TF/241961 Private Charles Bignell, The Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)
Born on 26th July 1889 in Northchurch
Died on 20th August 1926 in Hemel Hempstead
Charles Bignell was born in Northchurch, the 3rd of the seven children of George William Bignell and Elizabeth née Rush. His father was a Labourer.
Charles’ older brother William Henry was born in 1885 and his older sister Laura in 1887. He had four younger siblings: George, born in 1891
Alfred, born 10th August 1895
Rosetta, born in 1897 and
Sydney Bertie, born 23rd April 1900.
Charles also had an older half-brother, Herbert Rush, later Bignell, born in 1882.
The family lived in Northchurch. Their address was New Road, Northchurch in 1891 and Orchard End, Northchurch in 1901. In 1911 his parents and four younger siblings lived at 6 Alma Road, Northchurch, but Charles’ 1911 Census record has not been found.
On 27th April 1912, at St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden, Charles Bignell, 22, Batchelor, a Gardener of Northchurch and son of George Bignell, Labourer married Elsie Goodedge, 22, Spinster, of Little Gaddesden and daughter of Thomas Goodedge, Storekeeper. In other records, e.g. Census returns, Elsie’s surname is spelt ‘Goodege’. Her family lived at 9 Hudnall in 1891 and 7 Ringshall in 1901 and 1911. In the 1911 Census, Elsie is recorded as a Domestic Parlourmaid at Boxwell House, Berkhamsted.
Charles and Elsie’s daughter Phyllis Eileen Bignell was born on 25th October 1912; the family initially lived in Northchurch. In the 1914 Electoral Register, Charles’ address was New Road, Northchurch.
Charles served as a Private in the 1/5th Battalion, Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment); his Service Number was TF/241961. The ‘Remarks’ column of his Medal Roll Index Card includes the note “ATT 16/6/15”, so that is believed to be the date he attested. On arrival in India in late 1914, the 1/5th Battalion became part of the Jhansi Brigade in the 5th (Mhow) Division of the Indian Army. In March 1916 it transferred to the 4th Rawalpindi Brigade in 2nd (Rawalpindi) Division. A year later it transferred again, to the Jubbulpore Brigade in the 5th (Mhow) Division and, in December 1917, the 1/5th Battalion moved to Mesopotamia to join the 54th Brigade in the 18th (Indian) Division. It is probable that Charles joined the Battalion in India during 1916. For his War Service, Charles was awarded the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.
On 8th March 1916, Charles and Elsie’s second daughter, Kathleen, was born. She was baptised on 10th June 1917 in St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden. In September 1917 their elder daughter Phyllis started as an Infant at Little Gaddesden School. Whilst Charles was serving in the army, Elsie was probably living at 26 Ringshall, which was the address for Charles, an Absent Voter, in Autumn 1918 and Spring 1919. On 7th March 1919, Phyllis left Little Gaddesden School as her family had “left the district” – in other words, they had moved back to Northchurch.
An Addition to the Little Gaddesden Roll of Honour 11
The original, pre-Second World War, wording on the left hand panel of the Little Gaddesden War Memorial on the village green read:
“This memorial is erected in honour of the one hundred and thirty six men who went from the villages of Little Gaddesden, Hudnall and Ringshall and served in the war of 1914 = 1918. The names of those who gave their lives for their country are cut on the stones here. The names of those who returned to England are preserved in the Church.”
However, the Church Roll of Honour lists only 119 men; one of those omitted is Charles Bignell, possibly because his association with the village was the result of his marriage rather than his upbringing. It was also quite brief – but no more so than several men already named on the Roll of Honour. His name has been added to the 2018 Centenary Revision of the Roll.
The family moved back to Northchurch in 1919, living at Cottage, New Road, Northchurch. Charles worked as a labourer at Cooper’s Chemical Works in Berkhamsted.
On 26th July 1921 Charles and Elsie’s twin daughters Iris and Freda were born.
From 1922 to 1925, Charles was registered to vote at Cottage, Dudswell, but by 1926 it was again recorded as Cottage, New Road, Northchurch. Charles, a Chemical Works Labourer, died in West Herts Hospital, Hemel Hempstead on 20th August 1926 aged only 37. He had suffered from Pneumonia for 11 months and had developed Empyema.
Charles’ younger brother 17760 Private George Bignell enlisted into the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment at Bedford. He first served overseas in France on 27th July 1915 and was wounded on the Somme. George died of his wounds in No. 36 Casualty Clearing Station, Heilly on 4th August 1916. He is buried at Heilly Station Cemetery, Méricourt-L’Abbé, Somme where his grave reference is III. B. 7. For his War Service George was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Allied Victory Medal.
4. Little Gaddesden Marriage Register
8. Little Gaddesden Baptism Register 1813 – 1947
9. Little Gaddesden School Log Book 1906 – 1934
10. 1918-21 Absent Voters’ Lists Parliamentary County of Hertford, Hemel Hempstead Division, Little Gaddesden
11. Leonhardt, John (ed), 2002, A Century Remembered – a celebration of the Millennium in Little Gaddesden, Rural Heritage Society of Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Ashridge
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson