Arthur Charlton was born in St Pancras, London, on 21st November 1891. His parents were Arthur and Bridget Charlton, but little further information on Arthur Jr’s early life remains.
When he left school, he found work as a butcher, but it seems he was after a life of adventure and travel. On 6th November 1913, he enlisted in the Royal Navy, initially for a period of twelve years as a Stoker 2nd Class. Arthur’s service records show that he stood 5ft 6.5ins (1.69m) tall, had brown hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion.
Stoker Charlton was initially posted to HMS Pembroke – the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent – and this is where he did his training. He was then sent to the battleship HMS Vanguard, on board which he served for nearly three-and-a-half years. Arthur was assigned to Vanguard in the summer of 1917, when the vessel was sunk following a series of internal explosions in Scapa Flow, Scotland, with the loss of more than 800 souls. It seems, however, that he was not on board at the time, which likely saved his life.
Brought back to HMS Pembroke that summer, and with the Vanguard destroyed, Arthur found himself in an overly packed dockyard. He was billeted in the Chatham Drill Hall, which was being used as temporary accommodation.
On the 3rd September 1917, the first night air raid carried out by the German Air Force scored a direct hit on the barracks and Drill Hall; Stoker 1st Class Charlton was killed instantly. He was just 25 years old.
Arthur Charlton was laid to rest, alongside the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham.
Arthur’s pension record gives a Mrs Amelia Ward as his next of kin. No details of a marriage between them are evident, and, as there is no record of his early life, it is not possible to identify whether Amelia was his sister. A mystery left unsolved.