Caistor St Edmund – War Memorial (Charles Edward Back)

Charles Edward Back is one of the names listed on the war memorial in Caistor St Edmunds.

Charles Edward Back was a rifleman who died at the age of just 20 on 20 September 1917, having started his military career serving in France in 1915. He was born in Poringland, the son of John Back, and they both worked as herdsmen (or cowman as John was listed as in the 1911 census). In that 1911 census, Back was aged 14 and was working as a yard boy, and he lived with his sister, Mabel Anne Back who was aged 12 and was a schoolgirl.

Going back to the 1901 census, Charles and Mabel were listed, with John as the head of the household, along with Frederick Robert, who was aged 12 at that time (Charles was listed as being 4, Mabel as 2). Sadly, Frederick Robert also died in the First World War, dying in Thessaloniki in 1918.

Rolling back further to 1891, it was clear that this was a bigger family than I had at first thought. For the first time, John Back’s wife is listed, Elizabeth Jane Back, with John working as a gardener at that time. There are also more children on the census list, Fanny aged 13, George Harry aged 11, Maud aged 9, Emma aged 2, as well as a 2-year old Frederick Robert. As well as all of these, in the census before, Albert and Kate were listed.

So, something went wrong between 1891 and 1901, and it transpired that Elizabeth Jane Back died in 1895, at the age of just 46. So, I’m not sure who the mother of Charles Edward Back was, and although I can take a stab at that answer by looking at the 1901 census, guessing parentage doesn’t feel entirely appropriate.

Back to Charles and the First World War. Since he is buried at Tyne Cot, that means he would have likely been involved with the Battle of Passchendaele, with the date of his death suggesting he was involved with the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge meaning he was one of 20,255 people dying in that battle.

The above photo is taken on the day that Charles died, at the same location, although the photo shows a different regiment.