This image of Charles Lovegrove, taken by Knights-Whittome in July 1916 featured prominently in the Great War Stories Exhibition which took place at Sutton Central Library during 2014. The image is a striking one taken against an elaborate painted backdrop and featuring a young soldier brimming with pride. These military portraits always ignite a certain amount of anxiety when first uncovered as we are never quite sure how the story of the individual pictured will end. In this case, the glass plate was pulled out for research after the surname was recognised from a local war memorial. Sadly, it was a match. Private Lovegrove did not survive the war, but his legacy and his image lives on in perpetuity.
Charles was born in 1889 in Carshalton to John and Sarah Frances Lovegrove. His father was a cloth merchant. The family later moved to Highfield Road in Sutton where Charles attended Sutton County School (now Sutton Grammar School).
When war broke out in 1914 Charles was in West Africa and took part from there in the successful invasion of the German Kameruns colony. He then came back to England and joined the Middlesex Regiment.
He was killed in action going over the top on the 28 October 1916 just a few months after this photograph was taken. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, Carshalton War Memorial and Sutton Grammar School WW1 Memorial.
An excerpt from the Regimental war diary describes the engagement in which Charles lost his life:
“During the night of the 27th/28th preparations were made for the attack which was timed at 6am. By 5.30am the whole four companies of the Battalion were in position east of Les Boeufs… The objectives to be gained by the Brigade were the German positions in front of Le Transloy, known as Rainy Trench, Dewdrop Trench, and the dugouts NE of the latter with strong points. At 6am the two leading companies A & C went forward in the assault preceded by an intense artillery barrage on the German position. Much opposition was met with from rifle and MG fire from the flanks, but the attack was pushed forward, and the first objective Rainy Trench gained. Further progress was held up by a strong German point on our right, and by the Germans still in possession of Dewdrop Trench on our left. Bombing tactics were employed with success, and by 9.30am the whole objective was in our hands. The German strong point on the right fell to the remainder of C coy, led by their remaining officer 2/Lt Brampton. The work of consolidating the captured position was put in hand, and rapid progress made. German snipers were active against our wounded. The enemy did not attempt to counter-attack, and the Battalion was relieved that night… The losses of the Btn that day were 36 killed, 143 wounded, 29 missing.”
Lovegrove’s school magazine “The Suttonian” (County Grammar School) from Spring 1917 records his passing.
Charles George Gordon LovegroveAt the school in 1903 and 1904. Being on the West Coast of Africa at the outbreak of the War he was soon attached to the financial side of the Kameruns Expedition, ranking as Lieutenant. This over, he came to England and joined the ranks of the Middlesex Regiment in March, 1916, and was in France by July. In the attack on Combles on October 28th, he was wounded on going over the top, and there is very little doubt, from additional (though unofficial) information received, that the wound was fatal.