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Charles Edward Michell

Lance Corporal 24033 Charles Edward Michell, Hampshire Regiment

 

Charlie Michell

Charlie Michell

Charlie Michell was born in January 1891 the son of Henry Charles Michell and his wife Sarah (née Mitchell). Henry and Sarah were both from Truro in Cornwall but married in south London. By the time of Charlie’s birth they had settled in Newbury where Henry had found work as a coach smith. They lived first in Shaw Crescent (Smith’s Crescent, Shaw Road) before moving to 1 Clifton Villas, York Road (now 1 York Road).

 

After school Charlie (as he was known to all) worked at the Drapery Bazaar in Northbrook Street (Alfred Camps’ precursor to todays’ Camp Hopson department store), but it was music that brought him to the attention of the public.  A very accomplished musician he was a regular organist at the Wesleyan Methodist Church and a leading light in the local music scene with an exceptional talent for the cello.

 

When war broke out Charlie was not one of those who rushed to serve for fear of missing out on the war that would be all over by Christmas; nor did he wait to be conscripted enlisting on 23 November 1915 into the Hampshire Regiment. Following a period of training he went off to the western front. Little is known of his time at the front, not even which battalion he was serving with. It is not until disaster struck that there is any account of him in France.  When the massive German spring offensive of 1918 struck the Allies their lines were overrun and thousands died in the chaotic defensive battles that eventually halted the German advance.  This turned out to be the deciding battle of the war, a matter of weeks later the allies counter-attacked and swept the depleted and exhausted  German armies back towards Germany itself. 

 

Charlie was evidently caught up in the confused fighting to halt the Germans and his family received the dreaded news from the war office – Charlie had been killed in action.

 

The local newspaper reported the sad news:

 

Newbury Weekly News, 18 Apr 1918 p8 – Local War Notes
For the past fortnight great anxiety had been felt concerning Lce-Corporal Charles E Michell, only son of Mr and Mrs H C Michell, of Clifton-villas, York-road. He had been reported missing, and official news was received yesterday stating that he was killed on Good Friday, March 28th. “Charlie” Michell was 27 years of age, and was formerly employed at the Drapery Bazaar, and like all members of the Michell family, was a gifted musician, taking part in most of the concerts and entertainments. He was a genial young fellow, and many outside his family circle will mourn his death.

 

A memorial service was held at the Wesleyan Church, but then, five months later, the newspaper was able to report far happier news:

 

Newbury Weekly News, 26 Sep 1918 p8 – Local War Notes
Pte Charles Michell, son of Mr and Mrs H C Michell, of York-road, after being in a German hospital for five months, has been expatriated, and is now in a London hospital.

 

Charlie had survived after all, though severely wounded. He was able to return home to civilian life, being discharged from the army on 17 December 1918. Back in Newbury he once again used his musical talents to good effect but did not continue his career in the Drapery Bazaar. Instead he became a chicken farmer out in Leckhampstead. However, the severity of his wounds was such that he was entitled to an army pension – suggesting significant disability.

 

He eventually succumbed to those wounds on 21 March 1923, he was 32 years old. A second service was held in his memory:

 

Newbury Weekly News, 29 Mar 1923 p2 – The late Mr C E Michell
Large Attendance at Funeral
There was a striking manifestation of affection and friendship at the funeral of Charlie Michell on Saturday afternoon. Everybody liked, many loved Charlie. That was the familiar name by which he was known, and it would be idle formality to apply a prefix. He was one of those young fellows who made many friends, and his exceptional skill as a musician brought him into personal contact with a wide circle. Then there was the tragic circumstances of recent years. He had served in the war, was reported missing and dead, and a service was held in his memory. Then he returned as one from the grave, and spent five happy years in the pursuit of his favourite art. There were hopes that he would be spared for many years of useful life. But the injuries of war were too serious, and he succumbed just at a time when his career was re-opening with the greatest promise. For these and other reasons, widespread sympathy was evoked, and a desire to express it by attendance at the last sad ceremony. All classes were represented in the congregation at the Wesleyan Church, representatives of the musical societies, members of the church, friends and companions. It was a simple and solemn service, conducted by the Rev E Grainger (superintendent minister) and Rev E Atkins. The old familiar hymn “Rock of ages,” was sung softly and with much feeling. Mr G H Keen, LRAM, was at the organ, and before the service played “Blest are the departed” (Spohr), “Then shall the righteous shine” (Mendelssohn), and at the close, “O rest in the Lord.”

 

The Rev E Grainger delivered an address, marked by emotion. The large attendance, he said, signified the place in which Charlie Michell had in their hearts, and represented the much wider circle in which he was respected and loved. How tragic seemed the fate of one so young, so vigorous, and in whose personality was found so many great gifts that endeared him to all. There were those who remembered the dark days of the war, when he was reported missing and dead, and the solemn service of commemoration then held. But by a gracious Providence his young life was spared that he might greet and be greeted by his loved ones, and for him the shadow on the dial returned by degrees representing five throbbing, busy years. It was as though he had risen from the dead. To-day they realised that he “died for us” as surely as if he had fallen among his trusty companions on the field, and they could only stand submissively and say “Thy will, O God, be done.” Music was part of his heritage, and he made it were’er he went.

 

“His very step had music in’t
When he came up the stair.”

