Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Charles Johnson Downs

Charles Johnson Downs :

Charles Johnson Downs : (L to R) British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

(L to R) British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

Charles was born in around 1871 in Openshaw, Lancashire. His father was named Matthew and his mother was Sarah. He had 2 older brothers, Tom William and Victor, and 4 younger siblings: Emilie, Annie, John and Alfred. We believe John died between 1881 and 1891.

Matthew was a self employed boot and shoe dealer and Charles grew up at 162 Ashton Old Road in Openshaw. In 1891 he was a shop assistant, but 10 years later he was a self employed estate agent. Between July and September 1902 he married Marie Carlton in York. In 1911 they lived at Rivington House in nearby Gorton and Charles was self employed as an insurance agent.

The First World War broke out in August 1914 and Charles joined the Army during November 1915. Conscription would be introduced at the end of the year so he may have wanted to volunteer, and choose the unit he served in, before this happened. We believe he joined the 6th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. He was given the service number 4221.

We don't know when Charles was sent overseas, or whether he served with the original 6th Battalion (the 1/6th) or the second line unit (the 2/6th). The 1/6th Battalion was stationed in Egypt until March 1917 when it moved to France, the 2/6th left the UK for the same country during February. At around the same time soldiers serving in Territorial Force units were given new service numbers. Charles' was 251502.

We believe Charles served with one of these battalions throughout the war, as we have no record of him being transferred to any other unit. By the end of the war front line infantry units were increasingly filled with 18 and 19 year old conscripts. Charles, in his mid 40s, must have presented quite a contrast.

After the war Charles returned to Manchester and his estate agency. Marie died on the 1st January 1927, whilst they still lived at Rivington House. She was 56 years old. We don't know whether she and Charles had any children.

Charles eventually moved to 687 Manchester Road in Denton. He died on the 7th May 1962 at the aged of 91. His medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in July 1997.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council