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.
didnt 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.
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 didnt 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.
Curator of the virtual memorial