BELCHER, Charles

Service Number: 10316
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Gunner
Last Unit: 2nd Field Artillery Brigade
Born: Not yet discovered
Home Town: Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Not yet discovered
Died: Illness, France, 18 January 1917, age not yet discovered
Cemetery: Quarry Cemetery, Montauban
Quarry Cemetery, Montauban, Picardie, France
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

5 Jan 1916: Involvement Gunner, SN 10316, 2nd Field Artillery Brigade
5 Jan 1916: Embarked Gunner, SN 10316, 2nd Field Artillery Brigade , HMAT Afric, Melbourne
18 Jan 1917: Involvement Gunner, SN 10316

Constable Charles Belcher† 6041

Seymour Police Station, Victoria
First of four sons of Thomas Belcher and Frances Sarah Hill Hatfield, Charles Belcher was born 3 January 1885 at Melbourne, Victoria. Thirty-four years of age, Thomas, died at Fitzroy in 1887.
Belonging to the 7th Battalion Senior School Cadets in Melbourne whilst receiving a state school education, Charles Belcher is recorded as having served 5 years in Australian Navy aboard HMS "Psyche" and "Challenger".
Joining the Victoria Police Force on 28 October 1914, 29 years of age, labourer, Chares Belcher was appointed to Russell Street Police Station on 1 December 1914 for foot duty, before being seconded to Cobram in January 1915 for two months temporary duty.
Returning to Melbourne, Charlie Belcher was sent to Seymour on 1 July 1915 to be discharged four days later ‘on resignation to join the AIF’ with the right of reinstatement ‘if fit for duty on return provided he was well conducted whilst away’.
As a First Class Sergeant, James Lambden was in charge at Seymour [1906-1915], two sons, Gilbert Herbert Lambden, together with George Alma Lambden enlisted in the AIF, the former in August 1914, the latter in 1916. Securing the ‘in charge’ at Echuca, James Lambden was replaced by Arthur Brook, whose son Arthur junior, was killed in action at Amiens, France on 27 June 1918.
Also stationed at Seymour was Mounted Constable Thomas Gunn 6522 who resigned eight days before Charlie Belcher to enlist in the AIF; many factors and personalities may have influenced Charlie Belcher to follow, including a keen sense of duty.
The first policemen to enlist were discharged from the force by compulsory resignation; paid in full; instructed to return their kits; requested to pay the increased life insurance premiums in advance from their own pocket; as well as suffering a reduction in pay of as much as 5s 2d per day. Deciding, in 1915, the positions of enlisting policemen would be held open; they would simply be regarding as being ‘on leave’.
Assigned to the 2nd Division Field Artillery, 13th Reinforcement, Charlie Belcher embarked from Melbourne aboard HMAT A19 Afric on 5 January 1916.
Arriving in Cairo, Egypt, on 10 February 1916, 179 cm [5’10¾”] Charlie Belcher was taken on strength by 1st Division Artillery Column No 3 Division; mid March saw him a member of 25th Howitzer Brigade at Tel-El-Kabir, whilst on 16 June 1916 he proceeded from Alexandria to Marseilles, France. Charlie was transferred to the 114th Battery on 7 July 1916; three weeks later he was further transferred to the 5th Division [V5] Heavy Trench Mortar Battery, being involved in the disastrous attack at Fromelles in July.
By the time the first Australian troops from 1 ANZAC Corps reached France from Egypt, on 19 March 1916, the war on the Western Front had already degenerated into a muddy, bloody, stalemate. The dramatic sweeping movements of the early weeks of the war had long since disappeared. Things first slowed down, then bogged down irretrievably as both sides searched for opportunities and places to break the deadlock.
The 5th Division, the most inexperienced of the Australian divisions in France, was the first to see major action, doing so in the Battle of Fromelles, a week after going into the trenches. As the Germans had been reinforcing their Somme front with troops from the north, the British planned a demonstration, or feint, to try to pin these troops to the front.
The battle resulted in the greatest loss of Australian lives in a single 24-hour period. The 5,533 Australian casualties, including 400 prisoners, were equivalent to the total Australian losses in the Boer, Korean and Vietnam Wars combined. The 5th Division was effectively incapacitated for many months afterwards.
Following the battle, the division remained in the line around Armentieres for several months. As a result of its losses the 5th Division's effectiveness was greatly reduced and it was not considered "fit for offensive action for many months".
Admitted to hospital on 11 August 1916, suffering from furnunculosis - a deep infection of the hair follicle leading to abscess formation with accumulation of pus and necrotic tissue [boils], Charlie Belcher rejoined his unit on 1 September 1916.
Thirty-two years of age, Constable Charles Belcher 6041, whilst serving his country as Gunner Charles Belcher 10316, during the bleak, freezing European winter of 1917, fell into eternal sleep in his tent ‘In the Field, France’, on Thursday 18 January 1917 to be buried in Quarry Cemetery, Mountauban-de-Picardie, Somme, France. Whether a Court of Enquiry was held to establish the cause of his death has not been established.
Similarities in the respective ages at death of father Thomas, 34 years of age, and son, Charles, suggests the answer may lie in a genetic condition.
Step-sister, Anastasia O’Brien received the British War Medal, together with the Victory Medal on behalf of Charles ‘Charlie’ Belcher at the Victoria Barracks, Melbourne on 18 April 1923.

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