Charles Cash was born on 8th August 1893 in Stepney, East London. He was one of seven children to Samuel and Clara Cash. The 1901 census gives Samuel’s trade as a fish porter, while his wife was recorded as a scrubber in a Sick Asylum.
Samuel died not long after the census was taken, and the family seems to have dissipated. Charles is recorded as having entered the local workhouse with his younger brother on 1st August 1906: the reason for admission being being deserted by their mother.
The next census record – taken in 1911 – raises some hope for Charles as it found him living with his mother’s sister and brother-in-law in Bow, where he was working as a labourer in a chemical works.
Things continued to look up for young Charles. On 1st August 1915 – nine years after entering the workhouse, he married Florence Elizabeth Ribbons, a labourer’s daughter from Poplar. The couple went on to have one child, a daughter named after her mother, in October 1916.
War was, by this point, raging across Europe and, despite having a new baby, Charles had to play his part. On 12th December 1916, he joined the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class, and, given his age, it is likely that he was drafted, rather than volunteering.
Stoker Cash’s service records show that he was 5th 7.5ins (1.71m) tall, he had dark brown hair, brown eyes and a fresh complexion. He was posted to HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, and it was here that he served for nine months.
The summer of 1917 was particularly busy for the base, and temporary accommodation was set up in the Drill Hall; this is where Charles found himself billeted.
On the night of 3rd September 1917, Chatham suddenly found itself in the firing line as a wave of German aircraft bombed the town. The Drill Hall received a direct hit, and Stoker Cash was amongst those to be instantly killed. He was just 24 years old.
Ninety-eight servicemen perished during the Chatham Air Raid that night. They were buried in a mass funeral at the Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham. This, too, is where Charles Cash was laid to rest.