Joseph Henry CHARLES

CHARLES, Joseph Henry

Service Number: 3391
Enlisted: 4 November 1916
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 41st Infantry Battalion
Born: Gracemere, Queensland, Australia, date not yet discovered
Home Town: Longreach, Longreach, Queensland
Schooling: Longreach Convent School, Queensland, Australia
Occupation: Cordial Maker
Died: Killed in Action, France, 4 April 1918, age not yet discovered
Cemetery: Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Brisbane 41st Battalion Roll of Honour, Longreach War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

4 Nov 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 49th Infantry Battalion
24 Jan 1917: Involvement Private, 3391, 49th Infantry Battalion
24 Jan 1917: Embarked Private, 3391, 49th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ayrshire, Sydney
4 Apr 1918: Involvement Private, 3391, 41st Infantry Battalion

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Biography contributed by John Phelan

Private Joseph Henry Charles

Killed in Action

4 April 1918

41st Australian Infantry Battalion

Joe Charles was a friend of Daniel Devery.  Joe came from Longreach and attended the Longreach Convent School.  It’s not known whether they knew each other prior to enlisting but it’s likely that they formed a friendship based on their shared backgrounds - both coming from the Central West of Queensland and their Catholic religion.  They both travelled from Australia on the ship Ayrshire to England. Joe Charles was originally with the reinforcements of the 49th Battalion but actually joined the 41st Battalion, the same battalion as Daniel Devery. 

On 3 April 1918 the 41st Battalion had formed a defensive position in the vicinity of Sailly-le-Sec.  Joe and Daniel worked in the Battalion signals which meant that they operated telephones, carried written signals by foot or by motorbike.  On the 3rd of April 1918 their company was holding the line in front of Sailly-le-Sec and Joe and Daniel were tasked to deliver a message that night.  On their return they became disorientated and wandered in No Man’s Land for 6 hours, finally finding their position at 3 am.  They then worked for the next 6 hours to dig ‘dugouts’ and went to bed at 9am.  An hour later Daniel was woken up to help dig Joe out of his dugout as it had fallen in on him. It’s not clear if that was due to enemy shelling or simply that the earth collapsed.  They worked on him for an hour – presumably in the resuscitation technique of the day before recognising that he could not be brought back to life.

Daniel’s diary records that Joe Charles was buried in the field that night.  We know that at some point he was disinterred from the Vaux Cemetery and reburied at the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery.  Before leaving Australia, Joseph Charles applied for 10 days leave, six days of which would be spent travelling, to return to Longreach. His reasons were stated as “To see all relatives and being the only son, I might never see them again as well as fixing up my shares in the cordial company which I cannot possibly do in the time allowed.”  Sources, NAA Records, AWM Roll of Honour Circular, copy of diary of Daniel Devery (not published -provided by descendents)