Charles Henry GREEN

THE MEDAL IN THE ALCOVE

At the back of St. Paul’s Church in Dover there is a small alcove in which is displayed the “Bene Merenti” medal of “Jimmy” Green. This is the story of our Grandfather. Although our late brother John was only 10 years old when our Grandfather died he was a great influence on John’s life.

The story of CHARLES HENRY “Jimmy” GREEN

1879 – 1958

by
John Huntley 1948 – 2004

Charles Henry (known as Jimmy) Green was born on 7th April 1879 at the Royal Marine South Barracks, Deal. He was the sixth child in a family of sixteen. His parents belonged to the Church of England and he attended the Barrack School until the age of nine when, with two of his younger brothers he went to the St. Francis de Sales School in Upper Walmer. This school was then opposite the Visitation Convent (now closed) run by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.

After three or four years close association with these good Fathers and also to a lesser degree with the Monastery of the Convent of the Visitation, there awoke in him an urgent desire to embrace the true faith. His father willingly gave his consent and so on 29th January 1893 at the age of fourteen he was received into the Church. He made his first Holy Communion on 9th April of that year and was Confirmed on 9th June 1894. It soon became apparent to all around him that he had a deep and religious faith. There grew in him a great devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, fostered by his association with the Oblate Fathers and the Visitation Convent, which was the head centre of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

On finishing his schooling, he became House Boy at the school and then in 1896 he joined the Royal Navy. This was a great disappointment to the Oblate Fathers as they had hoped and prayed he would become a priest, but it was not God’s Will.

Jimmy had a full and varied life in the Navy and when in a foreign port always gathered the Catholic contingent together to attend Mass at the nearest Church. When at sea without a Chaplain to attend to their spiritual needs, he never let a Sunday or Holy Day pass without saying the rosary and other prayers with them. 

Charles Henry ‘Jimmy’ Green

One day whilst in New Zealand he entered a Catholic Church and beheld with astonishment a Dial of the Guard of Honour of the Sacred Heart bearing the words “Roselands Walmer”. He at once enquired about the practices of the Association, was enrolled and took up the devotion with apostolic zeal.

One of his proudest moments in the Navy was in Rome when he and the whole ship’s company had a special audience with Pope (now Saint) Pius X in 1910, and each received a medal of the Pope in memory of the occasion.

Jimmy’s family c 1930

Jimmy married Julie Annette Banks on 21st November 1906 at the Church of St Thomas of Canterbury, Blenheim Road, Deal.  They had two children, Charles John (Jack) who was born in 1908, and Ida Madeleine in 1922

HMS Inflexible 1916
Jimmy’s Bannerette worn whilst on the Inflexible and attributed to saving the crews lives

During World War I he happened to be on board the ship HMS Inflexible at the Battle of Jutland of which the Admiral was a catholic. The crew all wore a bannerette of the Sacred Heart on their persons. A vessel coming in front of them was torpedoed and sank, while their ship, immediately following escaped miraculously. Jimmy gave his bannerette to the Visitation Convent, Walmer where it was treasured in memory of the protection of the Heart of Jesus over His humble apostle. When the convent closed it was passed to his daughter, Ida Huntley, and is now in the possession of John’s family here in Dover.

The notice with the bannerette given to the Visitation Convent Walmer

Jimmy retired from the Navy in 1920.  He received the following medals for his service: South African Medal 1901; Natal Clasp 1903; Good Conduct 1913; Russian St. George’s Cross 1918; Star 1914-1915; War Medal 1914-18 . Our eldest brother Martin has the medals, presently at his home in Rhode Island USA.

Jimmy settled in Dover in 1924. In July 1928 he was made a Promoter of the Guard of Honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and carried on in this zealous work until his death. He prayed constantly for his wife’s conversion and to his great joy his prayers were answered in 1930 when she was received into the Church in St. Paul’s.

