Charles Clement Pilley was born and raised in the Moulsham area of Chelmsford. He worked as a clerk in an electrical engineers and later at Hoffmann’s bearings factory in Chelmsford. He joined the army early in the war and landed in France in May 1915. He was killed in action at the Batte of Loos in October 1915. His home was in Roman Road.
PILLEY, CHARLES CLEMENT,
Private, 9th (Service) Battalion, Essex Regiment
A post-war history of the battalion continued:
“The old British trenches were occupied on October 12th, in readiness for the attack [by colleagues in the 35th Brigade] upon the Quarries [Hulluch Quarries] the next day. There the Essex were shelled and suffered some loss, the casualties including Major A. T. W. Constable, who was mortally wounded in the head whilst standing above congested trenches in the darkness directing operations.
As the attack [now known as ‘Action of the Hohenzollern Redoubt’] was delivered the Battalion moved forward, about 1.30 p.m., to occupy the trenches which the Suffolks and Berkshires had vacated for their advance. Several of the communications trenches were impassable on account of the heavy bombardment and made this movement extremely difficult. Two companies (C and D), however, less parties detailed for water and bomb-carrying, eventually reached a trench turning out of Breslau Avenue, where they remained, under Major Copeman, in support of the Berkshires, until they relieved the Suffolks in the Hairpin Trench, which was effected by 4 a.m. on October 14th.
Meanwhile the remaining companies found a small vacant portion of the old German line, except for a machine gun of the South Staffords, and occupied it until moved into the captured trenches. The next three days were spent in consolidation, including the construction by the R.E. of a strongpoint. There was almost continuous bombing.”
Charles was one of the casualties during that period, killed in action on 15th October 1915. He was aged 20.
On 12th November 1915 the Essex County Chronicle reported:
“Pt. C. Pilley, killed in action, was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Pilley, Roman Road, Chelmsford, and was employed at Hoffmann’s , Chelmsford.”
A similar report appeared in the day’s Essex Weekly News:
“Information was received in Chelmsford on Saturday that Pte. C. C. Pilley, 9th Essex, had been killed in action in France. The deceased was the only son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Pilley, of Roman-road.”
Charles has no known grave and is commemorated at the Loos Memorial at Dud Corner Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France, on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford, by the Hoffmann Manufacturing Company’s War Memorial at Chelmsford Cathedral, and the Moulsham Parish Memorial, St John’s Church, Moulsham. Charles was entitled to the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, and Victory Medal.
The 1918 register of electors listed Charles’ parents remaining at 44 Roman Road, Chelmsford. His father died there in 1925, shortly after the death of Charles’ youngest sister in London, aged 33.
Charles’ mother died in 1949, aged 89.
Charles was born in Chelmsford on 11th February 1895, the only son and youngest child of the fitter Charles Pilley and Ellen Pilley (nee Balls). His father had been born in 1850 in Chelmsford; his mother in 1859 at Danbury. The couple had married at Danbury on 4th July 1885 at which point Charles’ father had been living in Moulsham Street, Chelmsford while his mother was at Danbury.
In 1891 they had been living at 49 Roman Road, Chelmsford, having previously lived in New Writtle Street, Chelmsford.. Charles was baptised at St John’s Church, Moulsham on 17th April 1895 at which time his father was a fitter living at 44 Roman Road.
Charles’ three siblings were Ellen Kezia Pilley (1886-1934), Edith Eliza Pilley (1889-1956), Caroline Alice Pilley (1892-1925). All were Chelmsford-born.
Charles’ education began at Moulsham Infants School, Moulsham Street from 23rd April 1900 - at the time his parents lived at 44 Roman Road, Chelmsford. When the census took place the following year Charles was aged six and living with his family at the same address. His father was electrical fitter.
A decade later the 1911 census found the family still at the house. Clement, aged 16,
was a clerk at an electrical engineer’s; his father, a fitter also at an electrical engineer’s (Crompton & Company of Chelmsford). Clement’s sister Edith was an upholsterer; another sister, Caroline, was a dressmaker.
Charles enlisted into the army at Chelmsford. He served in the 9th (Service) Battalion of the Essex Regiment as Private 12558 and landed in France on 30th May 1915.
In October 1915 the 9th (Service) Battalion of the Essex Regiment participated in the Battle of Loos, holding positions to the north-west of the town in the Gun Trench-Hulloch Quarries sector. On 8th October 1915 the battalion was at a station, Vermelles Halte under ‘slow continuous fire’, and the following day the majority of the battalion moved to new billets at Noyelles les Vermelles.