated on Le Touret memorial near Lille.

My research found that he was one of 4 brothers who went off to war from a family of 13 children. He and his brother Stanley both died. I discovered that Charles signed up in April 1914, very early given that he was 39 years old and had two small children. What had driven him to sign up that early? The government were only recruiting young, single men at that point.

Charles went to France in the middle of April 1914. He was in the Royal Berkshire Regiment as he had been living in Streatley near Reading. He was involved in the Battle of Festubert which resulted in his death. He had only been in France about a month. His brother Stanley fared better but still was killed in August 1918, tragically close to the end of the war.

Further research shed light on why Charles may have signed up. His family were very poor. He was an agricultural labourour and his wife, Amy, wasn’t working. They appear to have been living in 2 rooms. Going off to war would have meant a wage that he could send home, he would be clothed and fed which would mean more money for his wife and children. When Charles died Amy signed up as a volunteer nurse and was sent to London. The children were sent off to live with strangers in the village. After the war Amy remarried but died aged 41 in 1926 of stomach cancer.

My lovely grandad was always so sad about his mum and dad and I can now understand why. I visited Le Touret in 2007 and I’m going back this year on the 100 year anniversary of his death.


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One Comment

  • Thank you to Aly for leaving this poignant story about your great-grandfather who ‘did his bit’ even though at the age of 39 he didn’t have to join up as early as 1914. His service is now part of the Wiltshire at War story and his sacrifice will be remembered.

    It is understandable that your grandfather chose not to talk much about his father. I wonder if he kept any photographs of his own childhood during the war. He must have seen a lot of wartime activity around Salisbury.
    Thank you again.
    Emma (Project Officer)

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