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Charles Annesley Acton

This Charles Acton, uncle to the music critic of the same name, was the second son of Major (later Colonel) Ball-Acton of the King's Own (Yorkshire Light Infantry) and of Georgina Cecilia (nee Annesley) his wife. The privately printed memoir of his father tells us:

After leaving Delhi, Major Acton and his regiment proceeded to Peshawur, where, during February, 1876, a second son was born, during the absence of the Major at Amritsar... On his return to Peshawar the little son was christened Charles Annesley. - life of Colonel Ball-Acton p.68

Kilmacurragh from a 1902 painting The 1881 census shows him, aged 5, in Combermere House, Tunbridge Wells. On his brother William's death while still a schoolboy (see the letters from school) he became heir to the estate of Kilmacurragh, Co. Wicklow, the Acton family seat. His uncle Thomas, who owned the property, was unmarried, and the next uncle had a childless marriage.

The Acton Family Charles entered the School House at Rugby School in 1891. There were many family links with Rugby. His father, Colonel Charles Ball-Acton, C.B., was an Old Rugbeian in 1842. Charles was grandson of George Annesley (Old Rugbiean, 1819), Trustee of the British Museum. Seven of his uncles and great-uncles, on both his father's and his mother's side, were also in Rugby School.

Charles Ball-Acton He went to the RMC, Sandhurst, in 1895, and was gazetted to the 2nd batalion, The Royal Welsh Fusiliers in 1896. He served with the battalion in Malta, in Crete in 1898, Hong-Kong, India, and Burma, and held an appointment as Staff Captain for fourteen months (1900-01) at Wei-hai-wei in the 'China Expedition' of 1900, as part of the international response to the Boxer Rising, to raise the siege of the legations in Peking (now Beijing). He was promoted Captain in 1906.

Charles succeeded to the Kilmacurragh estate in 1908 on the death of uncle Tom, uncle William having died in 1904. He resigned his commission in 1909, when, by Deed Poll, he gave up the prefix "Ball." He never married. He was Justice of the Peace for County Wicklow, and as the head of a leading Co Wicklow family, he was appointed High Sheriff in 1913. The photo shows him as High Sheriff welcoming a judge to the Court House in Wicklow

Immediately on the outbreak of War he applied for a Commission in his old Regiment, and in September, 1914, he was posted as Captain to "D" Company, the 9th Battalion, and went with it to France, in July, 1915, and was promoted Major.

Extracts from http://www.1914-1918.net/BATTLES/bat13_loos/bat.htm

9th (Service) Battalion Formed at Cardiff, 9 September 1914, as part of K2. September 1914 : attached to 58th Brigade, 19th (Western) Division.

19th Division: A Division of K2 established by Westrn Command, the units were assembled around Bulford during September 1914. Divisional training was completed near Tidworth, from March 1915, and the Butterfly crossed to France 11th-21st July 1915. It remained on the Western Front throughout the war.

25 September 1915 - Afternoon and evening - Hulluch area

The attack of 1st Division had met with such intensive enemy fire that by 10.55am it was effectively halted. By 1.15pm, it had been decided at Divisional HQ to leave only a screen of men holding their existing positions, and to move remaining men of 2nd Brigade (reinforced now by 1/Gloucesters) South to exploit 15th Division's success and attack the enemy from the flank and rear. 2/Welch, coming up in support at 11.00am, crossed no man's land unobserved and managed to arrive in Gun Trench with few losses. They expected to find the 2/Royal Munster Fusiliers there, but the latter had suffered heavy casualties. The Welch moved to their right, into the valley behind where the enemy was so stoutly defending against the attacks of 2nd Brigade. At this time, the enemy launched a counter-attack against 1st Brigade, but it was easily repulsed. By 2.30pm the Welch approached the Lone Tree - Hulluch track. The Germans - 400 men of 157th Regiment - now found themselves almost surrounded and surrendered. 2nd Brigade and the units that had been attached were now able to advance, but losses were such that only 1,500 men were able to do so. By 5.20pm they had reached the Lens road near Bois Hugo, in touch with 15th Division, where they dug in.

By nightfall, although 2nd Brigade was in touch with 15th Division and 1st Brigade with 7th Division, there was a gap in the line of some 1500 yards between them (although the significance of this does not appear to have concerned 1st Divisional HQ and it was not reported to IV Corps). There were insufficient men of the Division left to fill the gap, following the terrible losses that this formation suffered in the day.


Along with Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves, who also served in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, he took part in the Battle of Loos, part of a planned offensive to attack the Germans at three separate places, Loos being the one allotted to General Haig. Haig did not want to attack at once because his troops were weakened, but he was overruled. The attack was a disaster. The British artillery fired poison gas, which was caught by the wind and blown back to the advancing British. The German position known as 'Lone Pine' was much more heavily defended than the British had been led to believe. At Givenchy, while attending to a wounded man during a pause in the advance, he fell mortally wounded on the first day of the battle, September 25th, 1915. He was 39.

A brother officer, who served with him in the 2nd Battalion, and who later commanded his Battalion, wrote: - "I can honestly say that there is no man living for whom I hold such feelings of respect. I honoured him more than I can say, and consider his life an example for all."

He was succeeded by his brother Reginald.The youngest of the four brothers, Second Lieutenant V. A. Ball-Acton (OR, 1893), the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, fell in the South African War at Paardeberg, February 18th, 1900; and the third brother, Major R.T.A. Ball-Acton (O.R., 1891), The King's Own (Yorkshire Light Infantry), was killed in action at Ypres, May 22nd, 1916. [folder printed by Rugby School]

The Loos war cemetery, a photo taken by Canon Robert Parsons.

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