Charles Mew (1867-1916)
Park Keeper, Richmond Park
Charles Mew was born in 1867 to John, a stone mason, and Esther Mew and was baptised in All Saints, Ryde, Isle of Wight on 24 November. By 1871 John and Esther had two children; Charles, 4, and Esther, 2, and were living at 15 Princes Street, Ryde. John died later in 1871 and Esther married his brother Frank, a carman in 1877. By 1881 the family were living at 20 George Street, Ryde with Charles employed as an errand boy. On 5 May 1886, aged 18, Charles attested for the Royal Engineers (RE) at Fort Rowner at Gosport. During the early part of the 1890s he married Fanny Grist who was also born in Ryde. They went on to have three children whilst he was in army service. John Charles was born in 1892, Esther Ellen on 16 October 1895 at Kildare whilst Charles was serving at Curragh Camp, and Hugh Benjamin on 9 April 1897 at Chatham whilst he was serving at the Royal Engineers’ main depot. Whilst Charles was on service in the Boer War in South Africa Fanny and her two younger children are shown, in 1901, to be living in the military complex at Aldershot, Hampshire. Charles distinguished himself in the Boer War and the following is from a footnote to a medal sale notice on 15 December 2011, by the auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb of Mayfair:
“He served in 3 Field Troop, R.E., which was formed from No 2 Balloon Section after the relief of Ladysmith, and in No 3 Balloon Section, until the end of hostilities, and was twice mentioned in despatches - by Sir Redvers Buller in his despatch dated 9 November 1900 ‘as particularly deserving’ (London Gazette 8 February 1901), and by Lord Kitchener in his despatch dated 8 July 1901 (London Gazette 20 August 1901), this last offer being specially brought to notice by the Adjutant-General, Pretoria, for ‘good service in Eastern Transvaal during Lieutenant-General French’s operations in February-April 1901’, which distinction appeared in Lord Kitchener’s despatch dated 8 July 1901 (London Gazette 20 August 1901).
For his services in South Africa he was awarded the Queen’s medal with six clasps and the King’s medal with two. He was awarded the L.S & G.C. [Long Service and Good Conduct] Medal with gratuity in 1904. Mew attained the rank of Company Sergeant-Major in November 1905 and was discharged on the termination of his second period of engagement on 4 May 1907”.
He was also recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
Following his return to civilian life on an army pension Charles, on 6 May 1907, passed the Civil Service Commissioner’s Certificate and he was appointed, on 31 May, to the Office of Works as a park keeper in St James’s Park on a salary of 26 Shillings per week. In 1911 he was transferred to Richmond Park “on account of ill health to wife”.
Shortly after the outbreak of war on 24 September 1914, Charles, then aged 46 years and 11 months, applied to re-join the army at Kingston upon Thames. There he was attested and was placed into the Army Reserve for one year’s service. With his previous military service behind him he was soon noticed and the next day was promoted to acting Company Sergeant-Major, and became an instructor in the Royal Engineer’s 17th Signal Company. Six months later his post was made substantive and he was transferred to 121st Field Company, Royal Engineers and was assigned to general services. Having volunteered for active service overseas Charles accompanied his Company to France on 4
October 1915. On 17 March 1916 Charles was admitted to 108th Field Hospital where he was treated for a shell wound on his scalp. This was not serious and he was back on duty the next day. Three months later, on 30 June he was again promoted to Regimental Sergeant-Major, the highest rank for a non-commissioned officer. On 5 July 1916, Regimental Sergeant-Major 52926 Mew was killed on the Somme. The Major of his Company gave the following particulars of his death to his wife Fanny:
“The Company was billeted in some shelters behind a railway bank about half-mile from the front line, when about 2 o’clock in the morning, a shell entered the shelter where Sergt.-Major Mew, with five other men, was sheltering. He and another man were wounded severely, and two of the others were killed. The wounded men were at once taken by field ambulance and then sent to hospital in a motor ambulance. Sergt.-Major Mew, however, succumbed to his wounds shortly after, and was buried in the soldiers’ cemetery at Forceville”. The Major added: “It may be a little comfort to you to know that he was much esteemed and loved by all the officers and men of the Company. A thorough soldier, he was just and fair to everybody. He has been my right-hand man since he joined us in Ireland. It will be impossible to fill his place”.
Charles is buried at Forceville Communal Cemetery and Extension, Somme, Picardie, France; grave reference Plot 2, Row C, Grave 13.