Sergeant Charlie Raven, 10364, 1st Battalion, Prince of Wales's Own (West Yorkshire) Regiment.
Charlie Raven was born on the 6th of August 1892, one of eight children born to policeman John William Raven (born 1859 in Kings Lynn, Norfolk) and his wife Emma (nee Elvin) who had married on the 18th March 1884 in Market Rasen, Lincolnshire. All eight of the Raven children were born in Barnsley, one child Fred Raven died aged 5½ months in 1886.
John William Raven had joined the police force on the 13th November 1882 and, after serving his probationary period in Wakefield, he was sent to Barnsley where he remained until 1896. He was then transferred to Eccleshill, remaining there until November 1899. From there he was transferred to the Dewsbury area and was stationed at Ossett until 1903 when he was transferred to the Halifax Division.
When he retired on New Year's Eve 1907, John William Raven had served as a police officer for 25 years. He worked as a postman after his retirement. Later he was a member of the First Reserve, and in 1914 he resumed active duty for a short time guarding waterworks at Denshaw, Saddleworth. He died on the 1st June 1937 aged 79 years.
Charlie Raven was 2½ years old when he was baptised at St Paul's Old Town Church, Barnsley on New Year's Eve, 1894. He lived at Ryecroft Street in Ossett from the age of three until he was about ten. The Raven family then went to live in Brighouse at 7, Hardy Street, where they were in 1911.
In civilian life Charlie Raven was a pattern box labourer, employed at Brookfoot Dye Works in Brighouse. At St. Mathew's Church, Rastrick, under special licence, he married Ida Summerscales of Coronation Street, Greetland on the 23rd June 1917.
At the time of their marriage, Charlie was a patient at Longroyd Hospital in Rastrick which was a mansion house converted into a military hospital. Other wounded soldiers attending the ceremony used their crutches to form an archway for the bride and groom.
Charlie's army service record doesn't appear to have survived, but there is evidence (from his service number) that he enlisted in August 1914, shortly after Britain declared war on Germany. He was sent to France on the 28th December 1914 as part of the regular army, 1st Battalion, Prince of Wales's Own (West Yorkshire Regiment) who were part of the 18th Brigade in the 6th Division.
Private Charlie Raven spent his first few months in the army between January and May 1915 in the flooded trenches in Armentières and Le Touquet. There was no fighting, but constant casualties from German snipers and from sickness. In June 1915, the battalion moved to the Ypres sector and took part in the first attack on Bellewaarde (Battle of the Hooge). The battalion eventually marched to the Somme area in August 1916 after a long period in the trenches at Ypres.
Charlie attained the rank of Serjeant with his regiment and will have seen much action during the Battles of Flers–Courcelette and Morval in September 1916 then the Battle of Loos in 1917. By May 1918, the 1st Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment were once again in the trenches in the Bedford House Sector at Ypres. They were relieved on the 24th/25th May by the 2nd Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment and moved into reserve position.
On the 7th June 1918, the battalion marched to St. Omer, then to Cormette Camp, west of St. Omer. On the 12th of June 1918, the battalion marched to St. Omer and on to Rainsford Camp. However, 7 officers and 97 other ranks were left behind at Cormette because they were too ill to march with the battalion. Serjeant Charlie Raven was one of the soldiers who were left behind, probably suffering from Spanish Flu and then pneumonia.1 In Britain, the disease was called the 'Flanders flu' because many soldiers became infected in the trenches of Flanders.
Twice he was wounded, but it was pneumonia, contracted on active service, that eventually killed Charlie Raven.
He was 25 years old when he died at 26th General Hospital in Étaples, France on the 19th June 1918 at the age of 25 years. Ida returned to her family home in Greetland where, after the death of her mother in 1928, she took care of her father and his house.
Above: Sergeant Charlie Raven was awarded British and Victory Medals and the 1915 Star, as shown on his medal card. He entered service in France on the 28th December 1914.
Sergeant Charlie Raven is buried at Plot LXVI. F. 2. at Étaples Military Cemetery, France. Étaples is a town about 27 kilometres south of Boulogne. The Military Cemetery is to the north of the town, on the west side of the road to Boulogne.
During the First World War, the area around Étaples was the scene of immense concentrations of Commonwealth reinforcement camps and hospitals. It was remote from attack, except from aircraft, and accessible by railway from both the northern or the southern battlefields. In 1917, 100,000 troops were camped among the sand dunes and the hospitals, which included eleven general, one stationary, four Red Cross hospitals and a convalescent depot, could deal with 22,000 wounded or sick. In September 1919, ten months after the Armistice, three hospitals and the Q.M.A.A.C. convalescent depot remained. The cemetery contains 10,771 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, the earliest dating from May 1915. 35 of these burials are unidentified.
Étaples Military Cemetery also contains 662 Non Commonwealth burials, mainly German, including 6 unidentified. There are also now 5 Non World War service burials here.
The cemetery, the largest Commission cemetery in France, was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Serjeant Charlie Raven is not remembered on the Ossett War Memorial, although his younger brother Private George Frederick Raven was quietly added in August 2022. It is hoped that Charlie Raven will be honoured alongside his brother on the town's memorial in due course in recognition of time he lived in Ossett with his family.
My thanks to Anne-Marie Fawcett for her research on the Raven family.
Further researched and written in April 2023 by Stephen Wilson for ossett.net, the first established and only Ossett history website with original, non-plagiarised and accurate content.
1. 1st Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment War Diaries