Early Years – before the Leeds Pals
Born: Rotherham District in 1896.
Residence: 1911 census (Find My Past, 2015) he was living at 87 Brown Street Rotherham with his father John George (a moulder in the steel works), his mother Florence, brother Frederick (aged 26, an iron worker) and sister (also Florence, aged 18). Charles, aged 15, is described as a labourer in the steel works.
The War Years
11th January 1915: His attestation papers (Find My Past, 2015) show that he enlisted in the 17th Service Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment (crossed out and replaced by 25th August 1915). Where the paper says “place” Leeds is also crossed out and replaced by Chisledon.
Chisledon Camp: Near Swindon. A key training facility in WW1 and WW2. It had its own railway station and hospital and good links with the North.
Figure 1: Troops Marching Through Camp. (SwindonWeb, 2015).
He was 19 years and 9 months old – so had no need to falsify his age.
He was living at 8 Sydney Street Rotherham.
He was unmarried, 5ft 2 ¾” tall with a chest measurement of 36 inches and a mole on the back of his neck. As he was below the minimum height he joined the 17th Battalion, which was a Bantam Battalion. His next of kin was listed as his father John George Torr.
His first posting is illegible but he was also posted on 7th December 1917 in the 15th/17th Battalion -The Bantams did not take part in major fighting but were used for holding and defending trenches. As a result of Bantams no longer being considered suitable for active service the Pals and Bantams were amalgamated to form the 15th/17th Battalion in December 1917. (The Long, Long Trail, 2015).
Although it is not spoken of in his service record he received the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The citation reads:
Figure 2: Service Record (Find My Past, 2015).
The Distinguished Conduct Medal awarded for exceptional valour is regarded as second only to the Victoria Cross in prestige. It entitled Private Torr to use the letters D.C.M. after his name and was announced in the London Gazette.
Prisoner at Parchim
He was reported missing on 23rd March 1918 (Ancestry, 2015) very shortly after the award of the trophy (March 1918 was a month when numerous members of the Battalion were either captured or killed).
He was then reported to be a prisoner of war at Parchim camp– no date visible. The receipt of a postcard (Service record Ancestry) from Private Torr verified this. Parchim camp was built on a former cavalry drill ground 3 miles from the town. It held 25,000 men with a further 45,000 registered at work camps.
Figure 3: Postcard from Private Torr (ScholarWorks, 2015).
According to Internet sources (there are 21 posts on Parchim camp on the Great War Forum, (The Long Long Trail, 2015) Parchim camp was one of the better camps. An unannounced visit by inspectors from the Red Cross on 25th September 1916 gave a favourable report. Meals consisted of:
Breakfast: coffee and milk,
Dinner: potatoes, smoked beef, carrots, meat extract
Supper: consommé, potatoes.
The inspectors found the midday meal to be “very palatable and nutritious”. The food situation may well have worsened as the war progressed.
The Brighton Gazette of January 26th 1921 described the camp as “the camp of death” and referred to the “terrible suffering“ of British POW’s in the severe influenza epidemic that occurred after the armistice was signed.
Figure 4: Brighton Gazette article (Alamy, 2015).
Although the details are difficult to read, Private Torr seems to have left Parchim on 29th July 1918. He was demobilised on 4th March 1919 as Class Z which meant that he could be called back should he be needed. An army form for receipt of medals dated 19/6/19 (Ancestry, 2015) gives his address as 8 Sydney Street Rotherham but on a further form dated 8/10/21 he had moved to 11 Walker Street – unfortunately the rest is illegible.
Marriage: Charles Edward Torr married Evelyn Hill in the Rotherham district in the second quarter of 1923.
Mavis E. –1924 (daughter).
Margaret B – 1927 (daughter).
Joan M. – 1928 (daughter).
Barbara H. – 1931 (daughter).
Edward – 1936 (son).
Ralph A. – 1938 (son).
Death: All of the children were born in the Rotherham district but it is possible that the Charles Edward Torr who died in the fourth quarter of 1970 in Hillingdon, Middlesex is the same Private Charles Edward Torr (Find My Past, 2015).
Researcher: Jane Luxton
- All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
- Please refer to our Glossary of Terms for further information on the terms and phrases used in this post.