b. 14/03/1872 Madeley, Shropshire. d. 20/09/1914 Targau, Germany.
Charles Allix Lavington Yate (1872-1914) was born at Madeley Vicarage, Madeley, Shropshire on 14th March 1872. He was known as “Cal” from his initials. His father was Prebendary George Edward Yate, Missionary Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral in Calcutta, India from 1852-1856, Honourable East India Company chaplain at Kiddepore from 1856-1859, Vicar of St Michael’s, Madeley from 1859-1908 and Prebendary of Hereford in 1905. His mother, Louisa Georgina Harriet Caroline Adolphine nee Petersen, was George’s second wife. They had married in 1871 at Wellington. Charles had five sisters, four from his father’s first marriage to Margaret Maria nee Bishop. He was to be educated at his father’s old school at Shrewsbury, but he was seen as too delicate and was sent to Weymouth College. He left in December 1890.
Charles trained at the Royal Military College Sandhurst and passed out 9th when he was commissioned on 13th August 1892. He joined the Battalion in Bombay. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 7th February 1894. He served with the Tirah Expeditionary Force on the North-West Frontier 1897-1898 before moving to Mauritius, where he studied for the Staff College examination. He was promoted to Captain in 1899. He then served in the Second Boer War, where he was wounded in the abdomen at Enslin during the Battle of Graspan. He returned to Madeley to convalesce and on arrival local miners met the train, and pulled his carriage home in celebration of his service.
On 17th September 1903, he married Florence Helena Burroughs nee Brigg at St George’s, Hannover Square, London. They didn’t have any children. Charles was her second wife, having divorced George Burroughs in 1898. Charles was then sent to Japan representing the Infantry in a British Army Mission. He was appointed Military Attache with the Japanese during the Manchurian War of 1904-1905 and was present at the siege of Port Arthur. He was awarded the Japanese War Medal for Manchuria and the Order of Sacred Treasure 4th Class, the latter presented by the Emperor.
On return to England, Charles was appointed Staff Captain and GSO3 in Cape Colony District, South Africa from 1906 to 1908. He was a skilled linguist being able to speak French, German, Japanese, Hindustani and Persian. He then held a couple of positions in the War Office before promotion to Major in 1912. When the Great War broke out in 1914, he turned down a position on the staff of General Joseph Joffre, and returned to his Battalion as a company commander, arriving in France on 16th August.
On 26th August 1914, at Le Cateau, France, Major Yate commanded one of the two companies that remained to the end in the trenches, and when all other officers had been killed or wounded and ammunition exhausted, he led his 19 survivors against the enemy in a charge in which he himself was severely wounded. Yate, who was determined not to be taken prisoner, tried to shoot himself on the battlefield. Yate didn’t succeed and was taken prisoner by the Germans.
He was held initially at Cambrai, France and arrived at Torgau Prison, Germany on 8th September, having attempted to jump off the train en route. At Torgau, he was interviewed by the Germans regarding whether he was a spy. He was planning to escape as he heard that his wife was ill in Switzerland. On the night of 19th September 1914, dressed in civilian clothing, he climbed the wall and escaped. What happened next was tragic, as on the following morning he was challenged by local civilians on their way to work who were suspicious of him. While being questioned, Charles took out a cutthroat razor and slashed his own throat several times, and died.
He was originally buried in Martinkirchen churchyard. No British officer was allowed to see the body or attend the funeral, but the German pastor officiating sent a message to Charles’ wife in Switzerland, confirming his death and burial. After the war, his body was moved to Berlin South Western Cemetery, Stahnsdorf. His Victoria Cross was originally sent to his widow by post on 11th January 1915, but was presented to her formally by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 2nd August 1919.
In addition to his VC, he received the India Medal 1895-1902, Queen’s South Africa Medal 1899-1902 with four clasps, 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oak leaf, George V Coronation Medal of 1911 and the two Japanese awards previously mentioned. His medals are held by the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Museum, Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: KINGS OWN YORKSHIRE LIGHT INFANTRY, DONCASTER.
BURIAL PLACE: CWGC CEMETERY, STAHNSDORF, GERMANY.
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
PLOT II, ROW G, GRAVE 8.
Madeley War Memorial, Madeley, Shropshire
War Illustrated, 25th March 1916
King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Museum, Doncaster
KOYLI Museum, Doncaster (Terry Hissey)