13th Essex Regiment – 7th March 1916
Synopsis of Life and Military Service
Charles Andrew Payne was born in Manchester and married Irene Nora Fortman (nee Williamson) in 1914 in West Ham, Essex. Irene was a widow, her first husband Owen Edwin James Fortman, a Pawnbroker’s Assistant had died two years earlier.
He joined the 13th (Service) Battalion (West Ham) Essex Regiment. This was a Pals Battalion that was officially formed on 29th December 1914. Many of its early recruits were from the Thames Ironworks, the same company that formed West Ham United Football Club. The recruits wanted their cap badge to have the crossed hammers which was the Clubs logo but this was refused. However, they were officially given the nickname “The Hammers”.
On 17 November 1915, he and the rest of the 13th Battalion travelled by train to Folkestone where they embarked on the SS Princess Victoria. Departure was delayed as she had to wait for the Hospital Ship Anglia to enter port, arriving from France decks full of wounded. At about 1 nautical mile east of ‘Folkestone Gate’ (a designated set of defences) the Anglia struck a mine laid by a German submarine that morning. She sank in 15 minutes with the loss of an estimated one hundred and twenty nine lives. One of the vessels that went to her aid was the collier ‘Lusitania’ (named after the liner torpedoed earlier in the year), she too hit a mine but fortunately no further lives were lost.
It was against this backdrop that Charles travelled to France arriving in Boulogne at 6pm before spending the night in Ostrohove Camp. On 24 November, the 13th were transferred to the 2nd Division where they mixed with regular battalions of the ‘Old Contemptables’ and by 10 December had been placed in the line at the ‘Brickstacks’ near Cuinchy. It was here, just after midnight the next day, that the 13th had their first fatality. Private Percy Victor Price was killed by a German shell.
On 5 March 1916, the Battalion were relieved from the trenches at Bully-Grenay and went into the support trenches around Calonne. At some point the sections were stood down and the troops went to find shelter from the heavy snow that was falling, and the bitter cold. Charles was a member of ‘C’ Company and they were ‘lucky’ enough to come across a coke brazier in a cellar beneath the wreckage of a shell damaged house, and it was here that they settled down for the night.
By the time the sentry found them the next morning, all but one was already dead from carbon monoxide poisoning. Charles was still breathing but later died on 7 March 1916 at the Casualty Clearing Station he was sent to, without regaining consciousness. He is buried in the Bully-Grenay Communal Cemetery, French Extension, Pas de Calais, France.
The others who died were:
- Lance Corporal, 17972 E Ryan.
- Private, 17978 W E Loynes.
- Private, 17995 E J Barber.
- Private, 18535 J A Carter.
- Private, 18029 A Busby.
- Private, 18078 E A Parker.
- Private, 18028 H J Chaplin.
The following family information has been ascertained :-
- Wife: Irene Nora Williamson, born 12 October 1889 at Southend On Sea, Essex.
- Daughter: May Norah Irene Payne, born c.1915 at West Ham, Essex.
- Step-Daughter: Jennie Norah Fortman, born in 1910 at Plaistow, Essex.
War Pension records show that Charles lived at the following addresses :-
- 51 Grafton Road North, Plaistow, West Ham, Essex.
This road no longer exists but it ran alongside the District line as it entered Plaistow underground station from the direction of Upton Park.
A memorial to the West Ham Pals was unveiled by Sir Trevor Brooking at the Boleyn Ground in 2009. It’s now located at the London Stadium, the new home ground of West Ham United.
Links to Additional Information
- Lives of the First World War – Charles Andrew Payne.
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Charles Andrew Payne.
- A Street Near You – Charles Andrew Payne.
- Find A Grave – Charles Andrew Payne.
- Up the Hammers: The West Ham Battalion in the Great War by Elliott Taylor and Barney Alston.
- Soldiers Died in the First World War.
- National Archives: WO 95/1358/1.
- 1939 Register.
- Western Front Association: Pension Records
- Find a Grave website.
- Trevor Torkington
- Len (Find a Grave): Grave Photo