John enlisted at Brock Barracks at the age of 14. He served in Egypt, India, and the Sudan was sent to France with the Regiment with the British Expeditionary Force in 1939 and died in action aged 26 on May 16, 1940. I was born a month later and named in his memory.
His final undated letter, from HQ 1st Royal Berkshires, British Expeditionary Force, suggests that he has been home on leave recently and seems to think he will be home again soon, when he hopes to visit his brother in person.
‘I hope if I do get time I’ll be over to see you. Of course, anything may happen between now and then, but still we are hoping for the best………… Well, I suppose its 'Au Revoir' and don’t let the war get you down. There’s plenty worse off than you out here. Au Revoir.
From your Brother
The Royal Berkshire Regiment had been in France since September 1939, and by May 1940 had taken up positions along the river Dyle. On 13th May they made their first contact with the German forces and for two days held their ground. Later they were given the order to withdraw and make their retreat to Dunkirk. Among those retreating soldiers was bandsman, John Charles Harvey. On 16th May whilst carrying a wounded soldier on a stretcher, he was killed by a hand-grenade. A witness reported to his family some years later that there was no time to do a proper burial but they dug a shallow grave in a hedgerow and placed him there in France on the way to Dunkirk. His body was never recovered. A search has found that his name does not appear on any local war memorials, though he is recorded on the Dunkirk Memorial which stands at the entrance to the Commonwealth War Graves section of Dunkirk Town cemetery. It commemorates more than 4.500 casualties of the British Expeditionary Force who died in the campaign of 1939 - 1940.
He was indeed killed during the retreat, we knew nothing about this until 20 years ago, someone from the regiment who was there when he got killed, found my dad Fred Harvey, John’s brother and came to see him, He told dad that, they had met the Germans and held on for several days, they were then forced to retreat. Charlie was killed by a hand grenade while carrying a wounded soldier on a stretcher, he was given a quick burial in a hedgerow in France on the way to Dunkirk
They had no time to do a proper burial, but dug a shallow grave in a hedgerow and placed him there, his body was never recovered, but he said he still knew the spot and would take my dad there, unfortunately dad was too upset and did not take up the offer.