Private Charles Edward Houldsworth

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Private. 3rd Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment. Service number 36160.

A head and shoulders portrait of a man wearing a jacket and collarless shirt. He is facing the camera.

Charles Edward Houldsworth.

Early life:

Charles was born in Silsden on 8th January 1888, the 6th son of Henry Houldsworth and Hannah Houldsworth née Brass. His birth was registered in Skipton in the first quarter of the year.
He was baptised at St. James' Church in Silsden on 1st February. at the time they were living at Silsden and his father Henry was a nail maker.

In the 1891 census he was aged three years old and living at 10, Chapel Street in Silsden with his parents Henry aged 61 and a nail maker, Hannah aged 44 and caring for the family home and children. His siblings were one sister Mary, a 16 year old worsted rover and four brothers who were James, 24 year old and a mechanic's labourer; Joseph, 18 years and a paper tube maker; John G. aged 12 and a worsted spinner and William A. aged 10 and a worsted spinner. John G. and William would have been part timers at school for half of each working day. Matthew M. aged seven, would have been at school full time and Charles would have been at home with their mother.

In the 1901 census Charles was aged 13 and living at 12, Highfield Lane in Silsden with his parents and siblings. He was employed as a worsted spinner. The other siblings living here at this time were Henry aged 32 (missing from family home in the 1881 census), William Albert aged 16 and Marmaduke (Matthew) aged 16 and all of them along with their father Henry were nail makers.

According to his obituary, in 1909 Charles was in Canada and returned some years later.

Henry died in January 1910 and was buried at St. James' Church in Silsden. It's possible that Hannah (Annie) died in March of the same year.
Matthew Marmaduke Houldsworth was living at 8, Highfield Lane with his wife Annie and two children, so it appears that the family went their separate ways after the deaths of their parents.

On 4th March 1916 Charles married Frances Crohen, with the marriage registered at Keighley in the first quarter of the year and they were living at 15, Campbell Street.

War service:

His Army service record exists but may be incomplete and is damaged, probably due to the Arnside Street fire on 8th September 1940, when the records building was set on fire by an incendiary bomb during the blitz.

Charles and Frances were living at 15, Campbell Street in Keighley when he was deemed to have been enlisted on 14th June 1916. On 9th September he was called up for service and entered General Service with the York and Lancaster Regiment. He was examined at Halifax on the same date and his details were: declared age, 29 years 9 months; trade, fettler; height, 5 feet 5,1/2 inches; weight, 129 lbs; chest, 38 inches; physical development, good. He had been vaccinated in infancy.
Charles' civil employment was a fettler, probably at Prince Smith & Son in Keighley and he gave his age as 28 years and 9 months old and stated that he had no previous military service.

He was reported to have deserted on 23rd December 1916 but this may have been a confusion regarding his whereabouts, because he had already been admitted to ward J of Keighley War Hospital on 5th December. In a later document, this date was used to show when he rejoined the 3rd Battalion from desertion. Charles appears to have been so poorly that he was unable to return. The War Hospital Register of Patients held at Keighley Library indicates that he was admitted sick on this date and discharged by death on 10th February 1917.

There is a very detailed document detailing his illness and treatment.
[Warning- this contains all the rather unpleasant medical details of his illness, please do not read it if you are squeamish]

It is Army Form I. 1237. Medical Case Sheet:

Regimental no., 36160; Rank, Private; Surname, Houldsworth; Christian Name, Charles Edward.
Unit, 3rd York and Lancaster Regiment; Age, 28; Service, 12 weeks.

Disease, Carcinoma Recti. Admitted to this hospital 5/12/16.
Patient says that for a few months before being called up for military service he suffered from almost continuous backache & a great weakness. He had very decayed teeth & the Regimental Medical Officer advised all teeth to be extracted as this was considered the cause of patient being badly nourished. Was granted 4 days of furlough about 7 weeks ago but was unfit to return to his Depot.
After being confined to bed for 6 weeks he was admitted to the War Hospital, Keighley 5/12/16.

On admission:
Patient looks pathetic & is very thin, says he has had backache for many weeks, & has no control over his bowels. Rectal discharge is almost watery & very offensive, says he was informed by a Medical man that he had 'Piles'. It is difficult to make a rectal examination owing to tight sphincter Ani & pain caused.
To be prepared for General Anasthetic.
H. Stewart Brander, Capt. R.A.M.C.

