Monday 12 February 2018

Edmund Charles Bartlett 1895-1918

Edmund Charles Bartlett 1895-1918

Edmund Charles Bartlett was a distant cousin, my three x great grandfather George Coombes being his great grandfather.

Edmund was the second of eight children born to George Bartlett and Jane Boxall who were married in in the autumn of 1892 in Northchapel, Sussex. Their first child Annie was born the following autumn, followed by Edmund two years later and George in 1896. By the time Frederick was born in 1899, the family had moved to Haslemere where they were to remain and where George found work as a dairyman. The last four children were born after the turn of the century, Letsy in 1901, Leonard in 1903, Norah in 1905 and finally Alfred in 1908. All of the children survived infancy apart from Alfred who died at birth.

Edmund Charles grew up in Haslemere and after finishing school, worked as a gardener before he enlisted on 4 Nov 1915 at Guildford.

He re-attested in November 1915 and was assigned to the Royal Engineers as a driver on 20th April 1916. Three weeks later he went to France and on 29th June 1916 was charged with being absent from 3 o’clock fatigues. He was fined two day’s pay.

On 23rd January 1918, a tragic turn of events was to befall Edmund, who was safely behind the lines in the kitchen of a billet near Boulogne with several other batmen and drivers. These men were acting as servants to officers looking after them and their equipment, cooking for them and driving them around. They were all cleaning revolvers belonging to themselves and to their officers, when one of the men asked for some live ammunition, presumably to check the gun was working. He climbed up to the balcony of the house, fired the revolver, then came back into the kitchen and put the gun on the table. As he put it down, it fired, hitting Edmund Bartlett in the chest and spine.

There are witness statements from all of the men in the kitchen that morning including this one from Edmund, written on February 2nd.
“On the morning of the 23rd January 1918 I had just finished my morning fatigue after which I went to my billet to talk in the usual way. Not noticing what the other batmen were doing I sat down at the table when a report of firearm rang out and I felt a pain in my right breast. This is a true and correct statement of the event.”

Initially he was reported as wounded but he died on 12th February in the 25th General Hospital France. One of the statements reads “Negligently shot by a comrade” Edmund was recorded as not to blame and a note added that the person responsible was tried and convicted by Field General Court Martial on 27 Jan 1918.

He is buried in the churchyard at Neufchatel-Hardelot

Back home the family suffered more tragedy with the death of Edmund’s sister Norah at the end of 1918, sister Annie in 1921 and mother Jane in 1924. His father George married again in 1931 and stayed in Haslemere until he died in 1943.

In Memory of
136819, 67th Field Coy., Royal Engineers
who died age 23
on 12 February 1918

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