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Charles Letsky (-1915)

Sunderland born man remembered on plaque at Moor Street Synagogue

Charles Letsky was born in Sunderland in either 1893 or 1894. His father was Samuel Letsky who was originally from Russia. His mother was Dora Letsky who was originally from Poland. The 1911 census records that the family became naturalised British Citizens in 1888. Census records suggest the couple had 12 children, with Charles having seven brothers and four sisters. Recorded birth places of the children show the family had lived in London following their move from Russia, then spent time in Birmingham before coming to live in County Durham.

At the time of the 1901 census the family were living at 23 Tyne Street, Sunderland. Charles’ dad Samuel is working as a glazier painter. By 1911 the family had moved to live at 51 South Durham Street, Sunderland, by which time Samuel had died. Charles was working as a pitman driver.

Charles enlisted into the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) Special Reserve in Sunderland on 8 August 1912. Initially when Charles joined the army, he was based in Newcastle. He spent a month at the Strensall Barracks, North Yorkshire between 14 June 1913 and 13 July 1913 before moving to spend time in Barnard Castle until 9 August 1913.

Charles entered the theatre of war in France on 24 August 1915, serving with the 2nd Battalion DLI as a private with the service number 8421. He was killed in action on 23 September 1915. He is buried at Potijze Burial Ground in Belgium. He is remembered locally on several memorials in Sunderland including a brass plaque now housed at the Jewish Military Museum in London. This plaque was originally unveiled by the Mayor of Sunderland at Moor Street Synagogue, Sunderland in 1922. It was moved to Ryhope Road Synagogue, upon the closure of which it was transferred to London. The inscription on the plaque reads: “In honoured memory of the undermentioned members of the Sunderland Jewish Community who made the Supreme Sacrifice in the Great War 1914-1918.” This plaque was originally accompanied by the British Jewry Book of Honour with the names of the fallen inscribed.

Charles was remembered at a service held at the Moor Street Synagogue on 2 November 1916. Charles received the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the 1915 Star for his service in the First World War.

Charles’ brother Morris also served in the First World War as a private in the 12th DLI with the service number 79053.

Civil Parish: Sunderland

Death date: 23-Sep-1915

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: 23 Tyne Street, Sunderland (1901 census)
51 South Durham Street, Sunderland (1911 census)
47 Villiers Street, Sunderland (Address of mother – Service Records)

Religion: Jewish

Organisation membership: Jewish Social and Literary Club, Sunderland

Employment: Pitman Driver – Underground (1911 census)
Cartman (Service records)

Family: Parents: Samuel Letsky, Dora Letsky
Siblings: Ephraim Letsky, Frank Letsky, Isaac Letsky, Annie Letsky, Hyman Letsky, Kate Letsky, Alick Letsky, Morris Letsky, Rachel Letsky, Levy Letsky, Francies Letsky

Military service:

2nd Battalion DLI
Service Number 4/8421

Medal(s): British War Medal
Victory Medal

Memorial(s): DLI book of Remembrance, Durham Cathedral
Book of Remembrance 1914-18 Holy Trinity Church, Sunderland
Plaque 1914-18 Jewish Social and Literary Club, Sunderland
Plaque 1914-18 Synagogue, originally Moor Street, Sunderland

Gender: Male

Contributed by Fiona Johnson - Durham