680923 GNR. C. FINCH. R.F.A.
Charles Finch was born in the first quarter of 1890 in Alston, near Longridge. His father was William Finch (b. 1864 in Chipping), a general labourer. His mother was Jane Walmsley (b. 1865 in Galgate). William and Jane were married in 1886 and they had several children. The 1911 Census is a bit confusing: William at the time was working as a labourer on a farm at Little Mitton. Jane was living at 35 Preston Road, Alston, Longridge with three of her sons: James (b. 1888), Charles, and Herbert (b. 1896). But she gives her age as 58 (therefore born in 1853), and says she has had 7 children, two of whom have died. Another son, Frederick (b. 1894), at the time was living and working on his grandfather’s farm in Alston, but I have not found a fifth child in the records. In 1911, Charles was working as a contractor’s labourer. It seems he served in the Territorials before the War and was initially assigned service number 2626, which later became 680923. Along with other men from Longridge who joined the RFA, Charles was posted to B Battery of 286 Brigade and landed with his Division in France in February 1917 and he served in the defence of Armentières, and later that year in the Second Battle of Passchendaele. In early 1918 286 Brigade returned to the area west of Armentières and in April they were engaged in the second phase of the German Spring Offensive, the Battle of the Lys.
From the War Diary:
9 April 1918
At 4.15am an intense bombardment of hostile gas shells commenced on the whole of the Corps front. Our batteries, which were standing to, to support a raid by the 121st Infantry, were immediately ordered to open counter-preparation fire. The gas shell bombardment lasted until about 9.00am when the enemy placed an intense barrage on the front line system. The enemy broke through the British line on the Right at the 40th Devonshires at front and turning to his Right outflanked our Batteries. The guns of B and C Batteries and two howitzers of D/286 were captured. A/286 were able to withdraw their six guns and D/286 four howitzers, after engaging the enemy up to within 300 yards of the position. The Brigade withdrew and took up position on the north side of the river LYS near to POINT MORTIER where batteries engaged the enemy with harassing fire. When a battalion of enemy infantry were reported in CROIX DU BAC a further withdrawal was made to positions near LE VERRIER. 7 Other Ranks killed. 2 Officers and 26 O.R.s wounded. 3 Officers and 22 O.R.s missing.
Charles was among the dead. He was 28 years old. His body was not recovered.
Service No: 680923
Date of Death: 09/04/1918
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, “B” Bty, 286th Bde.
Cemetery/memorial reference: Panel 1.
Cemetery/Memorial: PLOEGSTEERT MEMORIAL
Charles’s brother, James, served in the infantry. He enlisted in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment in September 1914 and was assigned service number 2303 and posted to 1/4Bn. He landed with his Battalion in France on 4 May 1915 and was killed at Festubert just six weeks later on 15 June 1915. He was 27 years old.
Service No: 2303
Date of Death: 15/06/1915
Regiment/Service: Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn
Cemetery/memorial reference: Panel 27 and 28.
Cemetery/Memorial: LE TOURET MEMORIAL