Private Charles Kerr - Manchester Regiment, 17th
Update 12 March 2013.
On Sunday 10 March we met again at the Imperial War Museum - North where
Dick and Lisa were giving a presentation about the diaries. This
was covered by the Manchester Evening News on Monday 11 and then by the
Daily Mail the next day. You can read their accounts here:
Good to meet Nicola again, this time with other
members of her family. Still looking for a photo of Charlie Kerr.
On 24 May 2012 we (Dick and Lisa Robinson)
arranged to meet Charles Kerr’s great, great niece, Nicola
Mortimer, at her home in Bury near Manchester.
I still find it quite strange – almost incomprehensible - to put
the notion of the three of us sitting chatting so comfortably in
Nicola’s garden on a lovely sunny day alongside the terrible and
tragic situation in which our ancestors, Edie and Charlie, met almost 100 years
ago. The story of how Edie cared for the dying Charlie, as she
relates it below, is always the one
which readers of the diaries pick out as being the most
evocative and poignant.
Thank you for your hospitality Nicola and we look forward to
your finding a named photograph of your great, great uncle – as
we are sure you will do soon.
3 April 2012
had a contact from George Cogswell who maintains the
Trafford War Dead
This includes, as far as possible, all the Trafford War Dead from
First World War and Charles Kerr is included. George has sent more
information about him and
the individual page about
Charles is here.
Cutting from the Manchester Evening
News of 28 March 1916
recording the death (DIED OF WOUNDS)
of Private Charles Kerr.
Click on the image to
George has kindly also provided the following images and information:
||1911 Census return
for the Kerr family showing Charles aged 16 and working as a
Roll of Honour
|Click on the images to
14 March 2012
Last week I was contacted by Nicola Mortimer, the great, great niece of Private Charles
Kerr of the Manchester Regiment, 17th Battalion.
Charlie, as Edie calls him, was nursed by her from
late February until his death on 12 March 1916.
Below is the unedited text of Edie’s diary account for the whole period
during which she cared for him and it clearly shows how very attached to
him she became.
We do not have an individual photograph of him – yet – but Nicola has sent me a photo of his platoon before they left for France. She has
also sent a list of all the soldiers in that photograph but she does not
know which man is Charles Kerr. How wonderful
it would be to be able to identify which one is him in the photo. Can
anyone help? Please email me (Dick Robinson) at
and/or Nicola at
We do have both images in larger versions.
Click on the images to enlarge.
Nicola Mortimer writes about Charles Kerr:
“Charles was my great grandmother's younger brother. He was my
mum's dad's mother's brother. Finding the extract from Edie's diaries
was very moving. It was touching to learn that he was lovingly cared for
by Edie. I stumbled across your website by pure chance. I was 'googling'
addresses that I have found on census records and WW1 records. When I
searched for Cedar Street, which
is where Charles lived, a WW1 forum (**) came up with link to your website. I
couldn't believe my luck when I saw a reference to Charles. I double
checked my notes, and the dates tallied, so it must be the same person.
A fantastic find!
"Unfortunately I do not have a photo of Charles. I have a photograph of
his platoon before they left for France, but I
have no idea which soldier he is. I have attached a copy of the photo
and the list of soldiers who are on the photograph [see photo and
I have discovered that Charles served with the 2nd City Battalion, later
designated the 17th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. They were also
known as the Manchester Pals."
**The Great War Forum link is here:
Dick Robinson adds:
"These contacts from descendants of those for
whom Edie cared are immensely moving and powerful. To think that our
relatives were in touch almost 100 years ago in the most tragic
circumstances and now living connections are re-emerging so poignantly,
through a combination of sharing remarkable Edie’s diaries and the
wonders of modern technology. This is the fourth such contact since the
website went live back in 2008 and now that the book is published I am
confident there may be more”
Busy day – poor Kerr (Pneumonia etc – etc). I am afraid will not weather
the storm, & poor old Sgt. Middleton is as bad as he can be & so is
Rudman, poor dears – I do wish they could get better.
Was off duty in
afternoon – walked up cliff, caught in snow storm, back early – bathed -
tea with Madame. Very tired – don’t know why?
Slept through the first bell - & woke at the second – to find my room
aglow with a beautiful pink light. The outside world was a foot deep
under snow. Telephone wires looking like those fluffy bell pulls about 3
inches round in snow & all glittering in the early morning sunshine.
Truly beautiful & unwarlike.
Now I must quickly dress or I shall be late for
breakfast, but by tonight – if the snow thaws – I may forget what the
morning was like – as there is plenty every day to drive out all
thoughts but patients – wards – etc lists, & Convoys.
I want to write to you today – but whether I shall or not is a different
matter. We have a big Convoy to get off to
- & another arriving – supposed at 10 a.m. so we shall not be slack –
but – the difference – here we have about 12 hrs. notice of a Convoy
coming - & up the line they just tumbled in at all hours of the day &
night. My heart is very sore for one poor boy, or for his Mother – We
have had him 10 days – & he is no better & is in a state to die at any
moment. I am writing to his Mother & telling her so, she is evidently a
refined old lady – writes back to say she is “so glad to hear Charlie is
with us – the rest & good food will do him good”. Have my letters not
reached her? Or won’t she understand that the boy is dying. I think he
must have been gassed – he is purple & just like a gas patient.
