Rank: Private 9117
Regiment: 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment
Died: 6 November 1918
PDF Download: MOUNTSTEPHEN Charles
Charles Mountstephen was born in Bradninch in 1898, the brother of Samuel, who joined the Royal Navy. Charles joined the Army Reserve on 15 December 1909, and in June 1910 he joined the regular army, becoming a private in the Devonshire Regiment.
His army record describes him as 5ft 5 ½ ins tall, with blue eyes and dark brown hair. His occupation was given as gardener. From October 1910 to September 1911 he was based at Tidworth in Hampshire in the 1st Battalion, and then was posted to the 2nd Battalion and sent to Malta. In March 1911, after six months in Malta, his battalion moved to Cairo, and he was here when war broke out in August 1914.
The 2nd Battalion left Egypt on 13 September 1914 on the SS Osmanieh, and arrived in Southampton on 1 October. After a spell at Hursley Park, near Winchester, during which time Thomas Boalch from Beer joined the same battalion, they marched to Southampton on 5 November and crossed the Channel on the SS Bellerophon, arriving at Le Havre the next morning.
They went into trenches near Neuve-Chapelle, and on 18 December took part in a major trench raid on a farm known as the Moated Grange. There were significant casualties in this attack, and over 50 men were also sent to hospital with frostbite during a spell of very cold weather.
On Christmas Day 1914 the 2nd Battalion observed a brief truce. The battalion war diary entry for that day reads:
“Informal armistice during daylight. Germans got out of their trenches and came towards our lines. Our men met them and they wished each other a merry Xmas, exchanged smokes etc. About 7.30pm sniping began again. We had one man killed and one wounded. Hard frost”.
The battalion had left England with 30 officers and 983 other ranks. By the end of their first four months in France, mainly due to the losses during the raid on the Moated Grange, the battalion had suffered 278 casualties, more than a quarter of its original strength. The war diary entry for 1 January 1915 is very revealing as regards the casualty rate:
“One man killed, two wounded. Another quiet day”.
On 10 March 1915 the 2nd Battalion took part in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, the first major British offensive of that year, and suffered further heavy casualties (10 officers and 274 other ranks).
On 9 May Charles’s battalion was involved in the Battle of Aubers, and suffered a further 247 casualties, 67 of whom were killed.
A quieter period followed, and in the whole of June the battalion suffered five killed and nine wounded, but Charles was one of these casualties. ‘Other ranks’ are seldom named in a battalion war diary, but because his army record gives the date of his wound as 9 June 1915, we know that the following must refer to him:
“9th June. Quiet day. Enemy transport heard in evening and fired on. One man wounded”.
Charles was admitted to No 10 General Hospital in Boulogne with gunshot wounds to his left shoulder and side, and was sent back to England on 18 June.
He was eventually discharged from the army on 7 November 1917, and issued with the King’s Silver War Badge. He came back to Beer, where his mother lived, and where he died on 6 November 1918, aged 28. He is buried in Beer Church Cemetery. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records show that he died of pneumonia. They also show he was the husband of E Mountstephen of 36, Mayfield Road, Dalston, London.
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