Charles Pearson (1879-1914)
Sergeant 16495 48th Heavy Battery
Royal Garrison Artillery
When war was declared at the beginning of August 1914, the British Expeditionary Force were sent to France. Although the force was to expand rapidly, until the end of 1914 the BEF consisted of only about 90,000 men in the field. The Germans had about a million soldiers. Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, who was famously dismissive of the BEF, allegedly issued an order on 19 August 1914 to "exterminate ... the treacherous English and walk over General French's contemptible little army". The survivors of the regular army dubbed themselves "The Old Contemptibles". (No evidence of any such order being issued by the Kaiser has ever been found).
The 48th Heavy Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery went to France on the 18th August, including among its gunners Sergeant Charles Pearson – a regular soldier born in Birmingham.
Heavy Batteries RGA were equipped with 60 pounder (5 inch) guns, sending large calibre high explosive shells in fairly flat trajectory fire*.
The BEF, alongside very large numbers of French soldiers, fought the Battle of Mons, the Battle of Le Cateau, and the First Battle of the Marne. The Germans were denied an easy victory, but at terrible cost. The French official number of dead in the first months of the war was a third of a million, but may have been many more – it was forbidden to discuss the numbers at the time.
The Allied retreat ended at the First Battle of the Marne, where troops made a stand to defend Paris. On 13th September the Allies pushed to the River Aisne, and this was where both sides started to dig trenches – within a few weeks the war had become trench warfare, which was to last for four years.Sergeant Charles Pearson was killed in action on 14th September 1914.
Charles was born in 1879, one of five children of Alfred Pearson, a gas labourer, and his wife Lucy, a labourer’s daughter. The family lived in Alum Rock Road and then Nechells. Charles, aged seventeen, enlisted on 21st September 1896 – in the Royal Regiment of Artillery, part of which became the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1899. Charles’s father Alfred died in 1901, when the family lived in Catherine Street, Aston.
Charles’s service record has not survived – he was stationed in Great Yarmouth in 1911, when he was a Bombardier (Corporal). After his death, Charles’s effects, of just over twenty pounds, were distributed equally between his mother and siblings – this was unusual. His mother Lucy received a later War Gratuity (meant to compensate for loss of income) of £8, by which time she lived at 9, Clent Villas, Taunton Road in Sparkbrook. Her son Isaac, a married man with six children, also served in the artillery, from 1917. Charles Pearson is buried in Vailly British Cemetery in Picardie.