Charles Henry Bland was born in about 1897 in Rugby, son of William Bland, b.1864 in Knighton and Ellen, née Cross, Bland, b.1871, in Southam, who were married in Stockton on 7 September 1893.
Charles was baptised on 11 September 1898 at Saint Andrew’s Church, Rugby. On that same day Frank Harold Boyes was baptised – they later lived only about three minutes walk apart and they would join up together and die together on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
The family was living at 1 Pinders Lane, Rugby, and his father was a Cab Driver. In 1901, still at 1 Pinders Lane, Charles was about 2 and the second youngest of four children: Rosetta J Bland, 5; William A Bland, 4; Charles H Bland, 2; and Reginald Bland, 1 and his father a ‘cabman and groom’. By 1911, his father was still a cab driver, and there were now four more children. Charles was 12 and still at school.
Charles Henry Bland enlisted as Private, No.16936, in the 2nd Battalion of the Princess Charlotte of Wales’s (Royal Berkshire) Regiment on the same occasion, and just before Frank Harold Boyes, who was No. 16937. His date of enlistment is unknown.
The 2nd Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment was a Regular Army unit and was serving in India on the outbreak of war and was recalled to Britain, where, with other Regular units also stationed abroad, it helped form the 25th Brigade and was attached to the 8th Division. They came to the Western Front in late 1914 and arrived at Le Havre on the 5 November with 30 officers and 978 other ranks. Their first job was to relieve the 1st East Surreys in trenches at Fauquissart and there they suffered terribly from trench foot and other illness’s caused by the abrupt change of climate. The next three months were spent in and out of trenches including Christmas day when they took part in the Christmas Truce.
The War diaries for the 2nd Berkshires are available, although they would not be expected to include individual soldier’s names.
Charles’s Medal Card shows that he went to France later, presumably after training in UK, arriving there on 30 June 1915. The battalion diaries can be sampled to find the activities of the battalion.
On 30 June, ‘2 Companies in billets at FLEURBAIX. 2 Companies in close support billets’ and similarly on 1 July 1915 ‘2 Companies in billets at FLEURBAIX. 2 Companies in close support billets.’ 3 and 4 July, ‘In trenches near BOIS GRENIER.’
1 August 1915, the troops were in billets near FLEURBAIX; on 1 September, ‘3 Companies in billets near BAC ST MAUR. 1 Company in billets near FLEURBAIX. The Battalion proceeded to Brigade Reserve billets about 7pm. 3 Companies in billets at FLEURBAIX. 1 Company in close support of No 6 Section.’ On 1 October ‘in billets near BAC ST MAUR’; on 1 December, ‘in camp near SERCUS, France. On 1 March 1916, ‘3 Companies in Brigade Reserve Billets near CROIX LESCORNEX. 1 Company in close support of 2nd Lincolnshire Regiment.’ On 1 April, ‘In Billets at FLESSELLES.’ 1 May ‘In Divisional Reserve Camp at HENENCOURT WOODS.’ 1 June, ‘In camp at HENENCOURT WOODS.’ 15 June, ‘In trenches, right sub-section. Flank Battalions 2nd Rifle Brigade on left flank – 4th Tyneside Scottish on right flank. 55 other ranks joined Battalion. 4 men wounded, 1 man to Hospital, 2 men from Hospital.’ 25 June, ‘In camp in LONG VALLEY near ALBERT.’
30 June, ‘In camp in LONG VALLEY near ALBERT. The Battalion paraded about 9.15pm in readiness to proceeded to Assembly positions in right sub-section trenches. (Signed) Roland Haig Lieut Colonel Commanding 2nd Royal Berkshire Regt.’
The opening of the Battle of the Somme produced a more detailed diary entry.
1 July 1916, ‘Attack on OVILLERS. The Battalion took up its assembly position in accordance with Brigade Operation Order No. 100. The 2nd BN LINCOLNSHIRE REGT was on the left and the 2BN DEVONSHIRE REGT on right. Our own wire was not sufficiently cut and parties were immediately sent out by Companies to clear it. At 6.25am the intensive bombardment began as scheduled. At about 7.15am the enemy opened rifle and machine gun fire on our line; this fire was probably drawn by the 2nd DEVON REGT which at about this time attempted to line up in front of their parapet. At 7.20am Companies began filing down trenches and getting ready for the assault. At 7.30am the three assaulting Companies advanced to attack the GERMAN line. They were met by intense rifle and machine gun fire which prevented any of the waves reaching the enemy lines. A little group on the left of the Battalion succeeded in getting in, but were eventually bombed out. At about 7.45am the COMMANDING OFFICER (LT COL A.M. HOLDSWORTH) and SECOND IN COMMAND (MAJOR G.H. SAWYER DSO) were wounded in the sap on the left of our front, the COMMDG OFFICER handed over Command of the Battalion to 2nd LIEUT C. MOLLET (ACTG ADJT) by this time the parapet was swept by rifle and machine gun fire which prevented any exit from our trenches. The enemy replied to our intensive bombardment by barraging the front line from about 6.35am onwards. No message was received from other Battalions in immediate vicinity. At about 11am the order came from Bde Headquarters to “stand by” and await further orders. About 200 men of the Battalion were collected on the right of the front line and in the assembly trenches off ULVERSTON Street. At about 12.30pm news was received that the Brigade would be relieved. At about 3pm Major Hon R. BRAND, 2nd Rifle Brigade arranged to take over all the front line and with the sanction of the Brigade the Battalion was withdrawn to RIBBLE STREET. On relief by the 37th INFANTRY BDE, the Battalion marched back to bivouac in LONG VALLEY. TWO LEWIS GUNS were damaged, Steel Helmets proved invaluable and in numberless cases saved mens lives.
The following casualties occurred amongst Officers. KILLED IN ACTION.- LIEUT A.J.G. GOODALL. 2nd LIEUT S.S. SCHNEIDER. DIED OF WOUNDS.- LT COL A.M. HOLDSWORTH. WOUNDED.- MAJOR G.H. SAWYER DSO. CAPTAIN B. HAYE. CAPTAIN J.A. CAHILL. LIEUT W.C. ADAMS. 2nd LIEUT W.S. MACKAY. 2nd LIEUT J.V.R. OWEN. 2nd LIEUT R.G. GREEN. 2nd LIEUT W. GALE. MISSING. CAPTAIN H.T. ROWLEY. CAPTAIN R.C. LEWIS. LIEUTENANT B.S. ROBINSON. LIEUT O.G. PAYNE. 2nd LIEUT H. GODFREY. 2nd LIEUT B.H. BELCHER. 2nd LIEUT P.G. SHIRREFF. 2nd LIEUT M.I. HEMING. 2nd LIEUT S.H. BEDFORD.
OTHER RANKS:- 33 KILLED. 3 DIED of WOUNDS. 260 WOUNDED. 118 MISSING.
2 July 1916, ‘In Camp at LONG VALLEY near ALBERT. The Battalion proceeded by march route to DERNANCOURT arriving there about 7.30pm.’
Charles Henry Bland was one of those killed or missing, and his body was not found or identified and he is remembered on Pier and Face 11 D. of the Thiepval Memorial.
The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, 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. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 1 August 1932.
Charles Henry Bland was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM
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This article on C H Bland was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, June 2016.
 Their Service Records have not survived, and the Berkshire’s numbering is not readily usable to approximate attestation dates.