Private Charles Pearce

Date of Birth c. 1890
Age at Death 27
Date of Death 17 October 1917
Service Number 2962
Military Service 59th Battalion Australian Infantry
Merton Address
Local Memorial Rutlish School, Merton

Additional Information

Charles Pearce was the son Antonette Smith and Harry Pearce, he was born at St Pancras in London in 1890. Very little is known of his early life in England.

The 1901 Census reveals that 11 year old Charles was living with his mother Antonette and step father Sydney Smith in Wandsworth South London.

Charles immigrated to Australia in his early 20’s. There is a record of a 20 year old Charles Pearce who immigrated to Sydney on the Moldavia from London in March 1908.

0n the 24th August 1916, 27 year old Charles enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces, his enlistment papers reveal that he was 5ft 8ins tall, he weighed 134lbs, his complexion was described was dark with dark brown hair and brown eyes. He was employed as a tram conductor, living with his wife at 11 Renny Street in Paddington, Sydney NSW. His service record shows that he served with the Military Provost Staff at Liverpool for 150 days before it was disbanded.
Charles was posted to France on the 23rd March 1917. 0n the 17th July, he served with the Corps Pigeon School before re-joining his battalion 3 days later. A month before Charles died; his service record reveals that he spent 10 days in hospital with Synovitis of his knee.

Charles Pearce was killed in action on the 17th 0ctober 1917. He was buried on the 25th 0ctober 1917. His name is commemorated on the Menin Gate.

His will left his estate to his wife Edith Violet, who resided at ‘Glenrock’, The Avenue, Brighton-le-Sands, NSW.
His widow received a Memorial Plaque (Widow’s Penny) on the 23rd April 1923.

The Menin Gate is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient. Broadly speaking, the Salient stretched from Langemarck in the north to the northern edge in Ploegsteert Wood in the south, but it varied in area and shape throughout the war.
The Salient was formed during the First Battle of Ypres in October and November 1914, when a small British Expeditionary Force succeeded in securing the town before the onset of winter, pushing the German forces back to the Passchendaele Ridge. The Second Battle of Ypres began in April 1915 when the Germans released poison gas into the Allied lines north of Ypres. This was the first time gas had been used by either side and the violence of the attack forced an Allied withdrawal and a shortening of the line of defence.
There was little more significant activity on this front until 1917, when in the Third Battle of Ypres an offensive was mounted by Commonwealth forces to divert German attention from a weakened French front further south. The initial attempt in June to dislodge the Germans from the Messines Ridge was a complete success, but the main assault north-eastward, which began at the end of July, quickly became a dogged struggle against determined opposition and the rapidly deteriorating weather. The campaign finally came to a close in November with the capture of Passchendaele.
The German offensive of March 1918 met with some initial success, but was eventually checked and repulsed in a combined effort by the Allies in September.
Having seen some of the heaviest fighting in the First World War, Ypres was in ruins. The Town Major of Ypres Henry Beckles Willson described it as ‘holy ground’ and felt the area should not be rebuilt but remain a memorial. However, this was not to be and the town was rebuilt.
The battles of the Ypres Salient claimed many lives on both sides and it quickly became clear that the commemoration of members of the Commonwealth forces with no known grave would have to be divided between several different sites. The site of the Menin Gate was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields.


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