Hero of the month… CSM John Charlton 1970 – 2012
Once a year in November the whole world comes together to remember our fallen heroes, however at Scotty’s Little Soldiers we know that for families who have lost someone who served in the Armed Forces, Remembrance Day is every day.
Every one of our members has lost a parent who served in the British Armed Forces, and we believe their lives and sacrifice should always be remembered. In our hero of the month posts we celebrate the lives of our members’ fallen heroes every month of the year.
This month we honour CSM John Charlton, a married father to a young son, who died from Hairy Cell Leukaemia in 2012.
CSM John Charlton (42) was a Company Sergeant Major in the Territorial Army (TA). He was based in Rochester before he died.
Incredibly dedicated to the TA, John spent much of his time travelling to and from the TA centre in Canterbury. Several evenings a week, John would travel from his regular IT job in London to the Canterbury TA centre. He would then travel another hour to return to his home in Meopham, Kent.
He took his role as CSM very seriously. He dedicated a lot of his time to training as well as speaking to young children at local schools about Remembrance Day.
Soldiering on throughout his illness, John was admitted to hospital with Sepsis in June 2012 and was given a very sudden diagnosis of Hairy Cell Leukaemia. He died in hospital three weeks later when the Sepsis returned. John left behind his wife Cathy and son, Scott, who was just six years old at the time.
For Cathy, the day John passed away will never leave her. John remained on ITU in a drug induced coma for three and a half weeks until he passed away in Cathy’s arms a week later. While he was in hospital John was only woken once from his coma. Cathy remembers his last words to her, she said: “He woke and said to me, ‘I want to go’ and I replied ‘as long as you know I love you’. The nurse then gave him some more drugs and he returned to his coma. He died in my arms a week later.”
Cathy didn’t want her young son, Scott, to be traumatised by seeing his dad this way so didn’t take him to the hospital. She remembers having to explain to Scott what had happened and told him that daddy had died as his body wasn’t able to fight hairy scary cells anymore. Cathy explains: “I never used the term Leukaemia as Scott knew my two brothers had previously died of the same disease, and early on, I didn’t know where the diagnosis would lead us. Scott then asked me if that’s why everyone was downstairs in our house, and I said yes. We then cuddled together for a long time.”
Described as someone who would do anything for anyone, Cathy has some loving memories of John, both as a husband and as a father. One of her fondest memories is of John swimming with Scott in Antigua, she recalls Scott not wanting to come out of the sea on their last holiday abroad. She said: “That holiday John played with Scott for hours he was so patient, it was such a great holiday.”
Cathy also remembers fondly just how much she enjoyed John coming home from work. She said: “I’d see him arrive home and I’d dash out so that we had a moment together before Scott or our dog got to him and family time began.”
One to give anything a go, Cathy recalls how John would try his hand to anything, she said: “He was never one to turn down an opportunity, he was able to fix anything and after every achievement he’d say ‘I’m invincible’ with his beautiful grin.”
John had a special passion for water, a qualified BASC driver, John loved diving, especially when it involved exploring a wreck. Described as a fabulous swimmer, John also competed in triathlons and loved any type of water sports, particularly sailing.
And it wasn’t just diving John was good at, he also enjoyed driving and completed his HGV license and loved to travel. Cathy remembers sharing some great family holidays together.
Family and his career also meant a lot to John, Cathy said: “Being CSM in the TA and having a great career in IT as a Systems Manager were some of John’s greatest achievements, yet still being a fabulous dad and husband.”
Cathy adds: “He meant so much to so many people. He was a husband, a dad, a son, a brother, an uncle, and he would know how to help anyone whether it would be a road traffic accident, water leak or acknowledging someone needed his time. He was there for anyone who needed him.”
For both Cathy and Scott, it’s John’s smile and infectious laughter they miss the most. Cathy said: “When John smiled there was so much love behind his eyes.”
At six years old, Scott has few memories of his dad. Every year Cathy and Scott mark John’s birthday with his favourite tea and cake and stay in touch with some of John’s old Army friends who over the years have become more like family.
In 2017 Scott joined Scotty’s Little Soldiers where he has met a number of other children who are just like him. On joining, Cathy said she felt the difference immediately and saw Scott blossom straight away. Scotty’s Little Soldiers was able to provide bereavement counselling for Scott through Winston’s Wish, which has a great benefit to him. Cathy explained that without it, Scott would not be where he is now. He has gone through so much already, as Scott’s cousin also died of Leukaemia and he had a lot of questions which the counsellor helped answer.
The Scotty’s Little Soldiers Christmas party is a particular highlight for Scott, as well as going on holiday together each year to a Scotty’s lodge.
Cathy said: “I’m forever grateful to Scotty’s, they provide us with great support and a wonderful sense of belonging.”
Tribute Page: csmjohncharlton.muchloved.com