Date of Death:27/12/1916
Memorial: Thiepval Memorial
Panel Ref:Pier&Face 10B,11B or 12B.
Charles Butterworth was born in Royton's Heyside district in 1885.His parents were William and Hannah and siblings Charles,Hannah & Albert. The family later lived on Cambridge Street. In 1906 Charles married Clara Barratt at St.Matthew's in Chadderton. The couple then lived with Clara's family at Westfield Street,Chadderton. At some point between 1911 and 1913 they moved to Charles' childhood street of Cambridge Street back in Royton. Together they had five children - William,Sarah Anne, May, Hannah Jane & Clara. Living next door to them was the Shaw family, whose eldest child Robert was killed in 1914. Charles worked at the Bee Mill as a mule minder.
Charles enlisted in June 1915 at Ashton-under-Lyne, and fairly soon found himself out at Gallipoli as a reinforcement for the 11th Battalion Manchester Regiment. He reached them on October 25th.The 11th Manchesters had been at Gallipoli since August 6th, Royton man John William Buckley had been killed the following day. Another local casualty was James Edwin Wild who had died of his wounds in hospital in Gibraltar. Thee were just two of the many casualties by the time Charles joined them (with a total of 172 men killed during their spell at Gallipoli) and they were not to take place in any significant actions after he had done so. The unit had also been in very ill health and their water supply was recorded as being very bad.
On November 26th a thunderstorm washed away dugouts and flooded trenches. The men were soaked through and then on top of that the following days were bitterly cold and wet. Three days later a howling blizzard struck followed by a hard frost. The battalion suffered throughout and over 200 men were hospitalised through frostbite and hypothermia. 23 men were discovered to be missing after the storms. Charles got through this period and was one of the 689 other ranks and 27 officers who left on December 15th on the HMT Carron. From there the battalion returned to Egypt, where it had spent time before the Gallipoli campaign.
The next chapter in Charles' story is a little vague but he left Egypt before the 11th Manchesters did. Perhaps he, like many others, was suffering from ill health. When he was ready again for active service it wasn't to another battalion of the Manchesters that he was sent but to the 9th Northumberland Fusiliers. He reached his new unit in May 1916. They were stationed in St.Omer at the time. Like so many others the battalion was to play a part in the Battle of the Somme. The first terrible day - July 1st 1916 - they were in reserve and finally went into the front line themselves on the evening of July 3rd. To reach their positions they had to pass over freshly won ground that was littered with the dead. That night, just after midnight, with the 1st Welsh Fusiliers on the left and 10th Lancashire Fusiliers on the right the men rushed forward towards their objective - Quadrangle Trench - just as the artillery barrage lifted. The troops got across the 200 yards of No Man's Land and into the enemy's line before they had time to man their machine guns. In the fighting no prisoners were taken and a battalion history noted that "bayonets were busy". The captured trench was then swept by German shell fire throughout July 4th and the 9th Northumberland Fusiliers had to hold on to their new line as best they could. The following midnight they were to attack once again - this time to the new German frontline, Quadrangle Support. Two companies (B&C) assembled with the 10th Lancashire Fusiliers on the left and 14th Royal Welsh Fusiliers on the right. After 35 minutes of intense bombardment they went over the top. To their dismay they found that the enemy wire was practically uncut. They suffered terribly from machine gun and rifle fire from the front and both flanks. The Germans fired hundreds of red flares which fell behind the advancing infantry to illuminate them in their withering fire. In this desperate and critical position the 9th NF hung on taking what cover was afforded by shell holes. The order was given to withdraw and survivors slowly made their way back. One of the Lancashire Fusiliers who attacked, and was killed, alongside Charles Butterworth's battalion was Walter Thomas.
The bloodshed was not over as at 07:45 the 12th Manchesters passed through the Northumberland Fusiliers in a suicidal attempt to take the same objective but this time in broad daylight. One has to wonder if Charles Butterworth had time for a quick word or two with any men from back home as they passed by. 18 men from the Oldham area, John Peter Brannon (who had served with Charles in the 11th Manchesters at Gallipoli) amongst them, were marching through the 9th Northumberlands lines to their deaths. The attack of the Manchesters was a complete disaster under a heavy barrage with enfilading machine gun fire and 555 men were killed, wounded or missing.
After a time out of the front line to rest, to train and to incorporate the new men to replace their losses the 9th Northumberland Fusiliers were to again go into action on August 3rd. Before they did so however they came under furious German artillery bombardment, so much so that it was assumed an infantry attack was sure to follow. It did not come so, along with the 12th Manchesters, the men advanced. In the chaos and confusion of the darkness troops were scattered by enemy fire and also lost direction. Soon the remnants were back in the forward assembly trench.
The winter of 1916/1917 was an exceptionally bitter one, the worst of the war on the Western Front. The 9th Northumberland Fusiliers relieved the 10th King's Royal Rifle Corps on Christmas Eve 1916 in the front line between Les Boeufs and Morval. Christmas Day saw an artillery duel with men of Charles' battalion singing carols as the shells crashed around them. Conditions at this time were simply atrocious. The trenches were waterlogged, the ground around them churned up by shellfire. A false step from a path could leave a man chest deep in cold, slimy water.
On the night of December 26th/27th the battalion was relieved, the final men pulling back at 01:45 on the 27th. Charles Butterworth was either found dead at this time or died shortly afterwards of exposure. Whether he was in an advance position and his body wasn't brought in or if his grave was destroyed or lost in later fighting is unknown but his name appears on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing.His wife Clara was left a widow with five children, aged from 12 months to 9 years old.