Christopher Edward Saltmarsh was born and brought up in Moulsham. After working as an errand boy he served seven years in the army before the war. Back in Chelmsford he worked for the National Steam Car Company. As a reservist he was recalled to the army at the outbreak of the war in August 1914. Within three weeks he was killed in action at the Battle of Mons. His home was in Lower Anchor Street. A nephew was also killed during the war.

Christopher was born in Chelmsford on Christmas Eve 1887, the son of (George) Walter Saltmarsh and Sarah Saltmarsh (nee Dockrill). He was baptised at St. John’s Church, Moulsham on 5th May 1888, at which point his father was a labourer of 27 Upper Bridge Row (now ‘Road’), Chelmsford. Christopher’s father had been born in Chelmsford in 1842; his mother c1848, also in Chelmsford.

The couple had married at Chelmsford in 1865, and in 1871 had been resident in an unnumbered house on the east side of Moulsham Street, Chelmsford; in 1881 they had been resident at 34 Bridge Row, Chelmsford (now Upper Bridge Road).

Christopher was baptised at St. John’s Church, Moulsham on 5th May 1888. At the time his father was a labourer, resident at 27 Upper Bridge Road, Chelmsford (later renumbered).

Christopher’s siblings, all born in Chelmsford, included Walter John Dockrill Saltmarsh (1863-1927). Alice Saltmarsh (born in 1865 and baptised at St. John’s, Moulsham on 5th August 1865 when her father was a butcher of New Writtle Street, died 1939), Charles William Saltmarsh (1867-1942), (William) James Saltmarsh (1869-1914), Ada Saltmarsh (born in 1872), Ellen Saltmarsh (born in 1874), Minnie Maria Saltmarsh (1877-1933), Agnes Eliza Saltmarsh (1879-1881), Elizabeth Rose Saltmarsh (baptised at St. John’s Church, Moulsham on 4th March 1882, died 1889), Daisy Louisa Saltmarsh (born in 1884 and baptised at St. John’s Church, Moulsham on 6th March 1886, died 1954).

In 1891 the census found three year-old Christopher with his parents and two elder sisters remaining at their 1881 home, then known as 34 Bridge Road. At the time his father was a brickfield labourer, an occupation he had held in 1871.

Christopher was educated at Moulsham Infants School in Moulsham Street, Chelmsford from 7th September 1891 to 22nd January 1894. The school admission records show his address as 34 Upper Bridge Road.

The 1901 census found 13 year-old Christopher working as baker’s errand boy and living with his parents and a lodger at 20 Lower Anchor Street, Chelmsford (subsequently renumbered as 24 and later demolished). His father, now 58, was still employed as a brickyard labourer.

A decade later the 1911 census recorded Christopher’s parents and brother James still at the same property. His father had by then retired. Meanwhile Christopher had joined the army at Warley and was to spend the majority of his seven-year tour of duty abroad.


Private, 4th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers

The 1911 census recorded him, aged 24 and serving as a Private in the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers at Vacoas in Mauritius. He subsequently left the army and returned to Chelmsford, working for the National Steam Car Company, but as a reservist he was recalled to the army at the outbreak of the war, serving in the 4th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, a regular army battalion. The battalion was at Parkhurst in the Isle of Wight at the declaration of war on 4th August 1914. It was mobilised within four days and was one of the first units of the British Expeditionary Force to cross to the Western Front, landing at Le Havre, France on 13th August 1914, with some 734 reservists embodied. Christopher served as Private L/11023. The battalion then crossed northern France and entered Belgium, ready to await the advancing Germans who were sweeping through from the east.

On 23rd August 1914 Christopher’s battalion was positioned along the Mons-Condé canal between Condé and Binche in front of Mons in Belgium when it clashed with the German army for the first time, in what became known as the Battle of Mons - the first major engagement between the two armies of the war. During the day Christopher was killed in action, one of more than 150 casualties the battalion suffered. He was aged 27. By mid afternoon Mons was abandoned and the British army began its retreat to Le Cateau.

The Essex County Chronicle of 2nd October 1914 provided further detail on his life:

“Pt. Christopher Saltmarsh, of the 3rd Royal Fusiliers, who was the main support of his aged parents, of Anchor Street, Chelmsford, was killed in action. Intimation of the sad event was received from the War Office on Saturday. The deceased, who was a Reservist, called up at the beginning of the war, saw all the fighting at Mons. He had been employed at the National Steam Car Works at Chelmsford, and was a popular man with his workmates. While with the colours he served seven years abroad, mostly in India. A brother of his [William James] went through the South African campaign in the Essex Regiment without a scratch, but died about six months ago.”

The same day’s Essex Weekly News reported:

“Pte. C. Saltmarsh, Royal Fusiliers, who was killed in action on September 23. was called up as a Reservist at the commencement of the war. For the past three or four years he had been employed at the National Steam Car Works, Chelmsford, where he was a capital workman and very popular. Saltmarsh was the chief support of his mother, who lives at 24, Lower Anchor-street.”

Christopher has no known grave and is commemorated at La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial in Seine-et-Marne, France, and on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford. He may also be the E. Saltmarsh commemorated on the Moulsham Parish Memorial, at St. John’s Church.

Christopher’s father died on 29th August 1915 aged 73. His mother is thought to have died early in 1917; his brother James, early in 1914. His nephew, Arthur Saltmarsh, also lost his life in the First World War and is commemorated on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford. Arthur’s nephew, by coincidence another Christopher Edward Saltmarsh, lost his life in the Second World War.