b. 23/10/1891 Willesden Green, London. d. 01/07/1973 Beeston, Nottingham.
Charles Ernest Garforth (1891-1973) was born at 19 Chaplin Road, Willesden Green, London on 23rd October 1891. His father was John Edwin Garforth who served in the Rifle Brigade before becoming a paperhanger and decorator. His mother was Hannah (Annie) nee Dyer, who originally came from Warwickshire. By 1901, the family had moved to St Kilda’s Road, Harrow. His mother died in 1904, and his father remarried in 1909 to Kate Cole in Hendon. Charles had five brothers and four sisters, but two of the brothers and one sister didn’t survive infancy. All his surviving brothers served in the Army; two were wounded and one served with the 9th Middlesex in India.
Charles was educated at three schools in Harrow – Greenhill Infant School, Greenhill Boy’s School and Roxeth School, then Bridge School in Wealdstone. He then became an apprentice at John Joiner’s boot shop on St Anne’s Road, Harrow from 1907-1911 and was a member of the Roxeth and Harrow Company London Diocesan Church Lads’ Brigade before enlisting with the 9th Middlesex in November 1909.
He transferred into the 15th Hussars on 19th May 1911, training at Aldershot before serving in South Africa. The Regiment returned to England in 1913 and he was promoted to Corporal in 1914. He left with the Regiment for France arriving on 17th August 1914. He headed to Rouen before moving into Belgium towards Mons.
On 23rd August 1914, 4 Troop went to Mons to assist the infantry and participated in a rearguard action falling back on Villers St Ghislain. During this tricky operations elements of the Squadron found themselves trapped by a wire fence at Harmignies. German machine guns were firing down the fence line and the situation was potentially disastrous. With complete disregard for their own safety, Corporal Charles Garforth and Lance Corporal Ball dashed to the fence and cut several gaps to allow the horsemen to escape. Ball was later taken prisoner. During the next fortnight, Garforth was involved in two further incidents which coupled with the action on 23rd August resulted in the award of the VC.
On 6th September 1914 near Dammartin, Sergeant Scarterfield’s patrol came under fire, and whilst jumping a ditch, his horse was hit and fell, pinning him to the ground. Garforth turned back and despite the heavy fire, pulled him clear and carried him to safety. Next day, he was on patrol at Meaux, when Sergeant Lewis had his horse shot from under him. This time Garforth drew the German machine gun fire away from Lewis and allowed him to be rescued.
On 13th October 1914 at Laventie, he was a member of a 13-man patrol commanded by Captain Bradshaw. They were surrounded but fought for three hours until 10 men were hit. Garforth was taken prisoner when his ammunition ran out. He was held at Hameln and Brohmte. He escaped three times, but was recaptured on each occasion, weak from a lack of food. He then given three weeks’ solitary confinement. He was then held in Holland from 19th March 1918 and was repatriated in November 1918.
The Victoria Cross was presented by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 19th December 1918 and was then in great demand. He received £110 from Southend Council and was Master of Ceremonies at a Military Ball at the Municipal Hall, Tottenham on 30th January 1919. He married Lilian nee Hay on 7th April 1919 at St Mary’s, Prittlewell, Southend, Essex. They had four children – Victor Charles born 1920 in Ireland, Walter Douglas born in 1922 in Hampshire, Valerie born in 1923 in Derbyshire and Sylvia born in 1928 also in Derbyshire.
He was discharged from the Army in 1922 having attended the burial of the Unknown Warrior in 1920. The family moved to 283 Curzon Street, Chilwell in Nottinghamshire where he took a job as a clerk in the Ordnance Depot. In 1924, he joined Ericson’s Telephones, but returned to the Ordnance Depot at Chilwell in 1926 as a security policeman. His son Victor was killed in a road accident in 1926 in Nottingham.
In 1935, he became a security policeman at British Celanese in Spondon, Derbyshire, and was also a Air Raid Precautions Instructor there in the Second World War. He attended the Coronations of both George VI and Elizabeth II. His final job was as a warehouse manager from 1945 until his retirement in 1956. He died at his home in Beeston, Nottinghamshire on 1st July 1973 and he was cremated at the Southern Cemetery Crematorium in Nottingham. His ashes were scattered in the Garden of Remembrance, where a memorial headstone was erected in 2008. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oak leaf, George VI Coronation Medal of 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal of 1953. His medals were donated to the Imperial War Museum and are displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM.
BURIAL PLACE: WILFORD HILL CEMETERY, NOTTINGHAM (CREMATED AND ASHES SCATTERED THERE). HEADSTONE WAS ERECTED IN CEMETERY IN 2008.
Charles Garforth's medals including VC on display at Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London (August 2014).
Charles Garforth VC's commemorative paving stone laid in Willesfen, London on 3rd September 2014.
Garforth's headstone in Wilford Hill (Southern) Cemetery, Nottingham (April 2015).
Garforth Close, Nottingham