Company Sergeant Major Frederick James Carless DCM died of pneumonia whilst serving with the 1st/5th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers. He was 22 years old.
Fred was born in Birmingham in 1896 and was the fifth of six children. The youngest child, Julia, was born and died in 1898. Parents Joseph Carless (a galvanizer) and Julia Upton (a pen maker) had married in 1889 and set up home in Ladywood, Birmingham.
By the time of the 1901 census, Joseph was a patient in the workhouse infirmary and he died in 1902. It seems that his widow was then unable to support herself and her children and so youngest son, Fred, was admitted to Marston Green Cottage Homes on 22nd October 1902.
By 1911, Fred was back in Birmingham and living with his mother, who was working as a charwoman, and his brother Charles Owen Carless (1891-1983), a brush maker. Charles is known to have served in the Army, as his occupation at the time of his marriage in November 1918 was given as soldier. He appears to have served as a Private in the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry.
The eldest brother, William Joseph (1890-1972), became a solicitor’s clerk before joining the Royal Navy in 1908. By 1911, he was an Able Seaman and he completed 12 years’ service, being discharged in 1920.
We don’t know when Fred joined the Army, but he served first of all with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, receiving the service number 1894, which was subsequently changed to 200239. This suggests he was a member of the Territorial Force, whose four-digit service numbers were changed to six-digit numbers in 1917.
He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in December 1918, with the following citation
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during an enemy counter-attack. When a party of the enemy tried to work round a machine-gun which was stopping their attack, he immediately collected men and charged them, taking ten prisoners and killing the remainder. He then put out posts to protect the gun against further attack. His prompt courage and initiative saved the gun. Throughout the operations he set an admirable example to all.
Frederick James Carless is buried in Charleroi Communal Cemetery, Belgium. He is also commemorated locally on the war memorial of Marston Green Cottage Homes.
If you have any further information, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977