Charles Richard Butler and Herbert Butler

Charles Richard Butler and Herbert Butler
Herbert and Charles were stepbrothers. Herbert, born in 1884, was the youngest in a family of four boys and two girls. His mother, Anne, died in 1886 aged 43yrs when Herbert was a year old. Their father James was originally a journeyman boot maker living at 12 Crown Street, St Ives. By 1891 the family were living at 12 The Broadway, St Ives. Later that year James married Elizabeth Gautrey.

By 1901 the family were living in The Broadway, St Ives. They'd probably moved to larger premises; they certainly needed more room. James and Lizzie had four sons. Charles was the eldest of the four, born in 1893. James also had three of his children from the previous marriage still living with him. This included Herbert, working as a rural postman aged 16yrs. James and Lizzie had a further two sons, one of whom died in infancy in 1909.

Charles Butler
By 1911 Charles was working at home in The Broadway as a boot maker with his father. His younger brother Frank was also in the same work.

In August 1914 Charles joined the Hunts Cyclists. For a period he was allocated to coastal duties in the north east. Probably in 1915 he was transferred to 1st/5th Service Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. They had suffered heavy casualties and saw a large influx of new blood in that year. Charles took part in the Battle of the Somme, which started in July 1916. For five months the British and French armies fought the Germans in a brutal battle of attrition along a fifteen mile front, with one million dead and wounded on both sides.

Charles fought in the Battle of Pozières Ridge. From 23 July 1916 British and Australian Divisions struggled to capture an important German defensive position located on the highest point of the Somme battlefield. In forty days of fighting the British advanced at most one mile.

Pozières battlefield
The remains of a wood on the battlefield at Pozières
Having captured the position, further attempts were made to gain more ground. It was in one of these engagements that Charles was missing in action on Saturday 19 August 1916. His parents were aware that Charles was unaccounted for, as reported in the Hunts Post on 15 September 1916. He was then notified as wounded on 29 September 1916. It was more than two years later, as reported in the Hunts Post on 4 October 1918, that Charles was presumed killed in action on 19 August 1916 "or since". He was aged 23yrs.

He is buried at Serre Road Cemetery Number 2 in France, his body having been identified some time after October 1918. Examination of his Burial Return (see links below) explains why there was a delay. He is listed amongst British soldiers whose only identification is their regiment. It appears Charles' surname and first regiment were initially identified from the disc worn around his neck, with his first name, service number and current regiment following after some research.

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Herbert Butler
Herbert married Eva Fox at Caxton in 1908. In 1910 a son, George Herbert, was born. The family were living at 2 Orchard Terrace, St Ives in 1911. Herbert was still employed as a postman.

When Herbert signed up for the Hunts Cyclists is uncertain. He died on the same day in the same battle as Percy Byatt, fighting for the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment. They would at the very least have been acquaintances, so possibly they followed the same route to France. If so, Herbert survived the horror of the Battle of the Somme in the latter half of 1916.

In 1917 Herbert took part in the Battle of Arras. At 4.45am on Monday 23 April 1917 German positions in front of La Coulotte were attacked. The Bedfordshires managed to capture trenches, battling through uncut wire, but came under heavy machine gun fire. The situation was so hopeless the commanding officer, Lt Colonel P R Worrall, requested permission to withdraw. This was refused. It was during this engagement that Herbert was killed in action, aged 32yrs.

La Coulotte
Little remained of La Coulotte after the battle
The news of his death would certainly have been confusing for his wife and family. In the Hunts Post on the 18 May 1917 a letter to his wife from a colleague states he was wounded on the 28 April 1917, another letter mentions the 21 April 1917. Either way, it appears he was lightly wounded but unable to return to the British trenches with his colleagues, and was left behind in no man's land in a shell hole. He was never heard of again, has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial, France.

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