171719 Sgt. Charles William Bittle was born on October 12, 1885 in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, the son of John William Bittle (1861-1936) and Sarah Bittle (née Pinder) (1858-1950).

Citing 2 years previous experience with the 30th Battalion, Charles enlisted in Toronto on August 14th, 1915 and was assigned to the 83rd (Queen's Own Rifles) Battalion. At that time, he had been living in Toronto with his wife, Bertha Bittle (née Klenck) and daughter Olive Ruby Bittle (born 1912), and he had been working as a piano finisher.

The 83rd BN departed from Halifax for Britain on April 28th, 1916, aboard the S.S. Olympic and arrived in England on May 7th. Charles was appointed to the rank of Acting Sergeant the same day. The 83rd BN provided reinforcements for the Canadian Corps until July 7th, 1916, when its personnel were absorbed by the 12th Reserve Battalion. As such Charles completed musketry and field training with the 12th Reserve Battalion in Lydd, Kent, England.

On January 20th, 1917, Charles was transferred to the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles, which at that time was positioned north-west of Arras, France, and joined them in the field as Sergeant on January 21st, just when the regiment was relieving the 5th CMR in Brigade Support. Shortly after they returned to the front-line trenches, relieving the 1st CMR in the left sub-sector at Écurie, north of Arras on January 29th.

Sadly Charles was killed in action on February 4th, 1917, (per details below).

The following is an article that appeared in 'The Toronto Star' newspaper on March 5th, 1917, though it erroneously cites Charles as a Sergeant Major:


Word of the death in action of Sergt.-Maj. Charles William Bittle reached his wife at 494 Pape Avenue before she was aware that he had gone to the trenches. Bittle had only been in the trenches for two weeks when he was instantly killed at 3 o'clock in the morning of February 4 after just coming in from an advanced bombing post. The writer stated that he would be buried a few miles behind the firing line and expressed the regret of the men of the unit at losing such an honest, upright and conscientious comrade. Bittle was born in Guelph and was a finisher by trade. A brother, Robert, was killed on April 23, 1915 while serving with a Canadian battalion.

171719 Sgt. Charles William Bittle lies at rest in Ecoivres Military Cemetery, located approximately eight kilometres north-west of Arras, France.

Incidentally, Charles' younger brother, 9775 Pte. Robert Norman Bittle (a bookkeeper before the war), was a member of the 3rd Battalion (Toronto Regiment). Robert, too, was killed in action in the Ypres Salient, Belgium by a single bullet to the head on 23rd April 1915, during the Battle of Gravenstafel Ridge (22-23 April 1915), which commenced the Second Battle of Ypres (22 April - 15 May 1915). As his body was never recovered, Robert is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ieper, Belgium.

Biography details credit: Geoff Clarke.

Image credit: Veterans Affairs Canada.