Charles walter crane

Name Charles Walter Crane
Corps Royal Field Artillery Higher Establishment 18th Battery
Rank Gunner
Service No. 9774, 8854, 8705
Date/Place of entry July 1909
Date of death 1958
Memorial/Grave Unknown

Charles Walter Crane was born in Cottingham in the autumn of 1890, the fourth child and second son of John Crane and his wife Alice nee West.

John Crane was a violent man and Charles Walter’s childhood was extremely difficult. For a full account see the entry for his elder brother John Crane. Charles Walter was just a few months old when his father was sent to gaol for a brutal assault on his stepson Samuel West. In his absence John’s wife Alice and the five children were committed to the union workhouse in Kettering. How long they stayed there is unknown, but it was probably not for long as John and Alice had two more children born at Cottingham, George William in 1893 and Frances Emily in 1895.

Frances Emily died suddenly two days after Christmas 1896. At the inquest, the doctor in attendance had said he’d previously treated other children of the family and found their mother very ignorant. Both parents were censured for the dirty condition of their house. The coroner said he would call the attention of the police and sanitary inspectors to the house which was not, he thought, fit for human habitation.

Alice and the remaining children returned to Kettering workhouse sometime later in that year. Initially Charles Walter would have been kept with her as it was the general rule that children aged seven and under were not separated from their parent. Alice seems to have remained there for the rest of her life. She was working in the workhouse laundry in 1901 and died there in 1907. Her children however were soon moved on.
The previous July the Kettering Union Workhouse Guardians, concerned about the haphazard level of care and education being experienced by child paupers, and the overcrowding in the girls’ wards, had decided to set up a children’s cottage home. Such children’s homes had been introduced in some parts of the country in the 1870s as an alternative to workhouses.

The Kettering Guardians obtained a suitable house in Burton Latimer (now number 159, High Street) and on 9th November 1897 the first twenty eight children took up residence. They included John, Alice, Charles and George Crane, and five more children from Cottingham; four Bradshaw children from Water Lane, and Annie West from Middleton. Parents were allowed to visit for two hours on a Saturday. (Much more information on Burton Latimer Cottage Homes can be found at:

On 3rd June 1903, Charles Walter and his younger brother George William left the Homes aged thirteen and ten respectively. Once they were old enough boys living in the homes were usually apprenticed to a tradesman though a great many took the opportunity to join the navy or army. Where the two Crane boys went initially is not known but both were later described as labourers. Their elder brother John had joined the navy in 1900 but was back in Middleton by 1911. George William was also then in in the village, living with his aunt Mary Ann West in Dag (now School) Lane. Charles Walter too may have returned to Cottingham. He joined the Northamptonshire Regiment 3rd (Reserve) battalion in March 1909 at Market Harborough. Within two years however his military career had begun in earnest.

1911 found gunner Charles Walter Crane of the Royal Field Artillery, 18th Battery stationed in Nowsheera Cantonment on the banks of the Kabul River in what was then the North West frontier of India. It is now in Pakistan. According to the Imperial Gazetteer of India in 1901 Nowsheera was a town of under ten thousand inhabitants situated on a sandy plain surrounded by low hills except to the north.

Early in 1914 the 18th Battery was part of the 3rd Brigade Royal Field Artillery FA, still stationed in India, at Jullundur in the Punjab.  When war was declared it was sent back to England with the rest of the Brigade to join the newly formed 28th Division. The 18th and 62nd Batteries were combined to form 18/62 Battery RFA. However, Charles Walter’s RFA record states that he remained in India until 1917 so he must have transferred into a different Brigade. It is notoriously difficult to track Royal Artillery Units as they were frequently moved around and attached to different brigades, and I’ve been unable to trace Charles Walter’s career. His RFA record states he served in Mesopotamia during 1917 and 1918 but does not specify dates.

Following the ignominious surrender of the British Garrison at Kut to the Turkish army in April 1916, Sir Frederick Maude was appointed commander of the Mesopotamia Front. After a major re-organisation, Maude launched an attack in December on both banks of the River Tigris, the ultimate aim being to take Baghdad. The city was captured the following March and the advance continued into 1918 until the Turkish forces finally surrendered after the Battle of Sharqat in October. This Mesopotamian campaign was largely an Indian Army campaign; the only British formations involved being the 13th (Western) Division and British battalions assigned to Indian brigades. It seems quite likely that Charles Walter was among the latter.

He appears to have come through the War without serious injury as he was not on the Silver War Badge lists. He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal which confirms he was on active service. On 3rd September 1921 he was demobilised with the comment that his conduct was exemplary.

I cannot trace his later whereabouts. There were two other men, both living in Bedfordshire, named Charles Walter Crane / Crain, born in 1888 and 1890 respectively but neither are the Cottingham man.

What of his siblings? His elder brother John had also joined the 3rd Northamptonshire’s in 1915; he died in a military prison in 1918. His younger brother George William may also have served but records are inconclusive – there are a great many servicemen with that name. It is likely George William died at Kettering in 1918. Their eldest sister Mary Anne married in 1903 and spent her life in Finedon; she had no children. Their younger sister Alice had gone into service but was later a patient at Berrywood Asylum.

Charles Walter was related to fifteen servicemen named Crane living in the village, and a further fifteen descended from the Crane families of Cottingham. Their surnames were Coles, Wade, Martin, Sculthorpe, Blount, Groocock, Timson, Crook and Scott.