Charles Henry Whiteley was born at Orange in April 1893. Charles’ parents, Henry and Mary Ann (nee Jobson) were both born in Orange and had married in the town in 1878. Henry was working as a boundary rider in the district at the time of Charles’ birth.
The family later moved to Narromine, and on 23 May 1916 Charles and two of his brothers – Alexander Tinnock Whiteley and Richard James Whiteley – travelled to Dubbo and enlisted in the First World War. The brothers were issued sequential service numbers: 5926 (Charles), 5927 (Alexander) and 5928 (Richard).
The three brothers spent the next nine months together; they joined the 17th Battalion, 16th Reinforcements and attended Dubbo and Liverpool camps. The trio embarked HMAT A40 Ceramic in Sydney on 7 October 1916 and arrived in Plymouth on 21 November. Charles was assigned to the 6th Training Battalion at Rollestone, Alexander and Richard to the 5th at Folkestone. In February 1917 Charles and Richard proceeded to the Western Front in France, however Alexander remained at Folkestone for a further three months, arriving on the Western Front in May 1917.
On 18 February 1917 Charles and Richard were marched in to the 2nd Australian Divisional Base Depot at Etaples. At 3.45am on 3 May 1917 the Australian 2nd Division and the British 62nd Division launched an attack on the Hindenburg Line with the intention of securing the fortified village of Bullecourt. Soldiers of the 17th Battalion, Charles and Richard included, were engaged in the battle. They managed to penetrate the German line but met determined resistance. The brothers were both wounded in action, however their official status was later upgraded to “wounded and missing in action”. Some time later Charles managed to rejoin his unit, however Richard was not seen again. Six months later, in November 1917, AIF Headquarters declared him to have been killed in action on 3 May 1917. He was one of 11 men from the Orange district who was killed that fateful day.
Charles recovered from his wounds, but five months later, in October, was again wounded, sustaining gunshot wounds to the hand and leg. He was admitted to the 7th Canadian General Hospital in Etaples and later transferred to Queen’s Canadian Military Hospital at Beachborough Park in England. He remained there until February 1918, when he was transferred to the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital at Dartford. Charles was invalided home; he returned to Australia in May 1918 and was discharged from the AIF in July. Charles’ brother Alexander returned to Australia in December 1917.
In March 1926 Charles, now 32, married 21 year old Mary Elizabeth (‘Gracie’) Kable at St Johns Church at Parramatta. The couple’s daughter, Valerie June, was born three years later, in 1929.
Census records indicate that Charles was living in Merrylands and working as a labourer during the 1950s. Charles died in Wellington District Hospital on 18 March 1960, aged 66. His death certificate stated his residence as Montefiores, Wellington.
Charles Henry Whitely and his brothers are commemorated on the World War I honor roll of St Andrew’s Uniting Church (formerly Presbyterian Church) in Narromine.