Charles William Cantrell, Private 2369, 1/7th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment
Killed in action 10th December 1915 in Gallipoli, aged 29
Charles William Cantrell was baptised on 25 July 1886 at St Peter’s Church, Windmill Street, Macclesfield, the son of Clara Ann and John Cantrell, a postman of Black Rd, Macclesfield.
In 1891, four year old Charles was living at 7 Brook St with his parents and siblings Albert (9), John (7), James (2), and baby Edith (4 months). Ten years later in 1901, the family was at the same address and Charles’ widowed mother was running a confectioners shop, while Charles had left school and was employed as a saddler’s apprentice.
Charles married May Tayton in 1908 and by 1911 Charles was employed as a house painter and decorator and living at 89 Paradise St with his wife and children Charles (2) and Mildred (1 month).
Charles joined the 7th Cheshire Regiment in Macclesfield, and following a period of training in the south of England, the 7th Cheshires, as part of 159th Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division, received orders to equip for service in an undisclosed location in the Mediterranean. In July 1915 they sailed from Devonport to Alexandria in Egypt, where Charles landed on 1st August. He later went on to see action in Gallipoli.
Charles was killed in action on 10th December 1915 and his death was reported in the Macclesfield Times of 7th January 1916:
We regret to record that another Macclesfield Territorial, Private Charles W. Cantrell, of 89 Paradise Street, has been killed in the Dardanelles. Private Cantrell was a prominent member of the Lord Street Sunday School, where he was a teacher. He was also the Secretary of the Band of Hope*. Deceased leaves a widow and three children. Private Cantrell was by trade a painter and paper-hanger.
Mrs Cantrell has received several letters of sympathy from the deceased’s comrades. Captain P. Sheldon, writing on December 11th, stated: “I wish to express to you my sympathy in the sad loss you have sustained in the death of your husband. He was my servant during the last six weeks, and no-one knows better than I do the value of such a man as poor Cantrell… I know it will be a relief to you to know that his remains were carefully looked after, and that he received a Christian burial, although not at the hands of the chaplain. Nevertheless, those gathered round his grave were more than earnest, for your husband had grown, by his unselfish and unassuming manner, to be loved by all with whom he came into contact.”
Lieut. G. W. Claye, writing on December 10th, stated: “I am sorry to have to let you know that your husband, Charles, was killed in action yesterday by shrapnel. A cross has been placed over the spot where he was buried with many others who, like he, have nobly given their lives for their country…”
Mrs Cantrell has also received the following letter, dated December 10th, from the headquarters, signed by Quartermaster Sergt. A. Lewis: “I am writing to you on behalf of the headquarters staff of the 159th Infantry Brigade to express their sincere sympathy to you… you will be comforted to know that he passed away peacefully. He died on December 9th from the effects of a shrapnel wound. He lost consciousness when wounded and did not recover his senses. We buried him that evening beneath a tree in the small burial ground nearby. The burial service was read over him by Captain Sheldon, whose servant your husband had been… Your husband was very popular amongst his chums…”
A memorial service to Private Cantrell will be held at the Park Street Chapel on Sunday evening.
A report of the memorial service to Charles Cantrell was printed in the following week’s Macclesfield Times:
There was a large congregation, which included the deceased soldier’s wife, mother, brothers and other relatives, and the service was impressively conducted by the Rev. J. E. Mackintosh. The hymns sung were “Jesus shall reign” (Private Cantrell’s favourite), “Crown Him with many crowns”, and “Now the labourer’s task is o’er”.
Mr Mackintosh … said Private Cantrell was the fourth of those in actual attendance at Park Street Chapel and Lord Street School at the time of the outbreak of the present war who had fallen in battle. In the August landing at Suvla Bay the Lord Street men all happily survived, thought the fate of one of them was uncertain to this day. From August 9th till December 9th Private Cantrell was under fire, and it seemed a hardship that these citizen soldiers, after their brief period of training, with no previous experience of war, should have been flung on that inhospitable coast under such conditions. Two days before the evacuation of Suvla, a Turkish shell ended the earthly career of Private Cantrell. Sam Parry, a gallant and cheery comrade, had written of their friend thus: “We are now well away from the Peninsula, on a boat bound for an Egyptian post. It cut us very much to have to come away without Charles.”
… His outstanding service – the one in which his faith found its most distinctive expression – was the Band of Hope. Appointed secretary in 1908, he held the office to the end, and so efficient was he… that their Band of Hope became on of the largest and best managed of all in the town.
Whilst away, he continued to bear himself as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Once, when the 1/7th Cheshires were staying at Letchworth, he tramped out six miles into the country to preside at a temperance meeting. The platform was as follows: Chairman, Private C. W. Cantrell, supported by Private Alec Norbury; speaker, Private Matthew Bailey. At Suvla Bay these three kept the morning watch in the trenches, not with rifle and bayonet merely, but with Bible and hymn-book.
*The Band of Hope was a temperance movement.
Private Charles Cantrell has no known grave and is commemorated on panel ref. 75 to 77 on the Helles Memorial, Turkey. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private Charles Cantrell, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
In Macclesfield, Private Charles Cantrell is commemorated on the Park Green, Town Hall, St Michael’s Church, and Park Street Methodist Church war memorials, and the Ancient Order of Foresters roll of honour.