Lieutenant Charles Vesey Purdon



Charles Vesey Purdon was born on 15 April 1891 at 8 Mountjoy Terrace, Londonderry, the second of four children of bank manager James Theodore Purdon and his wife Charlotte Amelia (nee Vesey). He was educated at St Andrew's College and Skerries College, in Dublin. In May 1908 he was employed in the Northern Banking Company at its head office in Belfast. Transfers followed to Ball’s Branch (1908), Armagh (1911) and Grafton Street (1912). However the 1911 Census shows him living with his family at 3 Athol Terrace, Bray, County Wicklow, his father managing the local branch of the Northern Bank.

Purdon enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Antrim on 15 November 1915 (No.1871). On 13 August 1916 he qualified as a signaller and six weeks later embarked for France, joining E Squadron in the field at Humbercourt on 10 October.

However on 16 December he applied for a commission in the infantry, with a preference for "any Irish regiment". He left France for officer training the following month and after a short period of leave, on 8 March 1917 reported for duty at No.9 Officer Cadet Battalion at Gailes Camp, near Irvine, Ayrshire.

On 27 June 1917 Purdon was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and posted to the 18th (Reserve) Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, at Clandeboye. In January 1918 he embarked for France, where he was posted to the 12th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. The 12th Battalion sustained very heavy casualties during the German offensive from 21 to 28 March. Purdon was wounded in the left hand during the fighting around Erches on the 26th. According to the battalion war diary:

[23 March] The transport moved to a place near Fretoy and Boileau and Lieut. J. Nelson reported for duty and was [sent] to Major J. Brew. While the transport was proceeding, all O.R's except those in charge of Horses were sent back to form a rear guard party to delay the enemy. All available men were sent under Capt. R.S. Hanson. The party reported to Major J. Brew who was in charge of "details". Capt. R.S. Hanson was recalled and put in charge of Divisional Transport. Night 23/24th. The Transport were in a pontoon across Canal one and a half kilometres from Boileau. During the night 2/Lt G. Foy, W. Ferguson, J.J. McKinney, C.V. Purdon, A.P. Watson reported and were ordered to join Major J. Brew. Lt. J. Nelson was wounded and sent to Hospital, Pioneer Sergeant Cochrane was killed. These were with the details under Major J. Brew defending positions near Flavy-le-Meldeux.

[26 March] 9 A.M. Enemy began to shell village and our troops were falling back. All available men were again collected and sent outside the village to fight a rear-guard action to delay enemy's progress. 5 officers and approximately 60 O.R's were sent forward. Bandsmen were included and the Instruments were dumped at Erches and were not recovered. ...

[27 March] During the fighting around Erches, 2/Lt A.P. Watson was severely wounded and died in Hospital. 2/Lt C.V. Purdon was wounded and admitted to Hospital. 2/Lts G. Foy, W. Ferguson, J.J. McKinney and most of the O.R's are since missing.

Purdon was evacuated to the UK for treatment. He recovered slowly. It was not until July that he was graded C1 – fit for home service – and was able to return to duty at the 18th (Reserve) Battalion. In December 1918 he was graded Category B – fit for overseas service on garrison duty.

On 27 December he was promoted to lieutenant (an automatic step). He was demobilised and relinquished his commission on 31 January 1919.

Purdon's physical recovery continued slowly. A medical board at Dublin on 31 February 1920 assessed two disabilities: 'DAH' (disordered action of the heart) "He appears anaemic & debilitated. Heart rapid & irregular, no murmur ... Heart excitable. Neurologist reports – no neurasthenia"; and his wounded hand "function good but grip somewhat weakened". The board reported his disability at 40 per cent, but not permanent.

On 7 July 1920 Purdon married Gladys May Lopdell Polson at Christ Church, Leeson Park, Dublin. According to Irish Society (Dublin) she was the only daughter of the late Joseph S. Polson Esq & Mrs Polson 38 Lower Beechwood Ave and niece of Colonel Sir T.A. Polson KBE CMG.

Following demobilisation Purdon resumed work at the Northern Bank, working at Grafton Street and Ball’s Branch (1919), Bray (1925), Lisburn (1934), Newcastle (1937) and Castlewellan (1945).

He died at Fiddane Manse Road, Kilkeel, County Down, on 19 April 1962.


The image of Purdon is from the Belfast Bank Great War Roll of Honour pictorial record. This and some of the information above is sourced from Gavin Bamford's site honouring the officials of the Northern Bank and Belfast Bank who served during the two World Wars and in more recent conflicts.