Fretter, Charles James. Died 22nd Mar 1918

Charles James FRETTER was born in mid to late 1875 and was baptised on 30 April 1876, at St. Matthew’s church, Rugby.  He was the son of Samuel Fretter [b.c.1841 in Hillmorton – 1914] and Harriet née Tomkins Fretter [b.c.1848 in Dunchurch – 1912].  They had married in Dunchurch parish church on 20 November 1868.  Between 1861 and 1871, and probably soon after their marriage, Samuel and Harriet moved to Rugby, where their eldest daughter was born in early 1869.

In 1871, Samuel, a boot and shoe maker and his family were living at 12 West Leyes, Rugby, initially with his widowed mother.  There were then two girls, Elizabeth and Alice.  By 1881, after Charles’ birth it seems Samuel’s mother (Charles’ grandmother) had died, and Charles would later have two younger sisters and two younger brothers.

By 1891, the family were living at 44 Pennington Street, Rugby.  Charles was now 15, and was working as a milkman.  By 1901 the family had moved again to 38 Plowman Street, Rugby and Charles was now a general labourer.  By 1911 they had moved yet again, to 60 York Street, Rugby – Charles was 35, still single, and was now a general labourer in the building trade.

At some date Charles enlisted at Rugby as Private No.18034 in the 10th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment.   The 10th (Service) Battalion was raised at Warwick as part of the second of Kitchener’s new armies.  The Battalion was assigned to the 57th Brigade in the 19th Division training on Salisbury Plain.  In December 1914 the Battalion was in billets for the winter and in March 1915 concentrated with its Division around Tidworth.  Whilst some records suggest that the Battalion embarked for France and Flanders on 17 May 1915, other records have the division landed in France on 17 July 1915.

There is no embarkation date on Charles’ Medal Card, so he probably joined his Battalion later and went to France/Belgium with reinforcements after the end of 1915, and would not have been eligible for the 1914-15 Star.

During the Battle of the Somme in 1916, the Battalion was in the operational area between 1 July and 7 August and between 7 October and until the end of that battle on 18 November 1916.

The history of 19th (Western) Division[1] shows that it was involved in 1917 in the following actions:
The Battle of Messines
The Third Battles of Ypres
– The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge
– The Battle of Polygon Wood
– The Battle of Broodseinde
– The Battle of Poelcapelle- First Battle of Passchendaele
– The Second Battle of Passchendaele

The following year, on 21 March 1918, the Germans launched a major offensive, Operation Michael, against the British Fifth Army, and the right wing of the British Third Army.  The artillery bombardment began at 4.40am on 21 March 1918, and hit targets over an area of 150 square miles, the biggest barrage of the entire war.  Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours.

The formation for the British order of battle for that period which was also known as the Battle of St Quentin (21-23 March 1918), included 10th Warwickshires which were near St. Quentin with the 19th (Western) Division and the 57th Brigade in the Third Army (under Byng).  The Battalion was in action east of Beaumetz facing Doignies.

Because of the intensity of the battle, and as the Germans were moving forward, many of those killed were never identified.  Charles was killed in action on the second day of the battle on 22 March 1918, aged 43.

In the confusion of the retreat and rearguard action, Charles’ body was either not found or not identified, and it was probably lost in the area that the Germans overran.  He is remembered on the Arras Memorial which is located at the entrance to the Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery in France.  The memorial commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918, the eve of the Advance to Victory, and have no known grave.  The most conspicuous events of this period were the Arras offensive of April-May 1917, and in Charles’ case, the German attack in the spring of 1918.

After Charles’ death, the allies held the advance which had badly weakened the Germans and overextended their supply lines, and they fought back.  The 10th Battalion ended the war in the same formations on 11 November 1918, well to the east, just west of Bavay, France.

Charles James Fretter is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates.  His Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  The Medal Roll allocated him to the 11th Battalion.

Various small amount of his outstanding pay was split between his brother and sisters.  His Gratuity of £9.00 was paid to his eldest sister, Elizabeth, on 12 December 1919 – she was now married.




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This article on Charles James Fretter 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 RFHG, December 2017.

[1]      Information from ‘The Long Long Trail’.

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