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Charles Stanley Pearce

Captain Charles Stanley PEARCE
8th Battalion East Surrey Regiment

Date of birth: 1895
Date of death: 1 July 1916

Killed in action aged 21
Buried in Carnoy Military Cemetery Plot E 30

Charles Stanley was born in Snaresbrook to James Stanley Pearce, a Chemical Manufacturer, and his wife Florence Maryan.

The Pearces had connections with the firm of Spencer Chapman & Messel Ltd of Silvertown on the Thames, for several generations. Charles’s uncle, Sir William Pearce was the Liberal MP for Limehouse from 1906-1922.

Charles was a Captain in the 8th Battalion, the East Surrey Regiment and was killed on 1 July 1916.

Charles Stanley PearceOne of the most famous incidents to occur during the carnage of the first day of the battle of the Somme was the 8th Battalion East Surrey Regiment’s famous “football” charge towards the German trenches at Montauban.  Widely reported in the press within days of the attack, the story of how Captain W. P. Nevill provided four footballs for his platoons to kick across No Man’s Land as they advanced had soon captured the imagination of the British public.  And yet, as with so many stories, the truth may have been slightly different to that reported in the papers.  Certainly, the East Surreys did kick footballs in front of them as they advanced.  But how many?  Were there really four footballs, as appears to have been generally accepted ever since?  Or does the evidence suggest otherwise? 

"I am afraid the newspapers didn't give quite the right story of the footballs [Second Lieutenant C.W. Alcock told Doff on July 27th]. There were two footballs, and on one was printed:- 'The Great European Cup-Tie Final. East Surreys v Bavarians. Kick off at zero.' On the other in large letters was this:- "NO REFEREE", which was W.'s way of telling the men they needn't treat the Hun too gently."

Extract from "Billie" - The Nevill Letters by Ruth Elwin Harris. 

"Gallant East Surreys. The captain of one of the companies had provided four footballs, one for each platoon, urging them to keep up a dribbling competition all the way over the mile and a quarter of ground they had to traverse. As the company formed on emerging from the trench, the platoon commanders kicked off, and the match against Death commenced. The gallant captain himself fell early in the charge, and men began to drop rapidly under the hail of machine-gun bullets. But still the footballs were booted onwards, with hoarse cries of encouragement or defiance, until they disappeared in the dense smother behind which the Germans were shooting. Then, when the bombs and bayonets had done their work, and the enemy had cleared out, the Surrey men looked for their footballs, and recovered two of them in the captured traverses. These will be sent to the Regimental Depot at Kingston as trophies worth preserving."  Daily Telegraph 12 July 1916

Probate was granted to Charles’ father of "Priest's Mere," Tadworth, Surrey.
He left £397-10-8

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