Remembering the First World War fallen - Charles Maynell Gant
It could be said that it is even more important than usual to remember this Embsay soldier who was killed in action during the First World War, because we know so little about him. The Craven Herald never published a photograph of him [see Craven’s Part in the Great War website,
www.cpgw.org.uk], and only a brief sentence was published in the newspaper to report his death in August 1917.
He was born in Durham county, the son of Charles Henry Gant, a wire worker, and his wife Annie Elizabeth nee Meynell, who hailed from Derbyshire.
The family moved to Yorkshire when Charles was still a child, probably about 10 years of age. They moved around a bit – from Farnhill to Embsay, and then to Grassington, where Charles Henry became a police sergeant. 13 year old Charles Gant junior was left behind in Embsay to join the band of apprentices employed by John Davy, the grocer.
Davy ran a highly successful business based at Cross End. The last house at the bottom of Kirk Lane, now a residential property, was Davy’s warehouse. Not only did Davy live with his family at Cross End, but he kept the neighbouring house to board his apprentices and assistants. In 1891, Charles Meynell Gant was one of 3 teenage apprentice lads living in the house, together with a 22 year old shop assistant, local man Richard Wilson.
Although his parents moved to Shipley by 1896, Charles was to stay on in Embsay as an employee of John Davy’s grocery business until well into his thirties when he enlisted. In 1901, at the age of 23, he was the corn warehouseman, one of 6 employees living in the same house at Cross End, all looked after by Elizabeth Thompson, a 41 year old housekeeper.
By 1911 there were only 3 assistants being boarded here, including Charles, now aged 33; Frank Higgins, a 22 year old from Bradford; and a 12 year old, George Bellas (who was to die on the Western Front in February 1917). After the death of John Davy, his son Arthur carried on the business, and continued to employ Charles.
Charles Meynell Gant joined the 1/6th Battalion as Private 266906, in the West Riding Regiment. But we know very little else about him. His army service records have not survived, apart from the medal index card, and his Commonwealth Commission War Grave.
He died at Koksijde (previously called Coxyde), Belgium – the British and Commonwealth forces had relieved the French troops in this sector in June 1917, The Germans learnt of British plans to use this sector as a base of operations on the coast and made a pre-emptive strike on 6th July – The British were to hold the line here for the next 6 months
The French had already established a military cemetery in the village, which – because it was deemed a relatively safe position – was also used as a rest billet. But as fighting intensified in the summer of 1917, it was in this increasingly expanding cemetery that Charles was buried, along with over 3,000 other British soldiers.
The Craven Herald had very little to say about him, simply reporting that:
“A letter has been received from Corporal E. Rimmer, stating that Pte. Charles Gant has been killed in France. Pte. Gant was employed by Mr. Arthur Davy, Embsay, as warehouseman, previous to enlisting.”
Even his war grave carries the minimum of information – no inscription was added by his family. His headstone is in Plot P, Row R, number 2.F.25. 156
He is at least remembered on the memorial cross on the village main street, on the memorial brass plaque inside St Mary’s church, and – this being the only clue to his private life – is also commemorated on the memorial at the Skipton Working Men’s Club.
Jane Lunnon, Embsay Research Group
If you have any information you can add on Charles Meynell Gant, we would be very glad to hear from you.