Officers, N.C.O.s and Men of the 1st Battalion, Buried in Chester (Overleigh) Cemetery
Chester Overleigh Cemetery contains 127 First World War burials, about half of them from local hospitals including the Chester War Hospital which was housed in the old Infirmary building.
The Cemetery contains 2 soldiers of the original 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment, who died of wounds received in action.
Use the links below to read a little more about each man and see where he is buried.
Another 1st Battalion man buried in this Cemetery is Pte. 5974 Matthew LEAK who died on 4th June 1920, aged 38, and is buried in Grave G1059. He joined the Battalion on 18th December 1914, but was invalided home, suffering from frostbite, on 10th February 1915. After considerable time in Chester Military Hospital he died 5 years later.
C.S.M. 7724 John William Thomas FRANCIS – “B” Company
Grave: 4266 Died of wounds: 25 May 1915 Age: 27
Personal: John was born in the December quarter 1887 in St Oswald’s, Chester, the son of William (a Miller) and Ellen (née Crook) Francis. He had three older sisters, Jane E., Margaret Ellen and Catherine Winifred, and two younger sisters, Grace M. and Mary Grace.
The family lived in St James Street, Chester. (1891 Census RG 12/2866, 1901 Census RG 13/3374 and 1911 Census RG 14/21878)
John married Florence Hanley in Belfast in the March quarter 1912. After the War John’s Pension Records shows that Florence was then living at 27 St James’ Street, Chester, probably with John’s parents.
Military Service: John enlisted at Chester. Currently his Service Records are not available and may have been destroyed in Second World War bombing. However, from his service number it would appear he enlisted into the 1st Battalion about June 1908. In regimental athletics he had a fine record. He was a good footballer and the champion middleweight boxer of the regiment.
He was a Regular Soldier serving with the 1st Battalion and at the outbreak of War was stationed in Londonderry. John sailed on the SS Massilia on 14th August 1914 and his Medal Card confirms that he entered France on 16 August.
The survivors of Audregnies were put into what remained of ‘B’ Company, under Captain Shore, and the now very depleted but still nominally 1st Battalion joined the remainder of 5 Division in retreat. As a result of this ‘reorganisation’ of the Battalion, the still determined strong spirits of the men, and the presence of the hard-working and much respected Shore, the retreat was an orderly one as far as the Battalion was concerned.
It was far too decimated a unit to take part in Smith-Dorrien’s stand at Le Cateau, and the 200 or so men left were put in reserve near Troisvilles. (‘Ever Glorious’ – Bernard Rigby, Chapter 35)
For this action John was Mentioned, along with Captain J.L. Shore, in Field Marshall French’s Despatch of 8th October 1914 (London Gazette, 19th October 1914). Not only was he Mentioned in Despatches, but he was also awarded for gallantry at Le Cateau the French Médaille Militaire.
[N.B. The Médaille Militaire (Military Medal) was created to reward warrant officers, corporals, sergeants, soldiers and sailors for military service, especially for acts of courage in combat. The Médaille Militaire is one of rarest French decorations to be bestowed upon foreigners.]
The Battalion War Diary records that it was stationed in the: “Casemates in Ypres and École de Bien Faisance”. The next three days were spent “.. in Brigade Reserve”, but on 5th May it was: “Called out at 8.00 p.m. to move up to support the trenches, Hill 60, trenches 40, 43 & 45 occupied by the enemy. Arrived LARCH WOOD at RAILWAY CUTTING at about 10.20 a.m., drove some of the enemy from vicinity of Larch Wood and 41 and 42 support trenches.”
The 1st Battalion was taking part in the “Battle of Hill 60“. In the first week of May 1915 the Battalion lost 41 men killed in action, including Lt. Col. Arthur De Courcy SCOTT killed on the 5th and buried in Grave H.3., Zillebeke Churchyard. The 1st Battalion had been very short of officers and Lt. Col. A. de C. Scott, Capt. Savage and Lt. W. Mills were sent to join it from the 2nd Battalion on the 4th May. As well as the loss of their C.O., “Capt. Woodyer; Capt. Savage; 2/Lieutenant Pym and Lieutenant May” were wounded.
A 1st World War Medical Record for Sergeant Major Francis reads: “7th May 1915, No 3 Casualty Clearing Station. G S W to head”. No. 3 C.C.S. is recorded as being at Hazebrouck from August 1914 until 26th April 1915, then Poperinghe between 27th April 1915 and 14th May 1915 and then they went to Bailleul.
Sergeant Major Francis was transferred to Hospital in Wimereux, where he was operated on to remove the bullet. He lived long enough to be moved back to England and died in Bagthorpe Military Hospital, Nottingham, on 25th May 1915. John was buried with full military honours in his native city of Chester.
Private 8610 Charles Charlton NUTTALL – “C” Company
Personal: Charles was born in the August/September 1889 in Hadfield, Derbyshire, the only child of Christopher (a Cotton Spinner) and Elizabeth Ann (née Delderfield) Nuttall of Station Road, Hadfield.
