300173 Serjeant Robert Castling D.C.M.
2nd Battalion Durham Light Infantry
13th April 1918 

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pw84b Serjeant Robert Castling.jpg

Born in Shield Row, Beamish Parish, Durham on 06/10/1895. His parents were Albert Edwin Castling(23/10/1861-01/06/1936) and Mary Humble(07/12/1865-28/04/1936). They were married on 10/11/1884.

Robert had 7 brothers, John Joseph(08/10/1885-27/05/1921), Albert Edwin(1887-1895), Thomas(1890-1904), Charles(19/11/1893-1960), Septimus(12/03/1899-24/05/1968), Frederick(1900-1905), Edwin(born in 1905) and Sidney(12/02/1911-01/12/1976). 

Robert also had 5 sisters, Mary Eleanor(11/09/1888-14/01/1962),Isabella(03/07/1892-02/02/1963), Mabel(09/11/1902-1979), Hilda(born on 28/11/1906) and Minnie(1909-1927).

In the 1901 census, the family were recorded as living at 23 Kay Street , Stanley , Beamish, Durham.

Albert snr was employed as a coke drawer.

The 1911 census recorded that the family had moved addresses and were now living at 11 South View, Annfield Plain, Durham. 

Albert snr was now working as a coal miner ,dealing with stonework. Robert was also now employed as a pony driver in a

coal mine.

Robert must have decided that a coal mine was not where he wanted to be as he enlisted as Private 2088 in 1/8th Battalion Durham Light Infantry on 13/04/1913, though there was a dispute after his death about this date as his small book(soldiers handbook given to all new recruits) recorded this date, but all other army records had his enlistment date as 17/04/1913.

His medical was performed in Beamish on 30/05/1913, unfortunately the only readable parts of it left are that his height was

5ft 6 inches, he had both good vision and physical development and that he was considered fit for the Territorial Force by the

Medical Officer examining him. 

He was appointed a Lance Corporal on 20/07/1914.

On 18/04/1915, Robert embarked for France from Southampton, disembarking in Le Havre a day later.     

He was temporarily attached to No.3 Company of 8th Battalion  Durham Light Infantry on 14/06/1915.

On 09/08/1915 he was found guilty of disobeying an order in the field and was awarded 14 days

Field Punishment No.1 (This consisted of the convicted man being shackled in irons and secured to a fixed object, often a gun wheel or similar. He could only be thus fixed for up to 2 hours in 24, and not for more than 3 days in 4, or for more than 21 days

in his sentence. This punishment was often known as ‘crucifixion’ and due to its humiliating nature was viewed

by many Tommies as unfair.)*

* The Long Long Trail

The following year he was appointed paid Lance Corporal to "complete establishment" on 10/08/1916 and then promoted to Corporal on 16/08/1917 again to "complete establishment".

On 16/03/1917, Robert was evacuated to 8th General Hospital with Inflammation to connective tissue of the shoulder, before being transferred to England the following day.

After nearly 3 months recovering, Robert returned to France via Folkstone on 11/06/1917 arriving in Boulogne the same day.

He would then have marched in to Etaples Camps,  where the next month on 07/07/1917 he was posted to

2nd Battalion Durham Light Infantry, joining the battalion 2 days later.

When the Germans launched their offensive "Operation Michael"  on 21/03/1918, Robert and the 2nd Durham L.I. were in frontline trenches just outside a small village in France called Morchies, (which is north east of the town of Bapaume). The strength of the attack from the Germans forced Robert and his men to give up their position, but Robert rallied his men and  counterattacked the Germans in an action that earnt Robert the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

London Gazette – 03/09/1918 page 10278

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, when in command of a section. After being driven out of the post by overwhelming odds, he reformed his section and retook it, driving the enemy well back. He showed fine courage and determination”.

On 03/04/1918 Robert moved to Marquise Camp, south west of Ypres.

Sadly 10 days later on 13/04/1918, Robert was killed in action.

He was awarded the 1914-1915 Star,1914-1918 British War and Allied Victory medals.   

 Brothers Charles and Septimus also served in WW1. Charles was Sergeant 1356 1/8th Durham Light Infantry, while Septimus served as Private 22566 Army Cyclist Corps.