Pte William Charles Eldridge (1898 – 1922)

William Charles Eldridge was born on 3 December 1898 at Gotham Farm near Bexhill in Sussex. He was the eldest of four children born to Newton Charles Eldridge, a farm labourer, and his wife Charlotte (née Cramp.)

A nomadic existence marked the Eldridge family’s life, a common experience for agricultural workers of the time. They moved from Gotham Farm near Bexhill in Sussex to Turkey Farm in 1901 and later to 1908 Pike Fish Farm in Yalding, Kent. Newton, often employed as a waggoner, and Charles, as he was usually known, with his siblings adapted to their new surroundings, attending local schools wherever they were based.

It is unknown exactly when Charles enlisted in the military; however, it was recorded in a newspaper obituary that he served for over five years, initially with the Royal West Kent Regiment before transferring to the Machine Gun Corps. While overseas, he was severely gassed in the latter stages of the war and eventually placed in Section B of the Army Reserve. Although his health was affected by his war service, he did not apply to the War Pensions Committee and continued working as much as possible as a farm labourer, often through periods of illness.

In 1920, after Newton was convicted of unlawfully administering a harmful substance to a horse at Salts Place Farm in Loose, the family moved to 21 Crow Hill near Borough Green, which, at the time, was still part of the parish of Platt. During the previous year, as a result of the gas poisoning, Charles contracted tuberculosis, and he succumbed to the disease on 29 July 1922.

Scott Wishart