Captain Charles Murchison Bernays, formerly of the Royal Army Medical Corps, died on 6th January 1920 in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Dover, aged 39. His death was attributed to haemorrhage as a result of his having been badly gassed in 1917 whilst on active service. Prior to the outbreak of war, he had been practising as a doctor in Shirley but at the time of his death he was house surgeon at the hospital where he died.
Charles Murchison Bernays was born in Charlton, London in 1880 and was the elder of the two children of Herbert Leopold Bernays (1854-1902), a doctor, and Sarah Jane (née Weston) (1854-1909), who had married in Deptford in 1879.
The Bernays family was of German-Jewish origin, and Charles was the great-grandson of Professor Adolphus Bernays (1794-1864), first professor of German at King’s College London. Adolphus’s elder brother, Isaac Bernays (1792-1849) was Chief Rabbi of Hamburg, and Isaac’s granddaughter, Martha Bernays, (Charles’s 2nd cousin once removed) married Sigmund Freud in Hamburg in 1886.
Charles was educated at the Royal Medical Benevolent College (now Epsom College) in Surrey from 1891 until 1898, having gained a scholarship to the school, which provided a “liberal education” to 100 sons of “duly qualified medical men” for £25 per year.
After leaving school, Charles began his medical training at St Thomas’s Hospital, London on 3rd October 1898 and he entered medical practice in Shirley in 1906. His first cousin once removed, Augustus Vaughan Bernays, had been in Solihull practising as a doctor since about 1885, so this may have influenced Charles’s move to the area.
With Charles’s father having died in 1902, it seems that Charles’s mother and sister moved with him to Shirley. Mrs Bernays died at Ivy Cottage, Stratford Road, Shirley in 1909 and Charles’s sister, Gladys Marjorie Bernays (1881-1951) was living with him at “Rivoli”, Stratford Road, Shirley at the time of the 1911 census.
On the outbreak of war, Charles joined the Army, being gazetted on 2nd November 1914. He first entered a Theatre of War in May 1915 and was Mentioned in Despatches for his work. After being badly gassed in France in 1917, he returned to England and relinquished his commission in September 1918, being granted the honorary rank of Captain. He was awarded the Silver War Badge, and his address at the time was given as Pinewood Sanatorium, Woking, Berkshire.
He was found dead at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Dover, a few minutes before he was due to attend a casualty case. His funeral service was held at St Paul’s Church, Old Charlton, where he had been a chorister for 13 years and where his father had served as churchwarden. He was buried in his parents’ grave at Charlton Cemetery, Greenwich.
Just over a week after Charles’s death, his sister, Gladys, married Norman Hardy at St Marylebone Church, London. Their son, Richard Harry Norman Hardy, known as Dick, was born in Leatherhead, Surrey in 1923 and died in February 2018, aged 94, having had an illustrious career on the railways.
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