|Date of Birth||September 26, 1883|
|Place of Birth||Stepney, London|
|Next of Kin||Isabella Bunch (wife), 348 Union Avenue, Elmwood, Manitoba|
|Trade / Calling||Flour packer|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Date of Enlistment||June 5, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||31|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||October 25, 1916|
|Age at Death||33|
|Buried At||No known grave; commemorated on the Vimy Memorial in France|
Private Charles Bunch enlisted in June 1915 and served in France with the 44th Battalion. He was killed in action in October 1916, during the Battle of the Somme.
Charles was born in 1883 in Stepney, London, England. His attestation records his birth date as 26 September but on his baptism record it’s 25 September. His father Isaac Bunch was born in Little Bromley, Essex and his mother Elizabeth Woodfield in Calne, Wiltshire. They were married at All-Hallows-on-the-Wall in London on 26 December 1865. Isaac worked as a stoker at a brewery and later as a stationary engine driver and engineer. A son, James, was born in Stepney in 1867 and he was followed by at least nine more children: Phoebe, Ada, John, Henry, Rosa, Emily, William, Charles and Albert. William was two years older than Charles and Albert, the youngest, was born in 1887. Most of the children were baptized at Christ Church in Stepney. Charles’ mother died in February 1897 and she’s buried in City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery. The following year Isaac married a widow, Emma Haynes Tingey. Isaac died in September 1901 and he’s also buried in City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery.
Charles’ brother William immigrated to Canada around 1903 and settled in the RM of Macdonald in Manitoba. At the time of the 1911 census he was living on his own and his occupation was gardener. Charles immigrated to Canada a few years after William and lived in Keewatin, Ontario. He was married at St. James Church in Keewatin on 2 October 1910. His wife, Isabella Anderson Smeaton Shiells, was born on 6 September 1888 in Dundee, Scotland, the daughter of Johnann Shiells. Isabella had come to Canada in March 1910, sailing from Liverpool on the SS Dominion, via Portland, Maine. Charles worked as a cooper and market gardener and he and Isabella had one child, Mildred, who was born in Keewatin or the neighbouring town of Kenora on 27 February 1913.
Sometime before the war started Charles and his wife spent some time in Oak Bluff, Manitoba, where his brother William had settled. Charles enlisted in Winnipeg on 5 June 1915, signing up with the 61st (Winnipeg) Battalion. His occupation was flour packer, next of kin was his wife Isabella in Winnipeg and he said he belonged to a militia unit, the 106th Regiment. The 61st Battalion trained at Camp Hughes during the summer and fall, then in Winnipeg over the winter. They were sent overseas in the spring. During the brief stop in Kenora on 27 March 1916 friends and relatives gathered at the train station to see them off and wish them well. The troops embarked from Halifax on 2 April on the SS Olympic and arrived in England about ten days later.
In May Charles was transferred to the 44th Battalion and by June his wife and daughter were also in England, living at an address in Walthamstow, London. Charles embarked for France on 10 August and his unit became part of the 10th Infantry Brigade in the new 4th Canadian Division. That fall the Canadians were at the Somme Offensive, which had started on 1 July. The 44th Battalion arrived at the Somme in early October and had several rotations in the front and support lines. On 25 October they took part in an unsuccessful assault on Regina Trench, suffering almost 200 casualties in the operation. Charles was reported as missing in action and later declared killed in action. His body was not recovered.
Charles’ brother William had enlisted in Winnipeg in April 1916 and he embarked for England on 26 October, the day after Charles was killed. He served in France with the 78th Battalion and was missing and presumed killed on 11 August 1918, three months before the Armistice.
Isabella and Mildred returned to Canada in 1917, arriving in February on the SS Missanabie. Their destination was Winnipeg but they moved to Vancouver and Isabella was married there on 22 February 1919. Her husband, Edward Alfred Dawn, was a railroad clerk who was born in London, England. He was widowed and had two daughters, Winifred and Gladys. Isabella and Edward moved to the U.S. in May 1919 and made their home in Los Angeles. They had two more daughters, Doris (1920) and Phyllis (1921), both born in Los Angeles. Isabella passed away in Watsonville, Santa Cruz, California on 30 June 1973, at age 84.
Charles and William Bunch are both commemorated on the Vimy Memorial in France and on a First World War memorial plaque at Oak Bluff Cemetery in Manitoba.
By Becky Johnson
Photo at top: Oak Bluff Cemetery, courtesy of Darryl Toews, Manitoba Historical Society website.