Charles Ronald Firth

Rank Second Lieutenant
Service No Unknown
Date of Death 09/11/1918
Age 27
Regiment/Service West Yorkshire Regiment. (Prince of Wales' Own) 1st/5th Battalion.
Cemetery Niederzwehren Cemetery, Kassel, Germany.

 

Charles was born at 16 Argyle Terrace, Argyle Street, Hull, on 27th September 1891. His parents were Titus Firth (b.1864) and Mary Bissill Goodwin (b.1867). He had three sisters: Lilian Muriel (b.1889), Winnifred (b.1893) and Louise (1904). At the time of his birth, his father was a poulterer’s assistant.

At the time of the 1901 Census, Charles was living with his family including his maternal grandmother, a 73 year old widow, at 13 Wilson Road, Halifax. His father’s occupation was listed as ‘Journeyman Fishmonger’. Charles was educated as a boarder at Lichfield Cathedral Choir School and Rastrick Grammar School, Brighouse. At the time of the 1911 Census, the family were living at Clifton Villas, Bailiffe Bridge, Brighouse, Yorkshire. His father was working as a fruiterer and he was an elementary school teacher with the County Council.

After a medical examination at Knaresborough on 26th June 1915, Charles enlisted as a private on 23rd July 1915. He was promoted to Lance Corporal on 7th August 1916 and to Corporal on 2nd January 1917. The following month he was based at Clipstone Camp near Mansfield. He received his commission as an officer on 26th June 1917. The headmaster of his grammar school, who was a clergyman, gave him a character reference.

On 25th April 1918, Charles was captured unwounded on the Western Front. On 18th May he sent identical messages via the Red Cross to his father at Elder Lea, Wedderburn Road, Harrogate, and a Miss Baines of Finchley, saying “Prisoner Karlsruhe well Ronnie”. Karlsruhe was the second-largest city in the state of Baden-Württemberg, in southwest Germany, near the Franco-German border.

Charles died at the Fortress Hospital in Mainz, about 140 kms north of Karlsruhe. His body is now buried 220 kms north of Mainz, in Niederzwehren, where they had been a major Prisoner-of-War camp. It was chosen after the war as one of four sites where prisoners who had died in captivity were to be buried. As a result men who had been buried in Baden, Bavaria, Hanover, Hesse and Saxon were brought to Niederzwehren. There are 1,796 men buried or commemorated there.

A letter, dated 28th February 1920, from his father to the War Office complains that the war gratuity had been paid to Miss Baines and not to his wife. Charles’ will said ‘I desire that all money belonging to me shall go to Miss May Baines, 9 Woodlands Avenue, Finchley … to become her own and to do as she pleases with, except my people at home are in need, when I desire it shall go to them’. His father stated that they knew he could have claimed all if he had said they were in need ‘but I did not want anything … as I signed in favour of Miss Baines never dreaming you would pay his mother’s just right with the estate for a stranger’s benefit’.

The 1918 Electoral Register says that May was living with a Harry Baines, adult, at 2 Regent Terrace, Harrogate. Charles’s estate was valued at £228.