Ogbourne St Andrew Parish History Group

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Charles Hams

Parish > WWI > "There name liveth for ever" > Individuals

Charles was born in Netheravon in 1894; in 1911 aged 27 he was living with his wife Sarah Ann (26), and 4 Children, Arthur (6), Charles Norman (4), Percy(2) and Dorothy( 10 mths) at Long Street, Enford, Pewsey, Wiltshire. Charles was employed as a general labourer at a racing stable  He enlisted in the army at Devizes and after 6 months of training arrived in France on the 22nd June 1915, eventually joining 1st Battalion (Duke of Edinburgh’s) Wiltshire Regiment, which was part of the larger 3 rd Division on the Ypres sector of the Western Front.

Between Charles’ arrival in France on the 22nd Jun 1915 and when he was killed in action on the 3rd September 1916, Charles took part in some of the bloodiest battles of the Western front in such areas as Ypres, Hooge, Messines and the Somme.  In September the 3 rd the Division was holding the front line in the Loos and Hulloch area.  As recorded in the Wiltshire war diary, the Regiment was ordered to attack the German trenches in the Leipzig Salient:

2 September 1916, Location, Bouzincourt, France
Orders were received from Bde for officer and NCOs to visit the trenches in the OVILLERS sector with a view to relieving the 74th Bde. The CO spoke to the Battn at 10a.m. and there was a meeting of Company Commanders afterwards at HQ mess. Orders were received for the Battn to march to CRUCIFIX Corner at 1.15p.m. by companies at 5 minute interval. The last of the Battn reached CRUCIFIX CORNER at about 3p.m. The men stayed in dugouts under a bank. At 11p.m. the Battn moved up to the trenches.

3 September 1916, Location, Leipzig Salient.
In the trenches. Orders had been received previously that the Battn would take the trenches R31.C.78, R31.A.48, R.31.a5.5, R.31.a.9.41, R.31.a9.3, R.31.b.0.3, 2.3,3.2,3.1,5.1,5.0, R31.d.7..9,9.8. Late on the night of the 2nd/3rd written orders were received that the only attack to be made were upon the lines, R.31.C.4.6 to R.31.a.5.5 and upon R.31.c.7.6 to R.31.a.9.1, R.31.d.4.8., R.31.d.07. This meant that both the flanks of this Battn were exposed. The Battn arrived in position in trenches at 2.30 without casualty in spite of heavy shelling. The intense bombardment began at 5.10a.m. and the troops moved out of the trenches and formed up about 50 yards off and advanced upon their objective. As soon as they had left the trench they were met by a heavy 'whizbang' fire, and almost at the same time machine guns from either flank opened upon them. Our right Coy (D) stated that they got into the enemy trench and were wiped out by our own barrage which did not lift in time. The centre and left Coys report that their heavy losses were due to machine gun fire from both flanks. By the time they reached their objective they were numerically inferior to the enemy. The left Coy reached and occupied R.31.C.8.9. And made a block there. The few men in the other Coys who reached the enemy trench were forced to retire owing to their lack of numbers. The true position was not known at this time, and the reserve Coy was sent up to strengthen the line, but as far as could be ascertained, they were knocked out by machine gun fire from the flanks. Shortly after the officers commanding right and centre Coys reported that they had been able to get back with infinite difficulty and very few men and that the attack had failed. The CO was hit by a bullet in the leg. Five other officers became casualties. At about 11a.m. orders were received that the Battn should proceed back in small parties to BOUZINCOURT, which was duly undertaken. The last of the Battn arrived at their billets at about 5p.m.

Recommendation for Award Sir I have the honour to bring to your notice the conduct of No 8404 Pte Rogers E and No 11941 Pte English W during the recent operations. On the 3rd September 1916 Pte Rogers and Pte English laid a cable in face of heavy Artillery and Machine gun fire. During the heavy bombardment of the 3rd Sept 1916 these two men repeatedly (sic) went out to repair the lines and by their coolness and energy communication was kept up with the front line. I have the honour to be Your obedient servant H Carter Sergt.

It was during this action that Cpl Hams (aged 30) was killed in action leading his men, the following day on the 4 September 1916, the survivors, took part a muster roll, were allocated baths and played football in the afternoon.  Cpl Hams is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France on Pier and Face 13. The Thiepval Memorial, is the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, it bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave of which Cpl Hams is one.

Cpl Ham’s Wife and Family recorded their details in the Grave Registration Report, simply as ‘Corporal Arthur Hams, Son of James and Betsy Hams, of Netheravon, Salisbury; husband of Sarah A. Hams, of Rockley, Marlborough, Wilts’.

January 2021
copyright Ogbourne St Andrew History Group 2021
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