Rifleman Andrew Charles (6986230) served in 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles during the Second World War. He served across the United Kingdom and Europe first with the Local Defence Volunteers, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, and the Royal Ulster Rifles. The Imperial War Museum holds a 14-page memoir of his time during the war.
The memoirs provide an insight into his attitude to war as well as revealing stories of corn farming, life in Brussels and meeting Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery. Reports suggest these became a book entitled ‘My War’ published by Beechland Publishing.
He first served with the Local Defence Volunteers from 1941 in Desertmartin, Co. Londonderry. Activities mentioned in his memoir include training courses in Magherafelt, Co. Londonderry. In May 1942, he went on to train with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at Omagh Barracks, Omagh, Co. Tyrone.
As the Royal Ulster Rifles began their training for Normandy in Kent and Scotland, Charles joined 2nd Battalion. Rifleman Charles landed on Sword Beach on D-Day, 6th June 1944. Along with his battalion, he fought through Normandy including a heroic battle in Troarn. His brother Allen Charles died on 8th June 1944, only 2 days after landing in Normandy.
On 18th July 1944, two 7.5cm German guns pinned back ‘B’ Company as they tried to take Sanneville. Lieutenant Lyttle, though outside his own company area, gathered some men and flanked the first gun. Rifleman Andrew Charles and his Bren gun along with a Rifleman McNally crossed the road under intense fire. Making it to within 50 yards of the gun, they opened up with their Bren guns and put in “steady, deadly fire”. He received the Military Medal in July 1944 for his actions.
Andrew Charles continued to battle through north-west Europe with 2nd Battalion. In September 1944, while in the Netherlands, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery visited the Battalion. He presented the Military Medal to Rifleman Andrew Charles. Charles received injuries near the River Maas, the Netherlands in December 1944. Authorities evacuated the rifleman, sending him to a military hospital in London and then onto another in Belfast. He discharged himself in early 1946.
Life after the War
After returning to Ulster, Rifleman Charles, known to family and friends as Andy, worked for Northern Ireland Electricity. He has been an active member and supporter of Magherafelt Royal British legion for many years.
On the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day or V.E. Day, Charles received a visit from members of the Magherafelt Branch of the Royal British Legion. Branch Chairman Comrade Derek Finlay and Standard Bearer Comrade Vance Finlay extended their thanks to the veteran.