Charles George Cummins (1896-1917) - Pte 2473 Eaton Bty Canadian Machine Gun Corps.Charles Cummins, born 18thJanuary 1897, was one of the three children of Charles and Harriet Emily Cummins (nee Widdens) and their only son.By 1911 Charles, his two sisters and his mother were living in Barns Green where his mother was working as a laundress and Charles, having just left school, was working as a domestic house boy. Charles was however obviously intent on bettering himself and on 4thApril 1914 he embarked alone, aged just 17, on the Empress of Britain outbound from Liverpool for Halifax, Nova Scotia. The war was then to destroy whatever plans Charles had been making. As the senior Dominion of the British Empire, Canada was automatically at war as soon as Britain had made the declaration and the Canadian Government began immediate recruitment for the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. Many British born Canadians were quick to join up and Charles was one of these, signing his attestation papers on the 11thDecember 1914 – less than 8 months after he had arrived in the country.By this time however he had established himself as a mechanic and as such was a prime candidate for the Canadian Machine Gun Corps and was posted to the Eaton Motor
Machine Gun Battery. This was a unit of what were essentially armoured cars equipped with machine guns and got their name from the fact that Sir John Eaton, a wealthy Canadian department store owner, had contributed some $100,000 for the purchase of 15 of the 40 vehicles in the unit. The Battery left Toronto in Jun 1915, was strengthened and reformed in England through the rest of that year and landed in France on the 25thFebruary 1916 where it became part of the 3rd Canadian Division.
The 3rdCanadian Division fought in the Battles of the Somme in 1916 and in the Arras offensive in the spring of 1917 and the Eaton Battery War Diary for May 1917 records the unit as being encamped at Camblaine l’Abbe near Arras.It was here that the final irony of Charles Cummins short life occurred. The Commonwealth War Grave Commission simply records his death on the 31stMay 1917; the War Diary records that this was not as a result of any enemy action but of injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident two nights before on the 28th.Charles died in a Casualty Clearing Station and is buried in the Bruay Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France. He is remembered on the Itchingfield War Memorial and on the family grave in Itchingfield Churchyard.He would have been awarded campaign medals for his service but at the time of writing the details of these are unavailable as they form part of his unreleased Canadian service record.