 

They remembered his solos on the ‘cello, his voluntaries on the organ, and his thrilling interpretations of their hymns and tunes, that often made a service most worshipful. And yet all the while there lurked in the background the “shadow feared of man,” and which threatened most when he himself was most in the spirit of his task. His last public service was at their church organ. Charlie Michell had a wonderful disposition for making friends, he yearned for friendship, and he was missed and mourned by a great company in the social circle in which he moved, also by the members of this church and congregation. He was not one person in society and another at home. He was an affectionate son and a loveable brother, who never caused his parents a moment’s anxiety on grounds of conduct. He lived a straight, pure, beautiful Christian life. He had passed through fire and flood, and, had come to know the meaning and value of the Christian faith, which tinctured and saturated his life and conduct. Charlie Michell hand passed to the higher life where no limitations came, and where the higher harmonies are most truly known. They would miss his genial presence, his smile, his vivacity, his willing service and winning ways, that made him a “tour de force” among them. Thank God for his life and the great memories he had left to them, and might the comforting grace of God be granted to his sorrowing parents and sister, until these mortal years had sped and they all met as families and friends in unbroken fellowship above.

 

The mourners were Mr and Mrs H C Michell (father and mother), Miss Hilda Michell (sister), Mr Arthur Poffley.

 

Amongst those present in the church were Mr and Mrs H M Morison, Mr Alfred Camp, Councillors A C Elliott and W J Johnson, Mr J H Bowman, Mr and Mrs J L Ward, Mrs P F Hopson, Miss Grace Staples, Mrs Wyatt Lawrence, Mr and Mrs Walter Penford, Messrs J H Hopson, T H Garlick, W H Bentley, Ernest Watson, Henry Flint, E C Wren, R P Elliott, J W Rosling, F H Stillman, J B Webb, W Midwinter, W H Franks, W Noakes, W C Neakes, M Poulton, J Baverstock, S North, A North, A G Herbert, G E Sister, W C Gale, S Smith, H Griffin, W Moore, G W Simpson, C H Freeman, B Webb, E Wildsmith, Mrs A H Butler, Mrs Adrian Hawker, Miss F Mason, Miss Lomas, Mrs West, Mrs Oliver, Mrs Hill, Mr and Mrs F Bance, Mrs Coles, Mr and Mrs J S Herbert, Mr and Mrs Adams, Misses Grace and Millicent Eggleton, Miss Hoskyns, Mrs Mussell, etc.

 

There were numerous floral offerings, two of special appropriateness, a violin and a ‘cello, worked out in floral design. The following were among those contributing: Father, Mother and Hilda; Mrs E W Michell and Kenneth; Mr and Mrs Wallace Smith (Cornwall); Arthur Poffley (Leckhampstead); Mr and Mrs Hector Morison; Leo Morison (floral violin); Betty Morison (floral ‘cello); Newbury Wesleyan Church Trustees; Newbury Wesleyan Church Choir; Newbury Wesley Guild; Wesleyan City Class; Newbury Amateur Orchestral Union; Staff at Sonimor Egg Farm; Staff at Highfield; Staff at Messrs Camp Hopson and Co; Mr and Mrs George Morris (Tunbridge Wells); Mr and Mrs Alfred Camp and family; Mr and Mrs J H Hopson, Norah and Paul; Miss Boynes; Mr and Mrs J L Ward; Miss Edith Dolton and Miss Rose Lomas; Mrs Brice Gould, Katherine and Margaret; Mr and Mrs Percy Sellwood; Mr and Mrs Rawlinson (London); Mr and Mrs W Smith and Trix; Mr and Mrs J Dean; Mr and Mrs Bance and Wat; Mr and Mrs J Baverstock; 55 Cheap-street; Marion Collier (London); Mr and Mrs Franks; Mrs Cope and Winnie; Mr and Mrs Portlock; Mr and Mrs West; Mr and Mrs Alfred Lewis and family; Dorothy Gibby and Wallie Franks; Nellie and Alec North; Stan Cope; Mr and Mrs Percy Frost; B and I.
The bearers were personal friends of the deceased Messrs E Lipscomb, H A Mussell, Alec Herbert, Wilfred Hoskings, Vockins and Dean.

 

The funeral arrangements were carried out by Messrs Camp Hopson and Co, under the direction of Mr George Wintle.

 

The coffin of unpolished oak was inscribed: “Charles Edward Michell, died March 21st, 1923, aged 32.”

 

A memorial service was held on Sunday morning, conducted by the Rev E Atkins. Miss Grace Staples gave a sympathetic rendering of the solo, “I know that my Redeemer liveth,” accompanied on the organ by Mr Bernard Webb.

 

It can be seen from the list of mourners that he was held in high esteem by people from all walks of life – and that he was not forgotten by his former employers at the Drapery Bazaar; both Alfred Camp and Joseph Hopson, the co-founders of Camp Hopson, were present.

 

Charlie was buried in Newtown Road Cemetery where his gravestone reads: In loving memory of Charles Edward Michell, died March 21 1923 aged 32.  At Rest

 

As he died some years after the end of the war he does not appear on the Newbury or Leckhampstead memorials, but the Wesleyan Methodists felt his passing was worthy of commemorating and added a small plaque beneath their war memorial to record his name alongside other members of the congregation who lost their lives in the Great War.

 

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 Died this day:
29 November 1918
Walter Vince
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