After spending some time in the reserves at the seaside resort of Sheerness, Private Charles Fox was finally called up. He made the journey to France, then to Belgium, where he joined the 4th King’s Rifles in Ypres.
It was a strange, bouncy word for a British tongue. Most of his comrades pronounced it Wipers.
Ypres, Wipers, was a haggard-looking town now. Deemed a place of strategic importance, it had been continually bombarded and attacked, captured and recaptured – a process that had taken countless lives already.
And as Charlie joined the ranks, more was to follow. The Germans launched an offensive which was to go on for months. Perpetual gunfire, perpetual shelling, and a word that filled soldiers with an acute kind of terror: gas. This time, a new kind – chlorine gas. A foul smelling poison that drifted with the wind and turned into acid with whatever watery substance it met, whether that was lungs or eyes.
It was a particularly horrific introduction to war for Charlie and, as his comrades were being killed around him, he was caught by shellfire and his legs were shattered.
The field hospitals treated him as best they could but it was clear Charlie could not go back to Ypres.
He was ferried back across the channel and taken up to Salford, where a home for totally disabled soldiers had just been opened. This would be his new accommodation.