John Macfarlan Charlton was born on 1st July 1891 in Middlesex. He was the son of John (1849-1917) and Catherine Jane Macfarlan "Kate" Vaughan (1862-1893). John had one brother, Hugh Vaughan Charlton, who also died in the war and is also commemorated on the Armstrong memorial. The Charlton brothers' father, John, born in Bamburgh and died at Banks House, was an artist and renowned painter of battle scenes (some of WW1) and by contrast rural life. The brothers' mother, Kate, died when they were very young. Their aunt, Miss J Charlton, lived at Milton Villas, Brampton, Cumberland, and this may explain why there is a memorial at Lanercost, near Brampton. John was educated at Uppingham School, Rutland, where he was secretary to the Natural History section of the school.
Before the War, John had previously been in the Uppingham Cadets Corps and was a Transport Officer at Division Head Quarters. He joined the Northumberland Hussars Yeomanry in October 1914, received his commission in the Northumberland Fusiliers on 17th November 1914, and was promoted to Captain in the 21st Battalion (2nd Tyneside Scottish). He entered France in February 1916.
Before the attack in which he fell, had already greatly distinguished himself, and been recommended for the Military Cross. John was killed in action on 1st July 1916 in France, on his 25th Birthday, during the advance of the Somme. He was shot through the head by a bullet, while leading his company near La Boiselle, France. This was after they had taken the first and second lines of enemy trenches and when they were just about to charge the third. John's last reported words were to his orderly: "Is that you, B ? For God's sake, push on, I'm done." The orderly stooped down and asked if there was anything he could do, but the Captain was dead (source: Charlton's obituary, British Birds journal). Seven days earlier, his older brother Hugh had also killed in action.
Their father, also John, in a canvas now lost, painted the two young men sat with their grandmother; while in another painting entitled 'The Brothers H.V.C. and J.M.C., Sandisdyke', two young men with their three dogs look up to the viewer. He also painted a posthumous portrait of John that was exhibited in the spring of 1917. On 10th November 1917 John died after a brief illness.
His obituary was published on 1 September 1916 in “British Birds” journal (along with obituary to his brother Hugh Vaughan Charlton):
His class-master writes of him on July 13th last: "For a boy, as he then was, he had a wonderful knowledge of birds, and quite remarkable powers of observation. Ornithology is my hobby and we spent many afternoons together, when his bright, sunny nature, his sense of humour, and his attractive personality made him a very pleasant companion. I remember the editor of the Avicultural Magazine was much struck by his work in our ornithological report for the year, which was entirely Charlton's writing."
He had, at an early age, shown conspicuous ability in an illustrated essay on "The Birds of the Fame Islands," while competing for the John Hancock prize of the Natural History Society of Northumberland in 1903…In December 1910 he won a special bronze medal given by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
…As a soldier he had won golden opinions from his superior officers, and also from the men under him, and before the attack in which he fell, had already greatly distinguished himself, and been recommended for the Military Cross.
An exhibition of paitings by the Charlton brothers by the Northumbria Natural History Society can be seen at http://www.nhsn.ncl.ac.uk/resources/archive/stories-local-history/the-fi...