No.1065 Lieutenant Charles James Callan
Charles James Callan was born in Werribee in 1892.
He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in Melbourne on 2 August 1915 aged 23. He listed his occupation as 'bushman' – typically shearers, stockmen and rural labourers. At the time of enlistment, his parents, James and Mary, were living at Panton Hill, an old gold mining settlement just 45 kilometres north-east of the Melbourne CBD. Private Charles Callan served with the 14th Reinforcements, 5th Battalion – first at the Royal Park Training Camp near Melbourne Zoo, then at Castlemaine and then Williamstown. He was sent to officer training school and appointed Sergeant on 17 June 1916 with the 38th Battalion. This battalion had only been formed just a few months before in Bendigo. At his own request, Charles briefly reverted to Corporal - the rank he held when his unit left Australia in June and sailed for Plymouth, England.
By September 1916, he was again promoted to Sergeant. The 38th Battalion was sent to France in late November. It was in the trenches by 1 December 1916 near Armentieres in France, virtually on the Belgian border, where it relieved New Zealand troops. For around nine months in 1917, newly promoted 2nd Lieutenant Charles Callan spent much of his time in England on a variety of training courses. This included qualifying as a sniper at Aldershot and in the handling and deployment of the Lewis Gun – a US designed light machine gun much favoured by Australian and British troops during WWI.
He returned to France on 18 September 1917, just in time for the 38th Battalion’s role in the battles of Broodseinde and Passchendaele in Belgium in October. While the outcome at Broodseinde was considered strategically successful, it cost the 38th Battalion 29 per cent casualties. Just eight days later on 12 October, the battalion fought at Passchendaele amidst the rain, the cold and the mud. The attack was adjudged a complete failure and the Battalion suffered 62 per cent casualties.
Battles had raged in Western Flanders since war was declared in August 1914. It is estimated that around 550,000 soldiers and civilians were killed in this theatre alone during WWI. The 38th Battalion withdrew from the frontline and as November dawned, it was based near Senlecques in France. By the end of the month, the Battalion was back in the trenches at Warneton, around five kilometres north east of Armentieres. On 29 November 1917 the battalion had just relieved the 40th Battalion in the trenches at Warneton when Lieutenant Callan received a gunshot wound to his right calf. He was evacuated to England for treatment and recuperation. More training followed in England and he didn’t return to France until mid-September 1918.
On 29 September 1918, Lieutenant Charles James Callan was killed instantly by machine gun fire near Bony in France as the 38th Battalion attacked the Hindenburg Line near the St Quentin Canal. His commanding officer of A Company, Captain Fairweather, died in the same action. Sadly, it’s clear that the 26 year old Lieutenant Callan had married in England just prior to his departure for France. He and his wife, Nellie Lucas, had married at Wilton in Salisbury close to the huge army bases on the Salisbury Plains that had been home to thousands of ANZAC troops during WWI.
Lieutenant Callan is buried and remembered at the Templeux-le-Guerard British Cemetery (Plot 2, Row F, Grave 42).
Medals and Entitlements
[received by his young widow -living in London]
- Memorial Scroll and Plaque
- British War Medal
- Victory Medal
Service record citation: NAA: B2455, CALLAN CHARLES JAMES
38th Battalion history and war diaries - Australian War Memorial