Claud Charles CASTLETON VC

CASTLETON, Claud Charles

Service Number: 1352
Enlisted: 10 March 1915, Liverpool, New South Wales
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: 18th Infantry Battalion
Born: Lowestoff, England, 12 April 1893
Home Town: Sydney, City of Sydney, New South Wales
Schooling: Lowestoff Municipal Secondary School, England
Occupation: School Teacher/Prospector
Died: Killed in Action, Pozieres, France, 29 July 1916, aged 23 years
Cemetery: Pozières British Cemetery
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Keith Payne VC Memorial Park, North Bondi War Memorial, Winchelsea WWI Memorial
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World War 1 Service

10 Mar 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 1352, 18th Infantry Battalion, Liverpool, New South Wales
25 Jun 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 1352, 18th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières , --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '12' embarkation_place: Sydney embarkation_ship: HMAT Ceramic embarkation_ship_number: A40 public_note: ''
25 Jun 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 1352, 18th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ceramic, Sydney
7 Dec 1915: Promoted AIF WW1, Corporal
16 Mar 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Sergeant
14 Dec 1916: Honoured Victoria Cross, 'For most conspicuous bravery. During an attack on the enemy's trenches the infantry was temporarily driven back by the intense machine gun fire opened by the enemy. Many wounded were left in "No Man's Land" lying in shell holes. Sergeant Castleton went out twice in face of this intense fire, and each time brought in a wounded man on his back. He went out a third time, and was bringing in another wounded man, when he himself was hit in the back, and killed instantly. He set a splendid example of courage and self sacrifice.' Source: 'Commonwealth Gazette' No. 184 Date: 14 December 1916

Tribute by 'Magic Fingers'

On this day which commemorates the day of your death, I wanted, Claude, to honor the memory of the man that you were, through these few words which I address to you with my respectful thoughts. you who were so young and already so brave , you have answered the call to duty in the most beautiful spirit of camaraderie with thousands of young men like you who left their families, their friends, their lives behind them to fight under the Australian flag but all united for the same cause, for the fate of the world with your brothers in arms, you have all, with courage, crossed thousands of kilometers and the oceans separating peace from war and death, carrying in your heart, the sun of Australia and the loving thought of your family and friends to give you the strength and courage to move forward on the battlefield and this is what you did with exceptional bravery, you were among the first to be landed in Gallipoli, through a sea reddened with blood of your comrades who fought here with great courage at your side. Then came the time to join the battlefields of the Somme, fields of death which mowed down the life, youth and hopes of so many of your comrades. You become an officer, you faced the hell of the battle of Pozieres, a village devastated by a shower of shells which destroyed everything in their path, transforming the landscape into lunar soil in the apocalypse of the Battle of the Somme transforming the nights into days through the flashes of fire and living in the darkness of the day and yet you fought and served with extraordinary bravery, it is by saving the lives of several of your comrades that you gave your life, on this tragic night of the 29th July 1916 but marked by your courage and your heroism on the battlefield, you have become, in the eyes and hearts of your friends, your men, your family, a hero, a source of inspiration, courage and of pride, not only for your comrades but also for your family, your country and also for us Claude, by your sacrifice, you have given us the chance to live and to know the value of life in a peaceful world and we will be always grateful to you. Today, the French and Australian people, united in a very strong friendship and a deep respect, are united, hand in hand to honor your memory and the memory of all the men who fought and who fell here in the Somme and we will always have in our hearts the memory of all these heroes who, like you, gave their lives, their today for our tomorrow, you will never be forgotten and your name, the names of all your brothers in arms, will live forever through us, through time and through the flame of Remembrance that will always shine. Thank you Claude, from the bottom of my heart. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember him, we will remember them.🌺

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Biography contributed by Geoffrey Gillon

Son of Thomas Charles CASTLETON and Edith Lucy nee Payne of 18 Wilson Road South, Lowestoft

Bio by 'magic fingers'

Born in 1893 and raised in Suffolk, England, at the age of nineteen he set off on his intended ‘great adventure’ which would see him reach Australia in 1912, where he would work at various jobs before finding himself prospecting for gold in New Guinea in order to pay for his journey home to England.  News from Europe was grim, however, and on the outbreak of war he joined the Australian Force in New Guinea tasked with the defence of the area against German naval activity, before returning to Australia and enlisting in the A.I.F. in Sydney in March 1915.  Posted to 18th Bn, three months later he was aboard HMAT A40 Ceramic bound for Egypt, arriving on 24th July, and within the month the battalion embarked for Gallipoli, where they disembarked on 20th August and were initially placed in reserve.  On 21st August the assault on Hill 60 (the one on Gallipoli, not the one near Ypres) began, and 18th Bn. would receive their baptism of fire the following day, the troops going over the top with bombs and bayonets only, or in the case of 18th Bn., bayonets only, as they had yet to be issued with bombs!  A second major Australian assault on the hill on 27th August would also fail to dislodge the Turkish defenders, but by then 380 of the 750 men from 18th Bn. who had taken part in the attack were casualties, and half of them were dead.  Not so Claud Castleton, who survived the attack intact, but was subsequently evacuated from the Gallipoli suffering from dysentery.  He would return to the peninsula as a corporal in early December, but following the Allied evacuation in January 1916 he was once again hospitalised, this time with malaria.

In early March 1916 he was transferred to 5th Australian Machine Gun Company and promoted once more, embarking for France as a sergeant later in the month.  The Battle of the Somme would begin on 1st July, and the village of Pozières would fall on 23rd of the month, but the ridge to the north of the village was still controlled by the Germans who had the new British front line under constant observation and bombardment.  On the evening of 27th July the Australians readied themselves for action; unfortunately for them, the Germans on the ridge watched them doing so, and even before the attack began just after midnight had unleashed a devastating artillery bombardment on the Australian lines, machine guns spitting fire at the trench parapets all along the line.  The Australians were cut down as they clambered out of their trenches, or if they survived that, as they attempted to cross No Man’s Land.  Pinned down, unable to advance or withdraw, the Australians waited for the bombardment to ease, which it eventually did, just before dawn, allowing some troops to at last retreat, but leaving many wounded out in No Man’s Land.

In the evening Claud Castleton, once again a survivor, began his mission to save his comrades.  Crawling out into No Man’s Land, and still under intense machine gun fire, he retrieved the first wounded man, bringing him back to the Australian trenches before venturing out for a second time, and once again bringing in a wounded Australian.  His third venture would be his last; finding a third casualty, he was shot in the back whilst bringing the man back to the trenches and killed, and for these actions he would later be awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.  Originally buried somewhere to the south of the Albert-Bapaume road, near to where he gave his life, his body was recovered after the war and reburied here.  His citation, published in the London Gazette on 26th September 1916, reads; “For most conspicuous bravery.  During an attack on the enemy’s trenches the infantry was temporarily driven back by the intense machine gun fire opened by the enemy.  Many wounded were left in “No Man’s Land” lying in shell holes. Serjeant Castleton went out twice in face of this intense fire and each time brought in a wounded man on his back.  He went out a third time and was bringing in another wounded man when he was himself hit in the back and killed instantly.  He set a splendid example of courage and self-sacrifice.”  And indeed he did.