CHARLES SUMNALL 

Rank: Private
Service Number: 9885.
Regiment: 1st Bn. Cheshire Regiment Killed In Action Friday 28th July 1916 Age 22County Memorial Congleton
Commemorated\Buried THIEPVAL MEMORIAL
Grave\Panel Ref: Pier and Face 3C and 4A.
France

Son of Mr. Richard Sumnall and Mrs. Elizabeth Sumnall, of 32, Thomas Street, Congleton, Cheshire and 17, Garden Street, Congleton, Cheshire. He had two sisters, Hannah and Eliza Sumnall, along with two brothers, William and Richard Sumnall. His brother Richard was killed in action on the 18th of April 1918, his brother in law Charles William Worrall was killed in action on the 24th October 1917. Prior to enlistment he was employed as a Fustian Cutter.

The Battle of the Somme had started on the 1st of July and there had been terrible casualties on the first day with minimal success on most of the battlefield, in the south, however, all the objectives had been captured but the attack had now stalled. From the middle of the month, attacks were launched on the German line between Delville Wood and High Wood in order to capture the village of Longueval. The Tommie's knew the place as Devil's Wood. On the 27th of July, the main attack was undertaken by the Norfolk and Bedfordshire regiments, starting at 07:10 hours. At 08:38 hours the Cheshire Regiment advanced on a German strongpoint which was their main objective.

The Regimental History records " While the main attack was going on the 1st Battalion carried out a separate operation on a German strongpoint about the existence of which some doubt reigned, We were really attacking a map reference. The attack was made in three parties, under Second Lieutenants Prout, Duckworth and Barthelemy. There was some misunderstanding about the timing of the covering barrage, in spite of which Prout's and Duckworth's parties made gallant attempts to reach their objectives. They were met by cross fire from machine guns at High Wood and Longueval which the artillery had not reached. Nearly all the men were killed and both officers. None were ever seen again. A party sent in to support was forced to retire. Colonel Clarke was wounded. Although the Battalion objective was not reached, an advanced post, protecting the left flank, was established. Heavy fighting continued all day and by evening, all communications were broken by the intensity of the hostile fire". On the night of the 28th/29th of July, the 1st Battalion, which was in Brigade reserve south east of Mametz, moved up across Caterpillar Valley and occupied the northern and western edges of Longueval. Companies moved independently and the Battalion with the exception of Headquarters had reached their positions before the usual barrage came down on the south edge of the village. Battalion Headquarters, however had to pass through this barrage and it was with the greatest difficulty that the Headquarters' dug out, said to be at the crossroads by the church was eventually found. This barrage died down as suddenly as it had begun, but started again about 04:00 hours on the 29th and continued intermittently all day, eventually setting fire to the Headquarters' dug out which was evacuated amidst the bursting of boxes of Mills' grenades stored at the entrance. Private Charles Sumnall was killed, presumably in the attack on the strongpoint. He has no known grave but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.

Extract from the Congleton Chronicle 1916.

Another name has been added to Congleton's Roll of Honour in the person of Private Charles Sumnall, whose parents reside in John Street, Congleton, and whose career was ended in the recent active operations in Delville Wood, or what is perhaps more appropriate Devil's wood. He was a reservist, prior to the breaking of the war clouds, and the news of his death, which reached Congleton on the 2nd of August 1916, was particularly sad in as much as he had participated in all the sanguinary fighting since the Battle of Mons. He died under shell fire and it may console those at home to know that his end was instantaneous, being hit in the neck while in the act of bandaging a wound he had previously received. News was first received from a chum (Lance Corporal John McGarry) who in sympathetic terms told how he had died like a soldier and a man, just as he had lived.

His jovial and good natured chaff, no less than his enthusiasm and earnestness when under fire, had attracted many friends to him in that land of bloodshed and death, who mourned his loss with genuine and unaffected sorrow. As has been intimated, he was one of the first to go, and his energy and vigour were soon recognised by his superior officers and he was given a brace of stripes, but he did not aspire to a position which gave him authority over his pals and he asked to be relieved of them. He was a smart and promising young fellow, good natured and a great favourite among his acquaintances.

The official notification of his death was received on Wednesday last week and read as follows, It is my painful duty to inform you that a report has this day been received from the War Office notifying the death of No. 9885 Private C. Sumnall, which occurred at (place not stated) on the 28th of July 1916 and I am to express to you the sympathy and regret of the Army Council at your loss. He was killed in action.

Accompanying the notification was the following message from the King, through Mr. Lloyd George.

The King commands me to assure you of the true sympathy of his Majesty and the Queen in your sorrow.

We have frequently referred to the fact that wherever there is any severe fighting proceeding, there you will find one or more Congleton lads and it did not come as a surprise that more than one Congleton lad took part in the fierce and sanguinary fighting in Delville Wood.


Cheshire County Memorial Project would like to thank John and Christopher Pullen for this information on Charles.