Charles Wade was born in June 1884 in John Street, Oakham, to Thomas and Elizabeth Wade (nee Smith). His father was a brewery labourer. Charles had four brothers and three sisters. His father died in 1899 aged 46. In 1904 Charles enlisted in the Leicestershire Regiment for a short service period of three years, returning to civilian life in 1907. In August 1913, aged 29, he married Mary Ann Hand of Waltham-on-the-Wolds. At this time Charles was a telegraphist with the Post Office, a skill he had probably learnt in the army. Charles and Mary had a daughter, Irene Betsy, born in September 1914. Betsy, as she was known, died from meningitis as a child. As a 9-year Reservist, Charles was called back to the army at the start of the First World War, joining the 1st Battalion Leicestershire Regiment. In June 1916 he was admitted to the Australian Hospital at Wimereaux in France, suffering from gas poisoning. He returned to the front later in the summer and was killed in action during the Battle of the Somme on 15 September 1916. The Leicestershires were part of 71st Infantry Brigade which took part in an ambitious attack on 15 September aimed at capturing Morval, Lesbouefs, Gueudecourt and Flers. The battalion war diary described what happened: "At about 5.50am two enemy aeroplanes appeared above us but did not stay long. About this time also a tank was noticed on our right moving quietly up to the enemy's front line. On arriving there he immediately opened fire with his machine guns enfilading the German trenches on either side. He was very heavily fired on by the enemy's machine guns which apparently had no effect." Zero hour was fixed for 6.20am. "The leading Companies advanced at the walk at 30 yards distance between lines. A heavy machine gun was immediately opened by the enemy. The support Companies followed in the same formation 300 yards in rear of last wave of leading Company." Things were beginning to go wrong. "The mist and smoke was terribly thick and allowed no observation by support Companies and Battalion HQ as to exactly what was happening...throughout the advance the battalion suffered very heavily from machine gun fire...and held up by very strong and undamaged wire in front of Quadrilateral [a German strong point]." The attack petered out and eventually the Leicestershires were forced to withdraw with casualties of 14 officers and 410 men killed and wounded, including four others from Rutland. At the time of his death, Charles was Acting Corporal. He has no known grave and is commemorated on Pier 3A of the Thiepval Memorial in France. His wife married again after the war and went to live in Waltham, near Melton Mowbray, where she had been brought up.
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Photograph and information about Charles courtesy of Michael Drake, whose grandmother was married to Charles.
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