We have been contacted by the daughter of Captain Charles Reidy, who served with the 2nd Battalion London Irish Rifles, and who was seriously wounded during the battalion’s action on Stuka Ridge near to Bou Arada on 26th February 1943.
Gemma Utting, who currently lives in New Zealand said in her note to us:
“My sisters and I are the five surviving daughters of Charles James Reidy. He served with ‘G’ Company.
From what my middle sister Vicky has been able to discover, our father was badly injured (the two others in his trench were killed) in the night attacks of February 26th 1943.
We had heard a few stories of these times from him (before his death at the age of 92 on July 15th 2004). But never enough. It must be so hard to find words for the sort of hell one goes through as a soldier. The bomb blast apparently threw him from the trench and he was found blinded and near death the following day.
He eventually regained the sight in one eye, though he lost his sense of smell and his ability to sleep. He needed sleeping pills and had constant troubles with his sight and head for the rest of his life. Not a quitter though, he went on to do great things.”
Charles Reidy certainly did go onto do great things:
Before the war, Charles Reidy had been educated at Stonyhurst College, and was one of four Reidy brothers who played for London Irish in the 1930s. He was the London Irish vice-captain in the 1936-7 season and, later that season, won his first and only full cap for Ireland as a second row forward against Wales in Belfast (Ireland won 5-3).
After the war, he went to Cambridge University (whilst staying in the army within the Education Corps) where he won a half blue in discus throwing. Charles Reidy was one of the most prominent figures in the development of the hammer event in the UK in the 1940s and 50s, and he used hammer throwing as a means of helping him regain strength into his upper body, arm and leg muscles. In 1943 he built the world’s first cement circle in order to maintain his physical improvement with a better quality, more consistent throwing surface. By the end of the 1940s the cement circle was more commonly in use, but it was not until 1953 that a cement circle was used at the White City.
Charles became a fine hammer thrower, winning the Southern title in 1946 and 1952, becoming Irish hammer champion in 1953, and he beat numerous hammer throwing records in the Army Athletics Championships, and in 1953 won the hammer throwing competition at the Services Athletics Championship at Uxbridge with a services’ record of 163ft 11 ½ inches. His best ever throw was 168 foot thrown in Dublin. Charles Reidy eventually rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.
Gemma goes onto say in her note to us:
“I am writing to ask if there are other ways to connect with the families of the men who fought in WWII? Are there lists of G Company men, for example?
Also, my son Charles Douglas Utting, Charles Reidy’s grandson and namesake, is about to begin a History Thesis for his undergraduate degree in History at the University of Willamette in Oregon, USA. Interestingly, after the war, my father went on to get a degree in American History at Cambridge and I think it might be a delightful turn of the wheel for his Grandson to get a degree in European History from a US University”.
A truly remarkable story – a truly remarkable man.