Under Ether Anaesthesia-rectum thoroughly examined. No Piles present but in region of Houston's Valve there is much induration of tissues, & a hard immovable mass felt beyond. This has the Clinical appearance Etc. of a malignant growth & is inoperable. Rectum plugged with gauze. H.S.B.
Patient expresses himself as being more comfortable.
Still profuse offensive rectal discharge. Rectum to be washed out every other day with Sterile water. H.S.B.
No more Haemorrhage from rectum, but patient suffering from great Asthenia. Motions very offensive & liquid. There has been vomiting. To have plenty of liquid nourishment. H.S.B.
General condition very much the same. Growth in rectum increased in size & is firmly fixed. There are no signs of Intestinal Stasis. H.S.B.
Patient's general condition very poor. Some signs of Intestinal Stasis.
Has taken more liquid nourishment during past week but Asthenia continues.
General condition much worse. Abdominal distension increased although patient has passed flatus freely. No vomiting. H.S.B.
Died from exhaustion following Carcinoma Recti at 8.50 this morning.

Post mortem examination performed 10/2/17.
Extensive growth present in Rectum & Sigmoid flexure (lower portion of) the growth firmly adherent to the Pelvis. Numerous hard glands present along the large vessels. (Iliacs and Abdominal aorta) also similar glands in the Mesentary.
H. Stewart Brander. Capt. R.A.M.C.

Note: The term Asthenia refers to physical weakness or a lack of energy. Asthenia can affect specific body parts, or it may affect the entire body.

A telegram was sent to the 3rd Battalion York and Lancaster records office to confirm Charles had died of cancer at 8.50 am on 10th February 1917, at Keighley War Hospital. It states his relatives were present at his death.

Charles Houldsworth's photograph and obituary were in the local newspaper the next week:

Keighley News 17th February 1917 page 7:

Private Charles E. Houldsworth, Durham Light Infantry, of Silsden, died in the Morton Banks Hospital on Saturday last. In 1909 he went to Canada, and returned to Silsden some years later. He enlisted about seven months ago, was passed at Halifax, and was sent to Durham for training. He had, however, to immediately go into hospital, where he remained for five weeks. He then came home on forty-eight hours leave; but owing to the serious nature of his illness was unable to return, and was admitted to the Morton Banks Military Hospital, where death took place. Twenty nine years of age, Private Houldsworth was the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Henry Houldsworth of Chapel Street, Silsden, and husband of Mrs. Houldsworth, Rectory Row, Keighley. Prior to joining the colour he was employed as a fettler by Messrs. Prince Smith & Son, Keighley. The funeral took place at Silsden on Tuesday last, the officiating minister being the Rev.E. E. Peters.

[note: the Durham Light Infantry reference above does not match with his Army service record, which places him in the York and Lancaster Regiment, who were part of the Tyne Garrison at Sunderland at that time.]

His death was registered at Keighley in the first quarter of 1917.
Widow Frances received Charles' outstanding Army pay of £2 1s 9d on 22nd May 1917.

Post war:

A Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone made from local sandstone. It has the name C. E. Houldsworth.

Charles' CQGC headstone.

A plaque and scroll inscribed with his name were sent to his widow Frances on 9th June 1920, at the time she was living at 46, Rectory Row in Keighley. Charles did not serve overseas, so he was not entitled to any medals.
Frances was paid a widow's pension of 13 shilling and 9 pence per week for life, beginning on 20th August 1917.
She was paid a severance amount of £35 9s 3d on 30th November 1917. This was because she remarried to a discharged soldier, Bernard Lane on 14th November 1917. Frances was later living at 63, Bower Street in Bradford.
The pension record makes it clear that Charles' cause of death was 'Cancer of the bowel - aggravated by active service.'

Charles has a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone on his grave as befitting a man who was in service of his country when he died. His grave is number 523 at Silsden St. James Churchyard and there are six other war casualties buried here.


Charles is remembered on the Silsden War Memorial and in the Silsden Town Hall roll of honour.

Frances married disharged soldier Bernard Lane in November 1917 at Keighley and lived in Bradford. In the 1939 register they were living at 29, Lupton Street in Bradford.

Frances died in 1948 aged 51 years.

Information sources:

England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915
West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910
England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975
1891 England Census
1901 England Census
West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-1985
England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1837-1915
England & Wales Marriages 1837-2005
British Army World War I Service Records, 1914-1920
The National Archives
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919
England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007
Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929
World War I Pension Ledgers and Index Cards, 1914-1923
The Long Long Trail website
Craven's Part in the Great War
1939 England and Wales Register
England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007
Keighley News archives at Keighley Library
Keighley War Hospital Register at Keighley Library archives

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