Alfred Charles Jakes

Born in 1895 at Cottenham and usually known as Charlie, he moved to Prickwillow with his family at an early age and grew up in the Shippea Hill & Mile End Drove area. Both his father and grandfather worked as horsemen on a nearby farm and once of age Charlie joined them on the farm, starting off as a farm labourer.

In early 1914 Charlie joined the local H (Ely) Company of the Cambridgeshire Regiment with the regimental number 1674. He was part of a wave of new recruits, mostly around the age of seventeen to nineteen, who joined in late 1913 and early 1914. These young recruits brought the company up to full strength and they soon settled in with the more experienced members.

Charlie attended the 1914 annual summer camp at Ashridge Park alongside his many new friends in H Coy. The camp was the first time away from home for many of the Ely teenagers and it was also their first prolonged taste of life in uniform. War broke out shortly after the Cambs returned from their camp and Charlie was among the first to volunteer for overseas service. The next six months were spent training and preparing for the Western Front.

On February 14th 1915 Charlie sailed for France as part of D Company, 1/1st Battalion, The Cambridgeshire Regiment and arrived at Le Havre the following day. On May 7th, after nearly three months in the Ypres Salient, Charlie and the rest of D Coy took their turn as usual in a section of the front line trenches around Sanctuary Wood. The next day was relatively quiet in this sector although there was very heavy fighting developing elsewhere on the line.

On May 9th sporadic German artillery fire continued to fall around the D Coy trenches and during one of these barrages several men, including Charlie, were hit. At this stage of the war steel helmets had not yet been introduced and many men suffered head wounds from the shrapnel that rained down into the trenches from shells exploding overhead. Charlie was one such casualty and he was caught in the head by a piece of shrapnel and evacuated to the nearby Casualty Clearing Station. His wound was severe but stable and he was returned to the UK to recover.

After recovering he remained in the UK till at least early 1917, by which time he had been transferred over to The King’s (Liverpool Regiment). Probably due to his experience around horses  he was posted to the Battalion Transport Section and rose to the rank of Transport Sergeant. He returned to the Western Front with the King’s and was discharged after the war. He died in September 1971 and is buried at Ely Cemetery.

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Charlie Jakes after the war.

This site went live on the 14th February 2015 to mark  100 years since the 1/1st Cambs went off to war.


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