Gunner Charles Henry Howe died on 5th June 1917 whilst serving with D Battery, 242nd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. Soldiers Died in the Great War indicates that he was born in Balsall, but the City of Coventry Roll of Honour gives his place of birth as Woolwich, and his date of birth as 11th December 1886.
Charles was the third of the five children born to parents Edward and Eliza (née Escott) who had married at Holy Trinity, Exeter on 15th December 1872. Edward’s occupation was listed as a Driver with the Royal Horse Artillery. He was born in Coventry but had joined the Army in 1866, at the age of 18, giving his occupation as a painter (out of employment).
Edward’s service record (available on Find My Past free of charge from Solihull library computers) notes his marriage and indicates that it took place “without leave”, meaning that he didn’t obtain permission from his commanding officer before getting married. However, it doesn’t appear to have affected his military service – he served for a further 15 years and his character on discharge in 1887 was recorded as “Very Good”.
He served in India from January 1868 until April 1871, and from January 1873 until February 1886. He also took part in the Second Anglo-Afghan War in 1880, receiving a silver medal for long service and good conduct. Edward and Eliza’s two eldest children were both born in Bombay (now Mumbai) – Kate Mary (born 28th May 1878) and Arthur William (born 3rd December 1883).
In February 1886, Edward returned to England, being stationed at Woolwich until his discharge from the Army in September 1887 after more than 20 years’ service. Whilst at Woolwich, his son Charles was born on 11th December 1886, and his daughter, Prudence Maud (known as Maud), on 22nd February 1889. By 1891, the family had returned to Edward’s birthplace of Coventry and were living in Spon Street, where Edward was listed variously as a general labourer and a machinist. His youngest child, Lily Eliza, was born in Coventry on 15th September 1891.
By 1901, Edward was working in the cycle trade as were his three older children – Kate (22) was a cycle spoke maker, Arthur (18) was a cycle pedal pin turner, whilst Charles (14) was a cycle polisher. Edward died, aged 55, in 1903 and, by 1911, his widow, Eliza, was still in Coventry, living with her son, Charles, a 24-year-old cycle frame builder, and daughter Maud, a 22-year-old tyre fitter in the cycle trade.
In 1913, Charles married Ethel Fardon at Coventry and they set up home in Kenilworth Road, Berkswell. Charles was working for Coventry cycle manufacturing company, Rudge Whitworth, but enlisted in November 1914, just three months after the outbreak of war. Charles and Ethel had two sons, Edward William (1913-1964) and Charles Henry (born and died 1915).
Charles was killed in action on 5th June 1917 and is buried at St Quentin Cabaret Military Cemetery, Belgium. He is also commemorated locally on Berkswell war memorial.
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