Charles Alfred Light

Charles Alfred Light ©

Charles Alfred Light ©

Date of birth: 1899
Place of birth: Thornton Heath, Surrey
Service No.: SE/36899
Rank: Rifleman
Regiment / Division: Rifle Brigade
Battalion: Refer to grave inscription below
Died: 17th January 1920 aged 20 years
Death location: Netley Military Hospital, Southampton





This photograph is © Richard Taunton Sixth Form College. Southampton Cenotaph Families and Friends Group have received permission to reproduce this photograph and extracts from the narrative on the Old Tauntonians’ online War Memorial:

Please do not reproduce the photograph or any wording from this page.  If you want permission to use this photograph or narrative please contact the College on

This photograph is taken from a digitised copy of a photograph of the Taunton’s School Senior Sixth Form 1914-15, so it is darker than other photos, and Charles looks quite young in it.


Life before the War
Charles’s parents were George (b.1867 Southampton – d.21/08/1908) and Mary, nee Edmonds (b.1867  – d.23/06/1936 Southampton).  They were married in Peckham on 04/06/1892.  George’s father was James Light and this is how his name appears on on marriage records.

George and Mary had just two sons, Charles and George (b.1894 Surrey).  It has proved difficult in tracing a family tree and we assume that George married Edith M Hammond in 1924.  There is a death recorded for George Light aged 93 in Southampton in 1987 and the record gives the date of birth as 21/01/1894.  This may be Charles’ brother but due to insufficient information we are not able to prove or disprove the little information we have found.

The 1901 census shows Charles living with his parents and brother George in Olive Villa, Penrith Road, Croydon, Surrey. His Father’s occupation was Trimmer and Carpenter.

By the 1911 census Charles was living with his mother and brother at 12 Benson Road, Southampton.  By this time his Mother was widowed and her occupation was given as Needleworker.  There is also a boarder named Oliver Manns, aged 40, who gives his trade as a joiner.

Service History
It has been difficult trying to trace any information on Charles’ service history or anything on the Rifle Brigade that would be relevant to the time he served.

Charles must have enlisted late 1915 as he was at school 1910 to 1915.


Taunton’s School Memorial Roll

Time at Taunton’s School: 1910 – 1915

Education and Employment:  Charles was born in 1899 in Thornton Heath, Surrey.  He had articles published in Taunton’s school journal.  He won attendance prizes and passed the University of London school examination with distinction in History, Oral French, & Mathematics.

Life during the War:  Charles lived in Shirley with his brother George, and his mother who had been widowed by 1911.  He served as a Rifleman with the 2nd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade.  He suffered a long illness after the Armistice and eventually died at Netley Hospital following an operation necessitated by his war service.  He is buried in the Old Cemetery on Southampton Common.

Charles died on 17th January 1920 aged 20 years.


Charles was awarded the Victory Medal and British War Medal.  His Grave Ref. at Southampton Old Cemetery is 73K.46.

UTW LIGHT, Charles Alfred Rifleman S 36899

1st Battalion Rifle Brigade
Died at Netley Hospital after service in France
Jan 17th 1920, aged 20
‘He did his duty
He sleeps in Jesus free from pain
Our loss so great, to him is gain’

In Loving Memory of Mary Light
Died June 23rd 1936 

Also my beloved husband George Light
Died 21st Aug 1908, aged 38
‘Deeply mourned’


The grave inscription states that Charles served with the 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade whereas the CWCG records show that he served with the 2nd Battalion.

Additional information kindly provided by Geoff Watts of Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery (FOSOC):
The death certificate for Rifleman Charles Alfred Light puts his age at 20, that he lived at 100 Oxford Avenue, Southampton; the informant was his brother G Light of 100 Oxford Avenue and it shows that Charles died of:

1. Gall Stones: it could be 8 months 27 days.
2. Peritonitis 2 days
No Post Mortem – certified by A Greenwood MRCS
Died at Netley  Hospital 1920

Rifleman Charles Alfred Light of the 2nd Battalion The Rifle Brigade died on 17 January 1920 at the military hospital at Netley.  The hospital was used throughout the First World War and in the Second World War but all that remains of the main hospital buildings today is the chapel at the Royal Victoria Country Park. Rifleman Light was buried here in the family grave and the family placed an inscription about him.  At the time, no War Grave Cross was placed here.  A casualty who died before 31 August 1921, of a cause related to the First World War, was entitled to have the standard headstone that had been agreed by the then Imperial War Graves Commission. The design of such headstones only apply to deaths in the First and Second World Wars.  Such a stone was not put on a family grave like this (see photograph above) unless the family asked for one, provided the family inscription adequately commemorated the dead soldier. One of the Commission’s responsibilities is to keep a record of all burial places of casualties from the two World Wars. A check is kept to make sure that, in cases such as this, the wording on the family grave can still clearly be read so that the commemoration of the life is not lost. Where a family inscription becomes illegible or obscured the Commission can place, later on, one of its headstones. With the collapse of the original family memorial and part of the cross resting against the inscription, the commemorative words for Rifleman Light cannot easily be read but with this stone, put up only a few years ago, he is clearly remembered and commemorated.

The stone is the standard CWGC pattern height and width for all such stones. The top is curved partly for aesthetic reasons but also to allow the rain to drain off. The Rifle Brigade’s badge is shown and some personal details. Where headstones were put in after the wars, families were given a choice as to whether they wanted the Latin cross to be included, or not, so the cross does not always appear. We do not know if there are any descendants of Rifleman Light still alive. After the war, families were also given the opportunity to have an inscription placed at the foot of the stone. None appears here perhaps indicating that no members of the family could be traced when the stone was put up. The stone used originally for War Grave headstones was usually Portland Stone (though granite was for instance used in more extreme climates such as Scotland). When replacing or putting in new stones today the CWGC now uses Botticino limestone from Italy, which is hard wearing and smoother than the texture of Portland stone.

Researcher: Shaun Connolly
Published.: 21st September 2014
Updated: Insert dates here

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