CHARLES WILLIAM WOODHATCH
52nd (GRADUATED) BATTALION, BEDFORDSHIRE REGIMENT
DIED OF ILLNESS WHILST STATIONED IN NORFOLK
29th MAY 1918, AGED 19
BURIED: NORTH EAST SECTION OF HOLY TRINITY CHURCHYARD, RUDGWICK,
CHARLES WILLIAM WOODHATCH (known as Charlie), was born in Alfold on 20th March 1899, the only child of Charles and Sophie Woodhatch (nee Sophia Worsfold). In 1901 the family were living at Greenhirst, Tismans Common, Rudgwick, where Charles senior was a carter on a farm. By 1911 they had moved to Bush Croft Cottage, Ends Place, Warnham.
Charlie became eligible for service under the Military Service Acts of 1916 when he reached the age of 18. He enlisted at on 20th March 1917, was called up for service on 20th April 1917 and mobilised on 24th April 1917. Charlie attested at Chichester the following day. He gave his home address as Bay Cottage, Tismans Common, and occupation as 'farm carter'.
During his initial medical at Chichester it was discovered that Charlie presented an unusual sound to percussion tests either side of his sternum. He was referred to a specialist who was of the opinion that he had previously suffered bronchitis. He therefore was accepted for service and became Private TR/9/10503 of the 27th Training Reserve Battalion.
In 1915 Reserve Battalions were formed from the New Army Service Battalions with the aim of supplying the front line Service Battalions with reinforcements. One hundred and forty three Reserve Battalions were organised into twenty four Reserve Brigades. In 1916 it was found that the introduction of conscription was flooding the Reserve Battalions, and therefore the Training Reserve was formed with the express purpose of training and dispatching recruits as drafts to the front. The 143 Reserve battalions lost their regimental alliances and became 112 numbered Battalions of the Training Reserve. The 27th Training Reserve Battalion had been created from the 10th (Reserve) Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment on 1st September 1916, and had been at Dovercourt (near Harwich, Essex) as part of the 6th Reserve Brigade.
Charlie proceeded to Dovercourt to undertake basic training, but on 2nd May 1917 was admitted to the military hospital in Dovercourt suffering from asthma.
In 1917 the Training Reserve was once again reorganised. In May, a number of Reserve Battalions were designated 'Young Soldier Battalions'. These battalions took in and trained soldiers aged 18 years and one month. After completing basic training the young soldiers were posted in Company strength to 'Graduated Battalions', which had been formed from other Reserve Battalions. The Graduated Battalions were linked in pairs to the Young Soldier Battalions, and were used for Home Service while the soldiers within the Battalion finished their recruit training. Charlie's battalion, the 27th Training Reserve Battalion, became the 252nd Training Battalion, his transfer date being 19th September 1917.
On 27 October 1917, the Graduated and Young Soldier Battalions were affiliated to 23 Infantry Regiments. The Battalions were numbered 51st and 52nd for the Graduated Battalions and 53rd for the Young Soldier Battalion. Charlie, therefore, became a member of 'B' Company, 52nd (Graduated) Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment. In February 1918 the battalion moved from Colchester, where it was a member of 213th Brigade, 71st Division, to Norfolk where it joined 193rd Brigade, 64th (2nd) Highland) Division.
On 27th February 1918 Charlie was admitted to the Norfolk War (General) Hospital at Thorpe, Norwich with advanced tuberculosis. At the start of March 1918 the hospital placed him on the 'dangerously ill' list, and on 29th May 1918 Charlie died of pulmonary tuberculosis.
His body was brought home to Rudgwick and laid to rest in the churchyard of the Holy Trinity Church. The Commonwealth War Graves Register notes that he was the "Son of Mr. C. Woodhatch, late of The Laurels, Bucks Green, Rudgwick."
Soldier's Personal Records.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission