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Thursday, 24 July 2014

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Battle over medal for officer killed on Somme

A BIDDING battle led to an extraordinary price for a single medal awarded to a Barrow officer killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

The 1915 bronze star of Second-Lieutenant Charlie Drinnan Roberton would normally be worth around £25 but was pushed to £372.60 due to its association with the British Army’s single worst day for death and injuries.

He was among 19,000 to die that day, with another 40,000 wounded.

The Lancashire Fusilier, aged just 23, was killed leading his men on July 1 in 1916 and is buried close to where he fell at the Euston Road Cemetery at Colincamps.

He was the son of Mrs JR Roberton, of Elgin Terrace, Dowanhill, Glasgow and the late CG Roberton OBE, of Barrow.

In the 1911 census, the officer’s family was living at Cavendish Park, Barrow.

His father was a submarine designer at the shipyard and an inventor with three patents to his name for improvements to internal combustion engines.

The young officer was a former pupil at the Municipal Secondary School for Boys in Barrow and at the Clifton Bank public school in St Andrews.

The Barrow school’s magazine noted: “The Somme Battle had just commenced when we heard that Charlie Roberton had fallen leading his men against the
enemy.”

During sixth form studies at Barrow, he was the Fell Essay Prizeman and was captain of the cricket team.

The Barrovian magazine noted: “High-minded and honourable, he was the type of our English manhood which in these days has so gloriously upheld British traditions.”

The History of the Lancashire Fusiliers 1914-1918 notes: “Between 8 and 8.30am on July 1 the battalion advanced in artillery formation on a frontage of 250 yards with 200 yards between companies.

“On crossing the Mailly-Sucrerie road, it heard from wounded men that the attack of the 11th Infantry Brigade had been completely successful and that the German front line had been occupied.

“But soon afterwards, the sound of German rifle and machine-gun fire began to be heard, and it was evident that no “walk over” was in store.

“The Roman road running north-west from Beaumont Hamel was reached at 9am.

“Up till then no casualties had been incurred.

“But a few minutes later the first serious barrage was met, and thereafter casualties became frequent.”

The advance of the Fusiliers was a success but at a heavy cost as the entire Allied advance turned into a static trench battle lasting for months.

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