WW1 Casualties Remembered

Charles James Tree

The Grave Registration Documents stated that Lt. Charles James Tree of the 9th Battalion, Worcester Regiment died of his wounds on 20th July 1915. He was buried in Grave A.54 in Lancashire Landing Cemetery in Turkey. These registers produced by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on a cemetery by cemetery or memorial by memorial basis ran to some 1500 volumes. They contain an entry for each individual with details of their rank, regiment, unit and date of death. Many entries include additional details such as next of kin.

Thousands of soldiers succumbed to their wounds in the conflict that was the Great War. However, with the digitisation of the War Diaries of various regiments which can now be viewed online, further details of a soldier’s death may be established. Other ranks were seldom mentioned in the diaries, however, officers were. 

Whilst researching the death of a soldier from my village, Hook Norton in north Oxfordshire, I read part of the diary of Lt. Tree’s regiment. The 9th Battalion, Worcester Regiment were at Cape Helles in the Gallipoli Peninsula in July 1915. Daily entries were made in the war diary but there was nothing of any significance for a few days except for the brief entry for 16th July. The diary notes that 2nd Lt. J C Bourne was killed by enemy machine gun fire whilst extinguishing a scrub fire. His body cannot have been recovered as he is remembered on the Helles Memorial rather than having a known grave as with Lt. Tree.

On the same day as Bourne’s death the diary records that Lt. Tree “was also mortally wounded being bayoneted by an excited sentry of another regiment”. I presume that he was taken behind the lines to a Casualty Clearing Station where he died a few days later.

In all probability his parents back in Worcester would only have been told that he had died of wounds received whilst on the front line. The War Diaries were, of course, secret and his parents would not have been told what had actually happened to him.

Charles James Tree was the middle son of three born to Warren and Juliana Tree. There were also two daughters. When the 1911 Census was taken Charles was a 21 year old student studying at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He had been educated at Charterhouse. His father was a partner in the family law firm of Tree & Co. in Worcester. The other brothers, Warren and Philip also were killed during the war. Warren, a captain in the 10thBattalion, Worcestershire Regiment, was killed, aged 27,  on 22nd July 1916 virtually a year to the day when Charles died. The youngest brother, Philip, was a 2nd Lt. In the Machine Gun Corps who was killed, aged 27, on 24th March 1918. Warren is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, while the Pozieres Memorial records Philip’s death. So only Charles has a specific grave.

Losing his three sons in the Great War may have been a contributing factor in Warren senior’s death as he died, aged 68 in 1919. Whilst it is a tragedy that one family lost all three sons, it is only through projects such as Operation War Diary which is digitising war diaries and making them available online that we can find out how a lot of individuals, particularly officers, were killed.