On this day in 1914, Charles Henry Salisbury (1886-1914) was killed in action in France in the Great War.
Charles, a private in the 1st Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment, died on October 23, 1914 in one of the great defences of the war – at Givenchy.
His battalion were attacked by German infantry as they held a crucial line between British and French forces.
In the hours leading up to the attack, the 1st Devons had ‘been without rest or relief for over a week and all ranks were extremely weary,’ C T Atkinson wrote in The Devonshire Regiment 1914-1918.
‘Posted at the junction between the British and French, they had special responsibility for their position was of critical value. Not only was the knoll of Givenchy the key to Bethune, it had even greater importance.
“If the English lose Givenchy,” declared the general commanding the French Army, “we should not know what to hang on to. If Givenchy is lost it will mean the first step in the separation of the two armies.”
‘Accordingly, the pressure on the Devons was very heavy,’ said Atkinson.
Charles and his battalion were shelled almost continuously in hastily dug trenches.
Amid the chaos, it was almost impossible to get reinforcements, rations or water up to the firing line in daylight, but the 1st Devons ‘held on and beat off attack after attack’.
The German infantry advanced on them from 6am on October 23. As a larger enemy force emerged from nearby Canteleux, a ‘perfect tornado’ of shells descended on Givenchy, but the Devons still managed to bring the attack to a standstill.
In attacks that continued until October 29, the battalion held their ground, suffering about 100 casualties.
Charles was initially reported as ‘missing in action’.
It was not until September 3, 1915 that The Devon and Exeter Gazette reported he had been killed at Givenchy, aged 27.
Charles, who first went to France on August 22, 1914, is remembered on the Le Touret Memorial in France. He is also commemorated on Cove War Memorial, near Tiverton.
Born in Chevithorne in 1886, Charles married Marion Violet Louisa Mogford (1889-1955) in 1913 in Tiverton.
Charles was the son of John Salisbury (1846-1908) and Elizabeth Ann Caple (1866-1902). Charles was the stepson of John’s second wife, Eliza Ellen Roberts (1861-1938).
Eliza (nee Bryant) married Charles Roberts (1863-1902) in 1883 in Cruwys Morchard. Charles was the son of John Roberts (1829-1919), my great-great grandfather who had 30 grandsons serving in the Great War.
Eliza married John Salisbury in 1908 and was widowed a second time five months later.
Le Touret Memorial on which Charles is remembered. Photo taken on May 20, 1914 by Wernervc (CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons). https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Le_Touret_Memorial_-_5.JPG