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CHARLES BARTLE


Flight Sergeant 2220686, 227 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Died 6 December 1944, Aged 19.


Charles was born at Sudbrook but soon moved to Caerwent where his great grandmother and grandmother ran the Post Office and his mother Edna helped them. The Post Office until 1931 was opposite the Coach & Horses, later became Eastgate Stores and is now Eastgate Cottage.

Charlie was well known as a lively but attractive youngster, somewhat the envy of his schoolmates because whereas they had to go home for a cooked dinner, he was given a Mars bar (this of course was really because his mother was busy at work). He was also the first in the village to have roller skates. He passed for Larkfield (the Grammar School) but stayed very close with the village lads. Pastimes were 'kicking the tin' - a kind of hide-and-seek played in the Coach & Horses yard, cricket, football, darts in The Institute (Boys Club), trout tickling (groping) in the Neddern, and damming it up and swimming in it. Games of hockey on roller skates were held at the top of the village hill using sticks from the hedges and a stone: traffic often waited until a goal was scored, the bus driver would be cheering the sides on. He also went camping and helped with haymaking and so on.


He left school at 14 and worked on the construction of the Dinham factory (pipework). Although very sociable he was a 'wallflower' at dances due to lack of skill. When 17 he volunteered for the Royal Air Force and became tail gunner in a Lancaster bomber operating from R.A.F., Balderton, Lincolnshire. Charlie, left, is pictured here with Bob, his pilot, and gunners Frank and Jock. At age 19 he decided to fly two extra sorties as he would then get extended leave and amongst other things was hoping to make some music with a friend at Pat’s Café (now the Wentwood Inn).


His last mission was a raid on Geissen town centre and railway yards, Germany. This was about the time of the Battle of the Bulge and the R A F’s efforts to stem the German counter attack in the Ardennes. Over the target the plane was hit by enemy fire and no more was heard from Charlie on the intercom. They limped home hoping that the silence was due to mechanical damage but on landing they found that he had been killed.  


His body was brought back to Caerwent in a coffin which no-one would open. It was set up in the former Post Office, in a darkened front room lit by a candle. A large body of people gathered in the Coach & Horses yard and followed the coffin, draped with the R.A.F. flag, up to the Church. The bearers were the crew whose lives he had been protecting at the cost of his own.


The family home not surprisingly ceased to be a happy place after this and the residue moved in the direction of Gloucester, but some relatives still live at Mathern.




RAF PERSONNEL - GENERAL NOTES


Rank

After 1940 all aircrew were upgraded to at least Sergeant as it was realised that the pay and status of corporal and below did not match the hazards involved in wartime active service. This explains how those killed later in the war could hold a rank such as Pilot Officer although they were not pilots.

Burials

All these RAF fliers have graves somewhere as none of them are listed on the Runnymede Memorial, but I have not traced them yet.





GJ Oct 1995