Étretat is beautiful – this is Ash Wednesday - & I ought to be at the
6:45 service but some horrid crank always takes me in Lent. I miss more
services & eat more nice things &
smoke more than any time of the year. Étretat is really
beautiful now. Yesterday’s snow, thawed a little in the sunshine, but is
still deep & frozen again with the night’s frost. My Western horizon is
just tinged with pale pink which suits the soft clouds & pale blue sea
to distraction & the cliffs are a picture in themselves all snow covered
& rugged – No letters from England last night. Now I must get up! If
only I could sketch I would make the most lovely little pictures in this
I was to have been called at 2 a.m. to help in with a heavy convoy, so
went to bed & to sleep at 9 p.m. & the next thing I knew it was 1/4 past
6 – broad daylight - & no one had called me & even now - here I sit in
my night attire - 7 a.m. trusting it is all right & that the convoy has
been held up somewhere & that we are to go to second breakfast as usual.
The morning is as yesterday, the sea perhaps a trifle calmer & more
shimmering - tide further off, & the brown rocks glowing red in the
light of the rising sun. Yesterday was a delightful day of calm between
the storms, of despatching a large convoy & receiving the one that
didn’t come. My pneumonia boy benefited from the quiet & perhaps… the
creature has a chance, & feel he must get better - for his Mother, poor
thing, she wrote to me - & said she was heartbroken - however, it was no
good for me to pretend he was not dangerously ill. He was - & is. I must
get up now, for Matron Miss E. M. Denne – had sudden orders to go
to Havre to relieve Miss Steen invalided home. She was sorry to go - &
we to lose her, although it is a great promotion. She will be Principal
Matron of the Havre district soon. Get up.
Very big day Convoy arrived 7.40 - 590 men chiefly sick - only about 30
badly wounded. I had in a few wounded - but the greater part - fully all
my beds - & extra mattresses on the floor were such things as trench
foot. 1 CT & one advanced Ø. The day was very busy & poor Kerr worse - I
am sure that boy has been gassed & will die. Shouldn’t be surprised to
find his cot empty when I go on duty. Poor Mother - how will she take
it? No letters - no off duty - weather - I hardly remember - not so cold
- I think.
Too much sadness to write about, besides being dead beat.
My poor little boy Kerr died yesterday, he had been in 15 days suffering
from gas - pneumonia, bronchitis & has been extremely & dangerously ill
all the time, but only the day before yesterday he realized that he was
not going to get well.
[See Commonwealth War
Commission (CWGC) Register for details:
I am glad to say we never left him night or day & he was fond of us all.
Yesterday was a difficult day to be “Sister” - He kept whispering all
sorts of messages for home & his fiancée - then he would call “Sister” &
when I bent down to hear - “I do love you” “when I’m gone, will you kiss
me?” - & all the time heads would be popping in “Sister - 20 No – so &
so – to - - - -.” “The S. Sgt wants to
know if you can lend him a couple of men to…” This & that - but in spite
of all - I did kiss the boy first for his Mother & then for myself -
which pleased him - then he whispered “but you still will when I’m
gone.” The night before he asked me what dying would be like - & said it
seemed so unsatisfactory - he felt too young to die - & not even wounded
- only of bronchitis. Then another time he said, “They wouldn’t let me
go sick every time they said it was rheumatism & would wear off - &
marching with full pack & dodging the shells was dreadful. Thank
Goodness - what I told him dying would be like happened - exactly - a
clear gift of
I told him it would be - that little by little his breatheing would get
easier - & he would feel tired & like going to sleep - & then he would
just sleep - & with no morphia - that is exactly what did happen -
without a struggle. He was quite conscious up to 20 minutes before he
died. I just asked him now & then if he knew I was still with him. “Yes”
- & you’re quite happy - aren’t you? & he distinctly said “Yes, quite”.
Then the last & very trying part for the Sister was to walk along to the
other end of the village - beside the poor dead thing - to see him
decently put - in the mortuary. With hundreds of French eyes turned
“full on”. Our own people always clear out of the way when they see it
We sent 13 to England
yesterday & are getting a new convoy in today, so I must dress quickly.
This is really the only time I have for my own writing, every day is
busy - & at night I am too tired - now I must get up.
Maxey, Constable & I had half days – weather very heavy. Blowing 1/2 a
gale with occasional gusts of rain or hail – We walked to Benouville -
dug up a basket full of primrose roots – then went to the Inn for our
usual boiled eggs & bread & butter tea –
then went home – to the Cemetery - & tidied up 9 graves – took
away all the dead flowers - & planted primroses – Col. Thackery, Capt
Hammond – Kerr - & Sawden – came under my special care. If everybody
does a few we may have them all tidy for Easter – the Cemetery is very