Charles Lawton (or Chuck, as so many knew him in the Regiment) was born in April 1927 in Leeds, where he enlisted at 16½ in November 1943 on a false attestation of 17½!

Maj C Lawton
Maj C Lawton

Probably looking a bit young to be sent off to war, he was immediately transferred to the TA Reserves until allowed to join the Reconnaissance Corps RAC for training in England during 1944.

When at last he reached a genuine 17½ he served in North-West Europe in a recce regiment during the last six months of the war.

He then transferred to the 13th /18th Hussars, with whom he served in Germany as a corporal until he voluntarily discharged from the Army in early 1948 at the tender age of 21.

Charles and Erna had married in the Marienkirche in Wolfenbüttel in October 1947, having met at Vienenburg the year before.

On leaving the Army they lived in Leeds for about three and a half years, Charles taking up several jobs but never really settling into civilian life. As Erna said: ‘Charles lived for the Army’.

On re-joining in November 1951 Chuck trained in England while the 8th Hussars were completing a distinguished operational tour in Korea. He joined his new regiment in Luneburg in early 1952, and his qualities and experience earned him quick promotion to lance corporal within days, to corporal within two months, and to sergeant in 1954.

That same year he earned a ‘B (Schools Recommended)’ grading on a Gunnery Instructor’s course at Lulworth, and it was excellence in this rigorous discipline that would earn him well-deserved advancement later.

The young, quietly affable troop sergeant in ‘B’ Squadron was widely liked, and well respected for his professionalism and his confident, intelligent style of discipline. He carried himself well and had a fine military bearing, so it was no surprise that he earned the rare ‘B’ grading on his all-arms drill course at the Guards Depot in 1956.

While in Luneburg he was a plucky member of the 8th Hussars’ team in the 1957 Duke Of Edinburgh’s competition (between all regiments of which HRH was Colonel–in–Chief), bravely struggling on in spite of an extremely painful pulled thigh muscle during the forced march phase, and shooting well throughout.

Just before amalgamation in 1958 he and Erna moved to Lulworth, where he was promoted to staff sergeant Instructor at the RAC Gunnery School; 18 months later he instructed at the RAC Gunnery Wing at Hohne, next door to the Irish Hussars.

Two years later he re-joined ‘B’ Squadron as a troop sergeant in Aden 1961-62. In 1962-64 he served in ‘B’ Squadron in Sarawak during the Borneo Campaign, earning a Mention in Despatches for his services there. Halfway through this tour he was promoted to warrant officer class two and became SSM of ‘HQ’ Squadron when Bill Holberton became RSM.

In 1964 the Regiment returned to Wolfenbüttel, and a year later he was posted to the Gunnery School at Lulworth, where in 1966 he became the RSMI.

It was a surprise to discover that in spite of this impressive record supporting his Commanding Offi cer’s firm recommendation for the LS and GC Medal the Board tersely marked the papers ‘Not Approved’. They obviously objected terribly to the single blemish on his record as a result of one uncharacteristically wild night spent in the company of the likes of Bob Smith and others in Luneburg 14 years earlier (‘…‘A soldier’s life is terrible hard,’ says Alice….’).

Charles was commissioned in 1968, and as a Captain instructed at both the Gunnery School at Lulworth and the RAC Gunnery Wing at Hohne. In 1973 he was promoted to Major, and in 1975 commanded ‘HQ’ Squadron in Paderborn, taking a prominent part in Exercise Wide Horizon (designed to test the operational practicalities of the reorganisation of 1 British Corps).

In mid 1977 he left the Regiment for the last time, taking command of 1 Army Defence Unit at Möenchen Gladbach. Among a variety of duties he played a significant part in organising the Nijmegen Marches each year.

When Charles retired from the Army in 1982, after a fine military career spanning some 39 years, he had risen by sheer ability from 16-year-old trooper to Major, and he and Erna took the friendship and admiration of everyone in the 8th and the Irish Hussars with them. They lived a quietly enjoyable life in Liverpool near their sons Peter and Robert and their grandchildren, Charles devoting his energies to gardening, house maintenance, and holidays.

His friends missed him from Association events over the years, but were delighted to see him at a York Troop dinner a few years ago. He died quite unexpectedly in March 2005, having been fit, and enjoyed very good health, all his life.

Related topics

  1. A short history of The 8th Hussars
  2. A short history of The Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars
  3. Korea 1950-51
  4. Aden and The Persian Gulf 1961
  5. Malaya and Borneo 1962-64