At the time of his enlistment he was employed as a Labourer. He was 5′ 5″ tall (1.65 m.), weighed 114 lbs. (8 stone 2lbs) had a ‘fresh‘ complexion, brown eyes and brown hair. His stated religion was Church of England.
On the 8th November 1915 he married Margaret Smith in the Parish Church, Chester. They had one son, John Thomas, born 14th March 1915. After Charles’ death, in the June quarter 1919, Margaret re-married Frederick Powell and lived at 1 Folliot’s Court, Lower Bridge St., Chester. With effect from 12th May Margaret received a Pension of £1 0s 5d per week for herself and their son. [£1.02 is worth an equivalent of about £46 today.]
In May 1919 Margaret had Charles total effects returned to her, valued at £12 18s (£12.90 – equivalent to about £600 today – 2020). In December of that year she received a further £25 (£1,25 today) War Gratuity.
Military Service: Charles enlisted into the 1st Battalion, the Cheshire Regiment, at Glossop, Derbyshire, on 9th September 1907 at the age of 18yrs. 0 mths. His terms of service were 7 + 5 (i.e. 7 years active service + 5 years reserve).
On the 15th November he was posted to the 1st Battalion and seems to spend all of his service in Ireland until 24th February 1914 when he was posted back to ‘H’ Company, Depot, presumably to prepare for his discharge. On 9th September 1909 he received his first Good Conduct badge and received his second badge 3 years later. During his regular service he ended up as a Military Policeman. Character: “Exemplary“.
He was still a Regular Soldier serving with the 1st Battalion and at the outbreak of War was on pre-discharge leave and was recalled. He sailed on the SS Massilia on 14th August and his Medal Card confirms that he entered France on 16 August. He fought under Captain W.E.L.R. Dugmore on the right flank of the Battalion’s action at Audregnies on 24th August. His record shows that in September 1914 he was serving as a ‘Pioneer‘ and assessed as: ” Smart, keen, intelligent and sober. Hard working, willing and able“. He returned to England and was transferred to the 3rd Battalion on 18th January 1915, remaining until 29th March 1916.
On 30th March 1916 he returned to France, and 2 months later to the 13th Battalion, before returning to the 1st on 7th August, promoted to Acting Corporal a fortnight later. After some misconduct he was demoted back to Private on 6th November 1916. On 7th July 1916 he suffered “shell shock” and again on 30th September.
(N.B. From mid July onwards until the beginning of September 5 Division was engaged in operations attacking the German line between Delville Wood and High Wood in order to capture Longueval. The 1st Battalion was in these engagements and upon eventual withdrawal from Longueval, was down to 300 all ranks.)
Charles remained in France until he was admitted to the Military Hospital in Chatham, Kent, on 21st May 1917 suffering from Gas Poisoning and transferred for convalescence on the 25th to the Hayle Place VAD Hospital, Maidstone, where he stayed until 22nd June 1917.
He was admitted to Hospital in Manchester for two months (November 1917 to January 1918) to be treated for gonorrhoea. However, shortly before his intended discharge Captain Mahoney had signed his ‘Certificate of Sobriety and Trustworthiness‘ (8th September 1914). Near the end of his 7 years active service he had record no cases of drunkenness or any of insolence.
Charles’ major departure from over 9 years of good conduct was in February 1915. On the 20th he was charged with desertion and received 28 days detention. Even here his conduct was excellent and he received his full 4 days remission. Perhaps this aberration was caused by the impending birth of his son – born on 14th March! His Medal Card suggests that he forfeited his medals for this although they may have been re-awarded later.
On 29th March 1918 Charles again was posted to the Expeditionary Force in France and was wounded probably on the night of 16/17th October, during the Battle of Selle River. On that night the 1st Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. M.F. Clarke DSO reached their assembly position in the early evening of the 16th and lay out in the open all night suffering casualties from shelling, on top of a hill overlooking the village of Beaurain which they attacked and captured on the morning of the 17th.
The enemy had by this time lost so many of his field and heavy guns that he began to place what guns he had so far back that they could only reach the most advanced of the Allied infantry posts. Only German long range high velocity guns could reach Allied battery lines.
A general British advance began at 3.20 a.m. on the 23rd October 1918. The 1st Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment took the left of their brigade, the 1st Bedfords took the right and the 1st Norfolks were in reserve. There were immediate casualties. They got in touch with 42 Division and held on until the reserves, 1 Norfolk came up. The enemy retired and the 1st Battalion of the Regiment, after a magnificent display of fighting courage and efficiency, were relieved by fresh troops. The losses were one officer and 34 men killed and 177 all ranks wounded. (‘Ever Glorious’ – Bernard Rigby, Chapter 41)
Charles arrived back in England for the last time on the 28th October, where he subsequently died in the Second Western General Hospital, Manchester, on 4th November 1918 – just 1 week before The Armistice.