Charles Robert Lane: Born 3rd May 1888, Coveny Street, Cardiff

Charles’ parents were married in December 1880 in St Margarets’s church, Roath.

Regimental number: 14084

Charles was 26 when World War One broke out. He had worked as a baker, and for a short time as a collier, prior to volunteering. He joined the Cardiff Pals battalion at the outbreak of war, along with his best friend. Unfortunately, his best friend was killed alongside my grandfather – hit by a shell – nothing remained.

After initial training, Charles served for three months at the Somme, and then the regiment was transferred to Salonika. Charles was discharged in February 1919.

Like many men who served in both world wars, Charles never spoke about the horrors he would have seen, and with regards to the death of his best friend, it was my grandmother who told me briefly what had happened.

Charles, known by everyone as Charlie, was one of 11 children, and he and three of his brothers fought in World War One. All four survived.

The day the battalion left Cardiff, Charlie had boarded the train along with the rest of the men, when his mother arrived at the gate to say her goodbyes. His mother was told it was too late, as the men had boarded the train. However, an officer told the NCO to allow my great-grandmother onto the platform, and a cry went up for Charlie to come forward.

He stood with his mother for a final farewell, when all the Pals started to call out: “Kiss your mother, Charlie!” and naturally, he obliged. From that day on, he had the nickname ‘Kiss your mother Charlie’, which proved to be very useful when he had to get supplies etc: the NCO would ask, ‘who is it for?’ and the reply would come – ‘for kiss your mother Charlie’ – at which the NCO would usually say, ‘right, that’s fine’.

Charlie was a batman to one of the officers, a man he liked very much. A time came when the officer was moved to another regiment, and wanted Charlie to move with him. Charlie asked if was an order, to which the officer said, ‘no’. So Charlie said that he would like to stay with the Pals battalion.

When the officer left, he gave my grandfather a silver flask, it having saved the officer’s life. Unfortunately, I am unable to give the name of the officer. He was the son of a prominent businessman from the South Wales valleys, and had promised Charlie a job after the war – something that Charlie never pursued. Whether the officer survived the war, we shall never know.

After the war, Charlie returned to baking, where he met my grandmother, who had been a forewoman at the bakery during the war. Perhaps if he had pursued the chance of working for his officer, he may never have met and married my grandmother!

Charlie was made a cook whilst serving in the Pals, and was involved in serving the officers their evening meals. A menu would be handed to Charlie, which was often of several courses, and many of the ingredients had to be foraged from the local area!

On one occasion, a young officer called Charlie over and requested something not on the table. The senior officer picked up on the request and gave the young man a dressing down, to the effect of: “If it is not on the table, you do not request anything!”

Often, when a menu was handed to the cook, items might be in short supply. It was difficult to get fresh eggs, and it became necessary to find substitutes such as bicarbonate of soda – the result of which was that a great deal of flatulence was suffered by the officers – something that Charlie found highly amusing.

Stephanie Russell (Granddaughter)

Images [copyright] Stephanie Russell and Matt Appleby

Charles Robert Lane

Charles Robert Lane