World War I
Charles and Frederick Root

On December 18th I attended a Christingle service at Highwood Parish Church, outside there is a simple wooden and rather old cross of sacrifice of the type that I had never seen before. There are no names inscribed on, instead they are to be located on a rather magnificent organ inside the church. For each war there are a few names listed but two stuck out as I had come across them before on the Fryerning Roll of Honour, Charles and Frederick Root.
I have the attestation papers for Charles Root, and when he joined up he lived in the Old Barn in Blackmore. He joined the 4th battalion Royal Berkshire Regt on 7th September 1914 in Chelmsford, service number 87273. The papers show that he was a Territorial and actually joined for four years. At time of joining Charles was 19 years old, five foot five inches tall, and had a chest measurement of 34 1/2 inches and his physical development was described as fair, even though he was a farm labourer. Nevertheless he was declared fit.
Charles didn’t get to the Western Front until 25th April 1917 when he was posted as a member of the Machine Gun Corps. What Charles had completed in that period is a bit of a mystery as the records are incomplete and further research reveals that the 3/4th Regt was not created in Chelmsford until March 1915, by which time Charles had been with the Berkshires for six months.
A little over two weeks later and Charles was posted to the 198th Company, and joined them in the field two days later on the 6th May. The company was part of the 58th Division and his first action would have been the Battle of Bullecourt, closely followed by actions on the Hindenberg Line later in the month. Both actions were part of the now quite neglected battle of Arras.
At this time Charles seemed to be rising up and down the ranks from Private to Corporal and vice versa, the company was absorbed into the 58th in March 1918, as there is a record of Charles having sprained his ankle and ending up in hospital. It happens, but in his records dated 5th May, a report had to be made to see whether this had been self inflicted. By this time there were many ways that a soldier might try to get away from the front, all resulting in some form of report to show that what had happened was indeed an accident.
In August 1918, Charles was home on leave to get married, to Hildagarde Heard, from Tollesbury. A month later Charles was dead, he has no known grave and is remembered on the Vis-en-Artois memorial. After the war his wife lived in Acton west London, and from papers available she didn’t remarry. As a post script to this article, Army Form W 5080 reveals a further tragedy and takes us back full circle to Highwood Church. Frederick Root was Charles’ father, who was killed ‘whilst on military duty’ in May 1915 aged 52, and is buried in Writtle cemetery.
John Westwood.
Curator of the virtual memorial
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