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Charles Robert Hunnam (1886-1923)

South Hylton born served with 35th AIF wounded at Messines, Flanders

When war broke out in 1914, Charles Robert Hunnam and his younger brother, William, both rushed to enlist. Whilst William joined the Durham Pals (18th Battalion Durham Light Infantry), Charles by that time was working in Australia and consequently joined the 35th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF).

Charles was born in April 1896, in South Hylton, Sunderland, the oldest of the three children of William and Charlotte Hunnam (nee Hastings). William senior was a blacksmith by trade, working in the marine engineering workshops along the River Wear.

Charles was apprenticed as a joiner in the building firm of J W White of Sunderland but, with his time served, he changed career and became a constable with the Stockton-On-Tees Police Force. Another change of career lead Charles to emigrate to Australia, to work in the coal mines of Kurri Kurri, New South Wales (NSW).

Charles appears on the 1911 Census twice, with his family at South Millfield, Sunderland, and as a lodger at Stockton Police Station, in Church Row.

When war was declared, Charles tried to enlist immediately but was turned down because of his rotten teeth. By 1915, either Charles had visited the dentist or standards in the army had slipped, because on 29 November, he was able to enlist in West Maitland, New South Wales, as a private in “A” Company of the 35th (Infantry) Battalion of the AIF. After basic training, Charles embarked for England on 1 May 1916 with the rank of lance corporal but on 17 July, he asked to revert back to the rank of private.

Charles finally left for France on 21 November 1916 as his battalion entered the Front Line trenches for the first time, to spend the harsh winter in a relatively quiet sector. But all that changed when they were sent to the village of Messines in West Flanders. The battle there officially raged from 7 to 14 June but, even as they moved into position, on 4 June William was hit by flying shrapnel which fractured his left femur.

He was sent back to the King George Hospital in Redbridge, London, but doctors there were unable to save his shattered leg and it was amputated, mid-thigh. A long convalescence followed and Charles was given furlough to visit family and friends when he was finally well enough.

Charles eventually returned to New South Wales on 23 March 1919, and was granted a pension as he would never be able to return to his previous job in the mines. Sadly, he died just three years later on 25 February 1923.

Both Charles and his brother, William (who survived the War), are both remembered on a memorial plaque originally in the Cleveland Road Primitive Methodist Church in Sunderland, now in the Burn Park Methodist Church.

Civil Parish: Stockton on Tees

Birth date: 1886

Death date: 25-Feb-1923

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: Back Grange, Ford, Sunderland (ecclesiastical parish of St Mary’s 1891 census)
10 Aiskell Street South, Millfield, Sunderland (ecclesiastical parish of St Martin’s 1901 census)
Police Station, Stockton-On-Tees (1911 census)
Cessnock Street, Kurri Kurri, New South Wales, Australia (1915 attestation papers)

Employment: Apprentice Joiner with J W White, Sunderland
Police Constable with Stockton-On-Tees Police Force
Miner, Kurri Kurri Coal Mine, NSW

Family: Parents: William Hunnam (1860-1927), Charlotte Hunnam (nee Hastings) (1864-1945)
Siblings: William Hunnam (1889-1964), Ellen Hunnam (b 1891)

Military service:

A Company, 35th Battalion, AIF

Medal(s): British War Medal
Victory Medal

Memorial(s): Memorial Plaque Cleveland Road Primitive Methodist Church, Sunderland, later moved to Burn Park Methodist Church, Sunderland

Gender: Male

Contributed by Kelloe Visitor, Trimdon Station

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