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Reg Charles
Rank: Corporal
Reg Charles



Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

Normandy and Europe

June 24, 1944 onwards

Survived the war?
Ox and Bucks Light Infantry

Ox and Bucks Light Infantry

A true gentleman soldier

Reg’s desire and life time commitment to help and educate other’s began in 1934 when he helped to wire the Parish Church in Horley, Oxfordshire, with electricity working alongside a local electrician. Reg’s work life began in September 1939 when he began working at Palmer and Son’s Coal Merchants in Banbury, where he worked until the firm ceased trading in 1976. During his early years in the office he replaced the gas lights with electric lighting and he used his carpentry skills to build shutters for the windows during the ‘black outs’.

At the end of 1940 Reg enrolled as a part time fireman - Auxiliary Fire Service and he continued to support the local Fire Service until he was called up in December 1941, during this period Reg supported the Banbury Fire Service on a number of occasions and he still remembers coving for the retained fire service when they were deployed to Coventry following the bombing of the city which could be seen from Banbury.

Reg served in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry from January 1942 until April 1946, he was first in the 5th Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry where he did his initially training at Cowley and Slade barracks in Oxford. The next two years were spent preparing for the Normandy Invasion training both in the UK and in Northern Ireland.

Reg remembers his war days

I joined the army on January 2nd 1942 a month before my 19th birthday. My initial training took place in Cowley Barracks and Slade Camp in Oxford and in June 1942 I was posted to the 5th Battalion Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry in Northern Ireland. The battalion returned to England in January 1943 and we continued our infantry training until May 1944 when the Battalion was disbanded and the men were sent to other Battalions in various parts of the World. At that time I was a storeman and had the task of disposing of the transport stores and vehicles. This took several weeks and towards the end of July 1944 I was eventually posted to the 1st Battalion Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry.


I landed in Normandy at Arromanches where I joined the 1st Battalion Oxford and Bucks LI, 53rd Welsh Division, which was in action near the city of Caen. Following the overthrow of the Germans in Caen the Battle of Falaise was the next big action and then we cleared Pierefitte of the enemy and we stayed in that village for about a week. During my first month in France I experienced the horrors of being an infantry soldier on foot, digging fox holes to survive in, driving a Bren gun carrier (a tracked armoured vehicle) and also clearing causalities from the front line by driving a jeep.

Leaving France

We left France at the end of August and arrived in Antwerp about September 10th. After a few days in the dock area of Antwerp we moved into Holland to Oirschot near Eindhoven and then to Nijmegrn and s’Hertogenbosh. We were in the Roermond area for most of November and on Christmas Day 1944 we were dispatched to the ‘Battle of the Bulge’ in the Ardennes.

Netherlands and Germany

After about three weeks in the snow we moved to St Oedenrode near Eindhoven and at the beginning of February we prepared for the Battle of the Reichswald Forest. We spent most of the month in the forest in appalling conditions and we ended up in Germany in March 1945. We crossed the River Rhine on a pontoon bridge at the end of March. On entering the final phase of the Battle for Germany it was a very different form of warfare to Holland and we missed the welcome from the civilian population. During the next five weeks we advanced through Northern Germany crossing rivers and canals and engaging in various small battles and dealing with German prisoners of war. We finally entered Hamburg on May 4th 1945 and the cease fire commenced at 08.00hrs on May 5th 1945. Hamburg is 620 miles from London and it took me 3 years 4 months to complete the journey travelling by train, bus, bicycle, landing craft, motor vehicles ranging from jeep to heavy lorries, tracked vehicle and many miles on foot.

End of the war

My war ended in Hamburg but I continued on to Berlin where I was eventually sent back to England in 1946. I lost friends and comrades and I will always remember those who did not return, my memories are still with me even at the age of 99 years and I am grateful that I came home but sad that so many did not.

The end came as a surprise and the actual celebrations amounted to being relieved and grateful to be able to live at peace and not ‘Digging, Dashing and Dodging’ gunfire.

I remember General Sir Miles Dempsey speaking to us, there were two thousand men of the 53rd Welsh Division, we were at the State Theatre in Hamburg, he thanked us for fighting the enemy and reminded us that the victory won in war is in no way lost in peace, I have never forgotten those words or that moment in time. I remained in Germany, mainly in the Berlin area until April 1946 when I was demobbed and returned to being a Coal Merchant in Banbury, Oxfordshire

After the war

Reg became a member of the Methodist Church in 1946 and he continued to support the Church and it’s members throughout his life including rewiring premises, playing the organ, supporting those new to the Church and local community, ensuring that the Church premises were safe and helping with ongoing repairs etc. and also undertaking the role of Church Treasurer for a period of time. 

In December 1960 Reg became a member of Banbury Rotary Club, he has been an active member of several clubs including the Banbury Club, where he was the club President in 1983 – 1984, he was also a member of Chipping Norton, West Woodspring and an honorary member of Weston-super-Mare Clubs, until due to his age he ‘retired’ after over 50 years of service to the local and international community. He was awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship in 2006 in recognition of the many years of service that he had given to the community. The Rotary moto is ‘Service above self’ and Reg has certainly upheld that moto throughout his long life. Reg has also been an active member of Probus where he served as Chairman for a year at the Milton Club, Weston-super- Mare.

