Alfred James CHARLES

Badge Number: S5873, Sub Branch: Port Pirie

CHARLES, Alfred James

Service Number: 6394
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Sapper
Last Unit: 3rd Field Company Engineers
Born: Silverton, New South Wales, 8 August 1897
Home Town: Norwood, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: telephone mechanic
Died: 1931, cause of death not yet discovered, place of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
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World War 1 Service

20 Mar 1916: Involvement Sapper, SN 6394, 3rd Field Company Engineers
20 Mar 1916: Embarked Sapper, SN 6394, 3rd Field Company Engineers, HMAT Armadale, Sydney
21 Feb 1917: Transferred AIF WW1, Sapper, 3rd Field Company Engineers
17 Jul 1917: Wounded Sapper, SN 6394, 3rd Field Company Engineers
11 Nov 1918: Involvement Sapper, SN 6394

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Biography contributed by Saint Ignatius' College


Alfred Charles was 5 feet and 7 inches tall, weighed 126lbs and was 28 at the time of enlistment. He had light brown hair, blue eyes and a slight limp that was noticeable when walking. Alfred was a Methodist and so was his mother. [1]

Biography of Alfred James Charles

Alfred James Charles was born on the eighth of August, 1897. He was born in Silverton, New South Wales to a mother, father but no siblings. At the age of four, his father died in a mining accident and his mother, a newspaper worker, brought him to South Australia. Though it is not clear what city he moved to at first, Alfred James moved to Norwood with his mother, Kate Charles, when he was 6 years old. In his high school, Alfred Charles joined a cadets program that was a branch of the ADF cadets that originated in England. [2]

At 24 years old, Alfred Charles became a telephone mechanic and became friends with James Coghlan who worked in the same company as him. Alfred and James would later serve in the same field company together in the war. [3]

When Alfred was 27 in 1914, World War 1 started and many of the other mechanics in his company signed up to go to war but it wasn’t until 1915 that Alfred decided to sign up.  At the time Alfred signed up for the army, he was single and still only had his mother as his only next of kin. [4]

Alfred Charles signed up on the 30th of August, 1915, after James Coghlan entered the company engineers the previous month. On the 21st of March, 1916, Alfred embarked on a ship called the ‘HMAT A26 Armadale’ to Alexandria for training to become a 3rd field engineer. While most soldiers trained for more than 5 months before going into battle, Alfred spent only 3 months in Alexandria before heading to England aboard the ‘SSE 8’. [5]

While in England, Alfred entered the 3rd Field Company Engineers, Reinforcement 15 and was granted the rank of ‘Sapper’. On the 21st of February, 1917, the 3rd Field Company Engineers left England and headed to France abroad the ‘SS Briton’. This transfer was because of the lack of engineers in France and because it was very late in the war, there were a lack of soldiers on the front lines as well. In France, the company was given the task of building and fixing bridges, trenches and railways but because of the lack of capable troops, many of the engineers from both Alfred’s and other companies were forced to fight.[6] On the 3rd of Feburary,1919, as the war was ended, Alfred boarded the ‘HT 20’ to return to Australia.[7] It is unclear of what became of Alfred James Charles after his return to Australia but records show that he died in 1931 with no stated reason.

The ANZAC spirt shown by Alfred Charles was determination and courage when entered into war with little training and transferring from a more sheltered site in England to a rapid war zone in France. Alfred did not hesitate to sign up when his friend (James Coghlan) enlisted and was dedicated to his company and his role as an engineer. Alfred also showed great resilience and comradery in France, he assisted the others in his company and stayed to help complete the building of a bridge.[8]