Name: Carlos Meler
1892 - 23rd April 1917 or did he actually live until 1962?
Place of Birth: Arlesey
Regiment: Middlesex Regiment
Rank: Lance Corporal
Buried: Grave I. H. 2, Point-Du-Jour, Military Cemetery, Athies, Pas De Calais, Arras, France
Person(s) placing the cross on behalf of the Arlesey Remembers You Project: Helen Randall
The Bedfordshire Roll of Honour identifies the C Meier on the Arlesey Memorial as probably being a Christian Meier, Lance Corporal 5699, 4th Battalion Middlesex Regiment, who died on Monday 23rd April 1917, at the age of 25. He was born in London, the son of Mrs D Nash of Upper Holloway Road, London and is buried in Oint-Du-Jour Military Cemetery, France.
However, tracing Christian Meier back through the historical records available has shown no tangible link between this man and Arlesey. I believe there is a far greater chance that C Meier, is in fact a Carlos Fritz Meier.
Carlos Fritz Meier was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1892. He was the son of Francis and Grace Meier. Francis was born in Berne, Switzerland and arrived in London at the age of 15. Francis married Grace Comerford, a Court (High Quality) dressmaker in 1886. Besides Carlos, there was an older son, Frank (Francis H born in Newcastle in 1887) and two daughters, Grace Sophia (born 1889, Buenos Aires) and Frances Ada (born Arlesey 1895). Father, Francis was an engine fitter, and the family probably moved to Argentina because of his work. They arrived back in the UK around 1895 when Francis was offered a job at the Three Counties Asylum and, at the time of the 1901 census, the family were living in Asylum Road, Arlesey.
Carlos is a bit of a mystery, and it has proved very difficult to track his movements after he left Arlesey, some time between the 1901 and 1911 census. This is mostly down to the fact he appears to have used several different forms of his name. Most of the following information has come via his Great-Nephew Trevor, who is the Grandson of Carlos’ brother Frank.
The story is that the young Carlos was keen to join the army but that his family would not let him, so he simply ran away and followed his ambitions. This act of ‘disobedience’ resulted in Carlos being estranged from his family. It is assumed that because of his Germanic sounding name, at the outbreak of War, Carlos changed his name to Charles, though sometimes it seems he was known as Carl.
Carlos brother Frank also joined the Army and told his parents that he had seen Carlos grave on the battlefield in Ypres. During the war record keeping was chaotic and this sighting of a grave was enough to convince the Meier family that Carlos had been killed in battle. In fact the Bedfordshire Times of Friday 3rd December 1915 reported that Carl Meier was killed in action on 9th November 1914, whilst fighting in the First Battle of Ypres.
It is perfectly possible that Frank did indeed see the grave of C. Meier, or even Carl Meier, as there would undoubtedly have been many German soldiers bearing the same name. If Frank did see such a grave, it was not that of his brother!
Carlos survived the battle, although it left him badly disfigured, with most of his face being lost. This was later rebuilt in hospital over a number of years. He was too embarrassed to visit or contact his parents or sisters, and never saw any of them again, and they assumed he was dead. Carlos visited his brother and his family at their home in Bedford once after the war, and was virtually unrecognisable, and quite frightening to his young nieces. The brothers never saw each other again after this meeting.
It came as a great shock to Carlos' sisters and brother when one of them saw a report in the death notices in the Daily Telegraph in February 1962 announcing “the death in hospital of Carl Fritz Meier (Charles Meier) on 6th February 1962, beloved husband of Gladys, and dearly loved member of the staff of Messrs Robert Schwarzenbach and Co for over 40 years. Cremation at St Marylebone Crematorium on 12th February at 3.30pm”.
The official probate register entry on his death in 1962 reads “ MEIER Carl Fritz, otherwise Charles Frederick, otherwise Charles, otherwise Frederick Charles” which perfectly illustrates why it has been so difficult tracing Carlos since he left the family in Arlesey.
So how did Carlos Meier end up being commemorated on the Arlesey War Memorial?
During the time the Meier family were in Arlesey both Francis and Grace were very involved in village life, taking an active part in the church council and the WI. Grace carried on her business as a high quality dressmaker, advertising in the 1910 Kelly’s Directory. Francis was on the Committee that organised the fundraising and design of the memorial for Arlesey. This same committee were responsible for collating and agreeing the names that would be displayed on the memorial. We can only premise that, assuming his son Carlos to be have been killed in battle, Francis wanted him commemorating in the village where the family lived.