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Charles Norwodd

Served with Essex County Constabulary from Feb 1, 1911 and died on Jun 4, 1917.

Charles Norwood was born in Borough, South London in 1890, he was the son of Frederick and Jane Norwood who later moved from London to Hertfordshire. On February 1, 1911, he joined Essex Constabulary as Police Constable 277. He later married Amy and they set up home at 24 Cromwell Road, Southend. On May 31, 1915, Charles volunteered for military service at Shoeburyness Garrison, enlisting with 245th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery serving as Serjeant 122436.

The Royal Garrison Artillery were armed with medium and heavy guns and howitzers, sometimes railway mounted. Their weapons could be equipped with wheeled carriages or with mountings placed directly on the ground. They handled the largest equipment - from the 60 pounder BL gun to the 15 inch BL siege howitzer. Weapons were employed in siege warfare, counter-battery and coast defence and were usually under direct command at division, corps or army level.

245th Siege Battery were equipped with eight 6 inch howitzers and formed part of 6th Brigade (mixed artillery).

Following his enlistment at Shoeburyness Garrison at the end of May 1915, Charles Norwood would have undergone basic training before joining 245th Siege Battery in France. It is probable that he moved into the front line with his comrades as they prepared for the Battle of Loos as part of 1V Corps. The battle took place between September 25 and October 8, 1915, and was the first occasion that the British used gas, sadly causing many casualties to their own side.

6th Brigade were located near to Fosse 5, a large slag heap, just north of South Maroc. This provided an excellent view down the Loos Valley. The location was commonly known to the British soldiers as Artillery Valley.

At the end of the battle on October 8 no significant gains had been made by the British who suffered 43,000 losses against German losses of 20,000.

In his book, Goodbye to All That, Robert Graves sums up the soldier's view of the Battle of Loos "What's happened?" I asked. "Bloody Balls-up." was the most detailed answer I could get.

By June 1917, Charles Norwood and his gun crew had manhandled the heavy guns north to the fields of Flanders and they were in position near Ploegsteert Wood in readiness for the Battle of Messines Ridge. That was to be the opening offensive of the Third Battle of Ypres lasting from June 7 to November 10 that year.

On June 7 the British attacked and captured Messines Ridge and later, after a further attack on July 31, which was followed by 16 weeks of fighting in the hell of mud and rain, the Passchendaele Ridge was won at a cost of 300,000 British losses.

During May, prior to the attack on Messines Ridge, the artillery had assembled 2,266 guns including 756 heavy guns/howitzers along a frontage of 17,000 yards. 144,000 tons of ammunition were dumped in the area for the battle with an additional 120,000 rounds of gas shells.

The Germans became aware of the artillery movement in the Messines Ridge area and during one of their bombardments in Ploegsteert Wood area, prior to the start of the British offensive, gas shells were used. Charles Norwood suffered the effects of the gas attack and died on June 4, 1917, from the injuries that he had received, he was twenty-seven years old. He is buried at Trois Arbres Cemetery, Steenwerk. This had been the location of a casualty clearing station and it is probable that Charles was carried, seriously injured, from the front and that he was treated at the casualty clearing station where he later died. The cemetery is surrounded by fields and is located just outside the village of Steenwerk. The peaceful location is disturbed only by the drone of the motorway that is now located half a mile to the south. The headstone of his grave bears the inscription 'Just his dear memory until we meet again.'

Charles Norwood was described by his commanding officer as 'one of the best sergeants I ever had under my command.'

Violets from Plug Street Wood,
Sweet, I send you oversea.
(It is strange they should be blue,
Blue, when his soaked blood was red,
For they grew around his head;
It is strange they should be blue.)
Lieut. Roland Leighton,
(Died December, 1915.)

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