Reg is a Patron of the Veteran’s Charity and even now at 100yrs old he still supports the charity, in the past he has helped by collecting at local events, at Clark’s Village and other venues, and for his 100th birthday he asked for donations to the Charity instead of gifts for himself raising over £750, this is so typical of Reg always thinking and considering other’s before himself.

Reg has been a member of the Royal British Legion for over 70 years and he has helped with the Poppy collection for many years as well as ensuring he pays his respect at the local War Memorial on Remembrance Sunday. Reg keeps in touch with his old regiment which is now The Rifles and he also phones some of the widows of some of those he served with as well as other veterans who are now housebound or in care homes. Reg used his woodwork skills to help local Guides with making Standard stands and ‘patrol’ boxes and he was often seen driving a vehicle taking Guide camp equipment to various campsites as needed.

Reg, whenever the opportunity presents itself welcomes the chance to share his war time memories with children and young people, whether in person in a classroom, at a Remembrance assembly, or more recently by zoom. Reg has engaged with young people locally, across the UK, in France, The Netherlands and USA, these sessions have been well received by all concerned. Reg also took part in a question and answer session on the 75th anniversary of VE Day 2020, which was hosted by The Rifles and was broadcasted across the world on You Tube, this gave Reg the opportunity to share his memories of his time serving but to also inspire others to think about others before themselves.

Reg took part in remembrance events for a number of years in both Normandy and The Netherlands and he was honoured to support local children in the unveiling of a Peace Poster on the bridge at Benouville, Normandy in 2019 which marked the 75th Anniversary of The Normandy Campaign. Wherever Reg was there was always children and young people present eager to meet him and for him to share his knowledge and his desire for ongoing peace and unity.

Reg was awarded the Legion d’ Honeur by the French Government in February 2016 in recognition for his part in the liberation of France, an honour that Reg is rightly very proud of though he has never forgotten the sacrifice that was made by so many in those dark and difficult days of World War 2.

Reg lived on his own until August 2022 having lost his dear wife June of nearly 62 years in 2016, he now resides in Stoneleigh Residential Care Home where he enjoys visits from family, friends, including his Regiment which is now The Rifles the RBL. Reg has a son Ian and a daughter Sheila and between them they gave Reg six grandchildren and twelve great grandchildren all of which were at a family party to celebrate his 100th birthday in February.

Throughout Reg’s life his faith, family and service to others has always been at the centre of his life and these values he has passed on to his children and their families, he really is an amazing gentleman who we are so very proud of.

Story by Reg Charles and Sheila Harding, Reg’s daughter

Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry was a light infantry regiment of the British Army that existed from 1881 until 1958, serving in the Second Boer War, World War I and World War II.

The regiment was formed as a consequence of the 1881 Childers Reforms, a continuation of the Cardwell Reforms, by the amalgamation of the 43rd (Monmouthshire) Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry) and the 52nd (Oxfordshire) Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry), forming the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Oxfordshire Light Infantry on 1 July 1881. In 1908, as part of the Haldane Reforms, the regiment's title was altered to become the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, commonly shortened to the Ox and Bucks.

After service in many conflicts and wars, the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry was, in 1948, reduced to a single Regular Army battalion and on 7 November 1958, following Duncan Sandys' 1957 Defence White Paper, it was renamed the 1st Green Jackets (43rd and 52nd), forming part of the Green Jackets Brigade.


The 1st Ox and Bucks landed in Normandy on 24 June 1944 with the rest of the 53rd (Welsh) Division. On 25 June Operation Epsom began what was intended to take the town of Caen, a vital objective for the British and Canadians that proved to be a formidable town to capture, it was unsuccessful. However, it did divert significant numbers of Germans away from the American troops. The Germans counter-attacked, the 1st Ox and Bucks moved to positions around the Odon bridgehead where it suffered from heavy German artillery fire. The Allies launched further attempts to capture Caen, the first Allied troops entered the city during Operation Charnwood on 9 July, by then, much of it had been destroyed.

After holding the line the 1st Battalion's first major engagement with the enemy during the battle for Caen was the successful attack to capture the village of Cahier and a nearby mill. Fighting around Caen continued for much of the month, with the battalion sustaining significant casualties. The battalion later fought in the Second Battle of the Odon. In August it took part in an advance towards Falaise, known as Operation Totalize. The Allies reached and captured it. The battalion also captured Pierrefitte during the operation to close the Falaise pocket, encircling two German field armies, the Fifth and 7th, the latter of which was effectively destroyed by the Allies. The victory at Falaise signified the end of the Battle for Normandy.

The 1st Battalion, Ox and Bucks then took part in the advance east, eventually entering Belgium in early September.

Veteran's personal medals
1939 - 1945 Star
1939 - 1945 Star
France - Germany Star
France - Germany Star
Defence Medal
Defence Medal
War Medal
War Medal
Legion d'Honneur
Legion d'Honneur
Veteran's personal file
53rd Welsh Infantry Division patch to which the 1st Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry was assigned during D-Day.
53rd Welsh Infantry Division patch to which the 1st Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry was assigned during D-Day.

Nicknamed: The Ox and Bucks or The Light Bobs

Personal photographs

Click on a picture for enlargement

  • August 3rd, 2023
  • Weston Super Mare Crematorium
  • Plot 17 (together with his wife who died in 2016)

Remember each and every sacrifice, made for your freedom!

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