St Paul’s Church and Maison Dieu Road during the shelling in WW2

With other men of the Parish he helped run the Boy’s Club during the time of the late Canon Grady and was an active member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul during the 1930’s. In 1940, after Dunkirk he was sent by Customs & Excise to London and had many narrow escapes during the Blitz. On his return to Dover in 1942 he at once offered his services to the then Parish Priest, Father Sewell and helped him on many occasions to board up the church windows and clear up the plaster which was brought down time after time from the shelling from France.

On 13th September 1944 his wife was killed by enemy action at Dover Priory Station.  She was returning from London and stepped off the train when a shell, from the German long-range guns on the French coast in the Calais area, exploded outside the booking hall.  It was 30 hours before Jimmy knew she was dead.  He kept hoping she had broken her journey at Ashford to visit his sister. Her handbag and other belongings were found and taken to the local police station. Jimmy’s next-door neighbour was a police sergeant and it was he who found his wife’s handbag and broke the news to Jimmy.

Dover Priory Station Sept 1944

Fast forward 30 years when our brother Michael, who was in the youth group at the time when Fr. Jeff Cridland was first at St Paul’s, had offered to help wallpaper the lounge for an elderly man who lived up Tower Hamlets. The man chatted about his life and mentioned that he was in Dover during WW2. One day a shell landed outside Dover Priory Station and the blast killed a number of people. He was working at the station that day and went into the Booking Hall and saw the devastation. There was a woman on the ground and he went over to her…she was still alive…..but as he held her, she died. He said she did not have a mark on her…that it must have been the blast that had killed her, not any external injury.

Dover Priory Station Sept 1944

As Michael was walking home from the elderly man’s house he recalled our mother once telling him that her mother had been killed at Dover Priory Station. On getting home he mentioned to Mum what the man had said to him and she reminded him what she knew about her mother’s death.

Michael returned to the man’s house the next day to finish off the wallpapering and asked him for more information about the shelling of Dover Priory. He didn’t say anything about our grandma initially. He asked if he knew who the woman was that had died in his arms. He said he didn’t but someone else who was there at the time told him that it was the wife of Charles (Jimmy) Green. He thought he knew Charles Green slightly but had never met his wife. It was at that point that Michael told him that Mrs Green was our grandma. He said he would be happy to meet our mother to tell her personally, if she wanted. Our Mum Ida decided she wouldn’t meet him but she was comforted to know that her prayers had been answered after all those years, that her mother had not died alone, which was Ida’s fear.

Back to Jimmy’s story……

In his great grief on the death of his beloved wife he turned to the Sacred Heart of Jesus for consolation and after his retirement in 1945 he was able to spend more time at the church, rendering what help he could and never missing his daily Mass and Holy Communion. In 1946 he organised the first of the annual pilgrimages to the Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at Walmer as an act of thanksgiving for the preservation of St. Paul’s during the war. It was his earnest wish that, after his death, this pilgrimage would take place every year as an act of reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This did carry on for a few years but stopped in the early 1960’s.

Jimmy in the foreground during one of the church parades c1950
The Alcove in St Paul’s Church housing Jimmy’s Bene Merenti medal

In October 1952 His Holiness Pope Pius XII awarded him the Bene Merenti Medal and Parchment for his services to the Catholic Church in the Guild of the Blessed Sacrament, the Knights of St. Columba and as an active member of the Legion of Mary.

Jimmy Green died on 5th May 1958 and after his death Father Charles Jones, who was Parish Priest from 1946 to 1948 wrote the following:

” So the GRAND OLD MAN OF ST. PAUL’S has at last laid down his burden and given his soul back to the God he loved so well; may he rest in peace! …… In all my travels up and down this vast Diocese of Southwark, I have met many grand Catholics, as well as others who have loved God, without the priceless gift of the true faith, but I have nowhere met anyone more Christ-like than dear old Jimmy Green – may the good God, whom he loved so well, give him that lot and fellowship with the angels and saints, into whose company I am confident he is now already admitted. Doubtless he is now enjoying the company of the great St. Paul, the heavenly patron and protector of the Church. I only hope he is not too unlike that statue which we erected in his church at Dover, and before which Jimmy prayed in thanksgiving for the preservation of the church during the dark days of the last war.”

Mary Smye-Rumsby (née Huntley) June 2020