b. 11/01/1891 Fulham, London. d. 07/05/1969 Southampton, Hampshire.
Charles Edward Spackman was born at Fulham, London on the 11th January 1891, and upon leaving school found work as a general labourer, before enlisting in the Army aged 17. He served with the 1st Battalion, Border Regiment, and was serving in Maymyo, Burma, when war was declared. The battalion returned to England, landing at Avonmouth on the 10th January 1915, and moved to Rugby, Warwickshire where they came under the orders of the 87th Brigade in the 29th Division. They were then sent back to Avonmouth and sailed on the 17th March 1915 for Gallipoli, going via Egypt and Mudros, and landing at Cape Helles on the 25th April 1915. In January 1916, they were evacuated from the peninsula via Mudros to Egypt, and moved to France in March 1916.
Spackman was 26 years old, and a sergeant in the 1st Battalion, Border Regiment, when the battalion arrived at the village of Fins on the 18th November 1917, and moved north-eastwards into tents in Dessart Wood, where they were to spend the following day at rest and preparing for the battle that was to commence on the 20th. At 1 am the following day they moved from their camp to the assembly area where the men bivouacked in the freezing cold awaiting the dawn and zero hour. They were one of four battalions from the 87th Brigade, which were to form the centre of the 29th Division’s attack from the Gouzeacourt sector towards the villages of Marcoing and Masnieres via Couillet Wood Valley, with four tanks from “A” Battalion leading the way. It was during this action that Spackman carried out the deed for which he was awarded the VC.
As the battalion approached Marcoing, the leading company was checked by heavy fire from a gun mounted on a position which covered the approaches. Spackman, realising that it would be impossible for the troops to advance, went through heavy fire to attack the gun. Working forward gradually he got into a position where he was able to kill all but one of the gun crew and then rushed forward and captured the gun single handed and enabled his company to advance.
He was presented with his VC at Buckingham Palace on the 23rd February 1918, at the same ceremony where Lieut.-Colonel Arthur Borton VC and Capt. Robert Gee VC received their medals. He was demobilised at the end of the war but rejoined the Border Regiment, as a part of the Territorial Force. In December 1919, Spackman married Miss E. A. Copeland, who used to live next door to his family in Fulham, and the couple were to have four sons in the years between the wars.
During the inter-war years, Spackman attended the VC Garden Party in 1920 and also the House of Lord’s VC Dinner, and was still a serving member of the Territorials, though he seems to have switched units and at the outbreak of the Second World War he was a Sergeant in the Queen Victoria Rifles, formerly the 9th (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment (Queen Victoria’s Rifles), but with the break up of the London Regiment in 1937, the unit were linked with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. He volunteered for duty at the outbreak of the war and was posted to the Kings Royal Rifle Corps as a Sergeant Major, based in Swindon, Wiltshire.
After the end of the war Spackman attended the Victory Parade in 1946 and dinner at the Dorchester on the evening and was also present at the 1956 VC Centenary parade in Hyde Park. The Spackman’s moved to Southampton two years later, living in the Netley Abbey area of the city and Spackman was actively seeking employment as a means to supplement the couple’s old age pension. As a VC recipient, Spackman was entitled to an annual £10 allowance, but he is reported to have said that this hardly kept him in cigarettes.
Eleven years after moving to the south coast, Mrs. Spackman passed away on the 14th January 1969, and sixteen weeks later Spackman was admitted to Southampton General Hospital, where he died on the 6th May. He was given a full military funeral at South Stoneham Church, and he was then cremated at Swaythling Crematorium with his ashes being scattered in the Garden of Remembrance. At the funeral there were wreathes from the Border Regiment, the King’s Royal Rifle Corps and the National Provincial Bank.
Spackman’s medals, which included the VC, MM, French Medaille Militaire, 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal, 19139 – 45 Defence Medal, 1937 and 1953 Coronation Medals and an Efficiency Medal, were offered for sale by Glendinings on the 17th December 1969, and were purchased by the coin dealers Baldwin & Sons for £1,200. The medals are not publically held.
LOCATION OF MEDAL; PRIVATELY HELD.
BURIAL LOCATION: SOUTH STONEHAM CREMATORIUM, SOUTHAMPTON.
Thomas Stewart – Image of a replica VC on display at the Border Regiment Museum, Carlisle.