Charles Henry Hitchings
Charles Henry Hitchings, known as Charlie, was born in Quedgeley on 28 July 1886. He was baptised at its parish church, St James, on 5 September. His father, George Frederick Hitchings, worked as a bridgekeeper on the Gloucester & Berkeley Canal and the family moved to Frampton during the following year. His mother, Mary Ann (Annie) née Halling, gave birth to eleven children; conditions must have been fairly cramped in the bridgekeeper's house at Splatt which only had four rooms. Among his siblings were three brothers who also served during the war : Ashley Victor, Frederick Robert William John and Percival Leonard. Charlie was a farm labourer in 1911, but his occupation soon turned to that of bargeman.
Charlie had been in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve before he enlisted for war service as a stoker at Devonport on 17 April 1916. On completion of his training at HMS Vivid, Devonport, he was posted to HMS Sutlej, a 12,000 ton armoured cruiser based then in the Azores. Built by John Brown on Clydeside at the turn of the century, Sutlej was rather out of date from a stoker's point of view : she had thirty boilers to keep fuelled with coal, and in July 1910 a boiler explosion had killed four men. In September the ship was recalled to serve in the 9th Cruiser Squadron, escorting merchant shipping convoys off the French and Iberian coasts.
Sutlej was withdrawn from active service on 4 May 1917 and Charlie was back at Devonport for three months, probably for further training. His next ship, which he joined on 4 August, and in which he saw out the rest of his service, was HMS Cornwall, another elderly coal-fired armoured cruiser, but one with an interesting service history. She had fought at the Battle of the Falklands in 1914, in which she was hit 18 times by the German cruiser Leipzig but did not lose a single man, while Cornwall's shells set Leipzig on fire, eventually to sink. She later patrolled off the German colonies in east and south-west Africa, supported the Allied forces in the Dardanelles, and served on the China station. By the time Charlie went on board, Cornwall was on Atlantic convoy escort duty. His demobilisation came on 21 February 1919 and he was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal. Although Charlie does not appear to be commemorated on the village hall plaque, his service may have been recorded under 'G. Hitchings'. (There are other spelling errors on the board and no person with that initial has been found who was likely to have served.)
On 27 August 1927 Charlie married Minnie, sister of Albert Edward Townsend, at St Mary's and they lived at 6 Vicarage Lane. Charles Henry Hitchings was buried in the churchyard on 17 February 1968 after losing his battle with cancer and tuberculosis in Standish Hospital. He was described by his doctor as a very brave man who never complained.