Mr and Mrs Wixcey of Newport, Monmouthshire were already grieving the loss of a son, Frederick. He had lost his life in a firefight in the trenches near Mesnil on the Somme. The Germans had attacked without notice carrying no rifles, no bayonets but daggers and bombs; and white stripes around their arms on April 6th 1916.
The 2nd South Wales Borderers had been on the Western Front for just a few days having arrived from Egypt and before then the beast that was Gallipoli. Buried with his comrades at Mesnil-Martinsart on the Somme in France, Frederick lies there still, for all times.
But his older brother, their older son Charles Wixcey had only entered the fray in March 1918. He had been working at the Home Depot for the 2nd Welsh Regiment when he was called to arms and sent to France.
Bad luck meant that his arrival coincided with that most infamous of retreats the Spring Offensive. Caught up in the rapid and voluminous German advance, Charles was posted at first as missing. Until he was listed as a prisoner of war on paper in Germany, at Limburg and Stendal.
In reality, I suspect, that Charles was working behind the German lines against the Geneva Convention which stated that POWs should not.
No 203058 Lance Corporal George Arthur Pentelow of the Northamptonshire Regiment was himself a prisoner of war. How or when he came into contact with Charles Wixcey is unknown but according to his service record, Charles’ parents received a letter from George Arthur Pentelow telling them that Charles had died of pneumonia in a hospital at Sains-du-Nord prisoner of war camp in France on the 30th October 1918.
And so it was the case that in January 1919, James Wixcey – Charles’ father was informing the War Office that his son was dead.
“It is with much regret that I have to inform you of the death of my son”
It was an unofficial record of death which required investigation, and then final confirmation from German prisoner lists.
George Pentelow survived the war. He told a grateful family what had happened to their son.
Charles was buried at Sains-du-Nord Cemetery but in the intervening time his grave was lost. When the post-war grave consolidation took place, his grave was not found so at St Souplet Cemetery there is a special memorial to Charles Wixcey whose grave was lost but whose memory remains.
But for George Pentelow, a Northants soldiers from Kettering, who brought with him a message from the dead. An ending. A last goodbye.
To those interested, Wars Last Goodbyes pays a tribute to this man Charles Wixcey here:
and to his brother Frederick here https://www.warslastgoodbyes.com/individual/Frederick/Wixcey
If you're interested in other Wars Last Goodbyes from Newport Christchurch Cemetery: