Charles William Giles was a Cheltenham man who served in the army during the war, spending several of its early months in the Chelmsford area, billeted in Swiss Avenue. He died in January 1915 at Chelmsford & Essex Hospital from meningitis, one of at least eleven servicemen to die in an outbreak of the disease in Chelmsford in the first three months of 1915. His body was taken to Gloucestershire for burial.
Charles was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire in 1893, the son of William Henry and Rosa Giles. In 1901 he was listed by the census, aged 8, with his parents and younger sister at 53 St. James Street in Cheltenham, where his father was a journeyman butcher. A decade later the census recorded him with the same family members at 6 Avenalls Parade, Old Bath Road in Cheltenham. Aged 18, Charles was a nurseryman and florist while his father was a butcher.
He was regarded as a particularly promising young musician. He played in the orchestra of one local picture palaces before the outbreak of the war in 1914.
During the First World War Charles served as Private 1986 in the 5th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment. The Battalion, as part of the army's South Midland Division, was billeted in the Chelmsford area during the early part of the war. Charles was billeted at Swiss Avenue in Chelmsford. There he became ill on the evening of 23rd January 1915, was and was taken to the Chelmsford & Essex Hospital where he died, aged 22, on 25th January 1915. He was one of the early victims of an outbreak of cerebro-spinal meningitis (also known as 'spotted fever') which struck Chelmsford in the early months of 1915.
Charles' body was taken back to Gloucestershire for burial on 31st January 1915. The Cheltenham Chronicle reported comprehensively:
"The interment the late Bandsman C. W. Giles, of the 5th Gloucester (Territorial) Regiment, who died after very short illness whilst with his battalion Chelmsford, at the age of 22 years, took place at the Cheltenham Cemetery on Saturday, and was the occasion of an impressive military funeral.
The body of the deceased was brought to the residence his parents, Avenall's-parade, by rail, and thence the cortege set out for Holy Apostles' Church, where the first part of (he funeral service was held. Tho coffin was covered by a Union Jack, and on the hearse were number of wreaths, these including three from the officers, the non-commissioned officers, and the bandsmen and drummers of deceased's battalion respectively.
The service, conducted the Rev. H. A. Corko (vicar), assisted by the Rev. T. E. Johnson (curate St. John's), was choral, the full choir attending. The hymns were "On the Resurrection Morning" and "O God, our Help." The lesson was impressively read by Colonel Griffith, former commanding officer the 5th Battalion, and its present recruiting officer, who kindly organised military arrangements.
During the course of the service the vicar gave short address, in which he first thanked military authorities for kindly acceding the request that the body of Bandsman Giles, who was one of their parishioners, should brought home for burial. They had been praying for him for many weeks. Six of their long list of men of the parish who were serving their country had been killed in or had died from their wounds. They believed that their friend Bandsman Giles had as really and truly given his life for his country as either of those had been killed in action. He wanted them to believe that God had undoubtedly answered their prayers, for true prayers fell to the ground, even though not answered in the way they hoped. Let them believe that God rules, and that all things worked together for our good if we would strive to love Him. Might we learn the lesson God would have us learn, and might all this sacrifice of life in war lead us to think of One who gave His own life free us from eternal death.
GILES, CHARLES WILLIAM*,
Private, 5th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment
The procession formed outside the church and journeyed to the Cemetery in the following order: The drum and fife band and the bugle baud the 5th Reserve Batt. Gloucester Regt. (stationed in Gloucester), under Bandmaster Webb; the brass bund and the drum and fife and bugle bands of the 9th Batt. Gloucester Regt. (stationed Cheltenham), under Band-Sergts. Lee and Oskins; the hearse, at the side of which walked the bearers, who were of deceased in the 5th Batt., viz., Lee. Corpl.-Bandsman Furley, Ptes. Gamer. Bridgman, Parr. Burrows, and Enoch; firing party of 13 tho 5th Gloucester Reserve Battalion, vix.. Sergts. Reed. Allaway, Ptes. Daniels, A. E. A. Driver, W. P. Mansell, F. Preen, P. J. Bradley, E. D. Brookes, J. Wherrett, H. Noah. A. Aldridge, H. O. Harris, and Comer. After the three carriages containing the deceased's parents and other relations, came a group deceased's comrades who were on furlough in Cheltenham, viz., Sergts, Wilce and South, Ptes. Shipway, Brookes. Wright, Channon, Allen, King. Gamblett, and Creed, with whom were Sgt. Williams, the A.S.C. (who lost an eye at Mons), Corpl. Barton, and Lce.-Corpl. Sanders, representing the Battalion. At the rear walked Lieut. Rickerby and Lieut. Badcock, of the 5th Gloucester Reserve Battalion, were charge of the military present.
In the church the organist (Mr. Cole) had played in the large congregation with Beethoven's "Funeral March," and afterwards played Chopin's "Funeral March and (at the close) Handel's "Dead March." As the procession moved away from the church the drum and fife band played the Chopin march, ceasing when the regulation double quick was taken up, and commencing again when the was reduced outside cemetery.
The interment was watched very large crowd, who comported themselves in a quiet and dignified manner. At tile conclusion the firing party discharged three volleys into air, and the bugles sounded "Last Post." The military, of which the number was largest a funeral in Cheltenham for long past, after the funeral marched back to the town to the music the bands. Mr. Hawkins, of High-street. Cheltenham, was the undertaker.
In connection with the funeral the kindness of Col. Griffith in all matters connected with his old regiment was shown once again by his entertaining whole of the men who came from Gloucester (about 60 in alI) to a substantial dinner. The courtesy of Col. Bathurst in permitting their presence has also be recognised."
The military victims of the 1915 outbreak of cerebro-spinal meningitis in Chelmsford included:
- 24th January 1915
- 25th January 1915
- 8th February 1915
- 11th February 1915
- 17th February 1915
- 17th February 1915
- 19th February 1915
- 20th February 1915
- 26th February 1916
- 4th March 1915
- 22nd March 1915
- 25th March 1915