Address: 50 Stonehall Road, Eccleshill, formerly of Idle
Rolls of Honour: Eccleshill
Charlie Styles was killed at Ypres on 28 October 1914. His was a brief and unglamorous war of mud, cold and home-sickness, as he revealed in letters home shared by his family with the Shipley Times & Express.As a reservist, Styles, who had moved to 50 Stonehall Road, Eccleshill from Idle, was called up as soon as war was declared. He was among the first sent to Europe and never returned to England where his fifth child had since been born, christened Frances Louvain Styles.He had fought for ten weeks in all
weathers ‘without having a change of clothes and he saw more soldiers killed than he liked to say.’ShaveThe first of his letters appeared in the paper on 9 October 1914, three weeks before his death. It read: ‘I have not had my clothes off since I left home, nor have I had a shave so you can tell what a time I am having.‘I am writing this on Sunday afternoon. It is now one week before Idle feast. How I would love to be with you all.
‘I would very much like you to send me a ‘Yorkshire Sports’ to read. ‘There are plenty of rumours about here that the war will be over in a month and others say it will be over at Christmas.‘It is perishing at night and I have been wet to the skin several times.‘I have received the postcards from the children and they have cheered me up wonderfully. I am wearing the flag my little lad sent me in my cap for luck.‘I wish someone would send me a small box of stationery as writing paper is very scarce out here.’
The stark contrasts experienced by soldiers on the front line were revealed in letters treasured by Charlie Styles’s family after hearing he had been killed in action.One voluntary church parade on 11 October, 17 days before he was killed, gave a glimpse of the front-line experiences. Styles described it as the happiest time he’d spent since going to Europe in August.They were enjoying a well-earned rest in a village about three miles from the trenches and about 150 of them met on the village green. They sang “Rock of Ages”, “Jesus lover of my soul” and “Onward Christian soldiers” but even while the service was being held the big guns could be heard every few minutes. ‘They made a terrible noise and shook the small buildings around where the men stood,’ Styles wrote.‘The service was a fine one and the feature of it was the prayer offered by the chaplain for
the mothers, wives and children of the soldiers.‘It was a touching prayer and it affected the Tommies so much that tears could be seen running down the cheeks of many of them. I would not mind if there was going to be a service like that every Sunday.’The day before his death Pte Styles wrote: ‘Just to show you what a tough time we are having I’ll give you the record of the last few days. We had a 26-mile walk, followed by 24 hours in a cattle truck. Then another 44 hour ride in another truck in which we were packed like sardines.‘On alighting we walked 14 miles and were billeted in a saddler’s shop. We were called out at 1.30 a.m. to tramp a dozen miles and
went straight into action and we had numerous casualties. We have had nothing but bully beef and biscuits for a week.’But there were lighter moments of comradeship and Styles, renowned as a boy in Idle for his marvellous memory and for being able to ‘reel off poetry by the yard and learn songs in a marvellously short time,’ was often at the heart of it.He would sing songs and give recitations, boasting ‘The Old Soldier’s Story fairly captivated them.’But such moments were brief. ‘They had had a lively hour the previous night. Rifles, Maxims and big guns were all going together and the noise was simply deafening.’He told his wife: ‘After all the hardships I have gone through I will go delirious with joy when I get back home. I have been luckier than ever I imagined I would be and I pray to God that I will be lucky enough to go right through the campaign.‘The South African war was child’s play to the present one. It will have been an honour to have gone through it and when it is over those who had fought in it will have something to remember and talk about.’There are two more mentions of Pte Styles in the Shipley Times & Express. on 19 March 1915 they report that his widow has received a letter from the King and Queen regretting his loss of life.And the following month, Sapper William Marshall, who was himself killed in 1916, reported that he had been talking to Charlie on the morning he was killed.
In Memoriam notice in the Shipley Times & Express 27 October 1915