Dr. Walter Francis Charteris was born in Chatham, Ontario on the 8th of February 1898. Dr. Charteris was the youngest of 3 children born to Dr. Charles Richard Charteris and the former Margaretta Wade Webster. His father had a family medical practice in Chatham and his siblings were; Gwendoline Isobel Charteris and Charles Maxwell Charteris. (Charles drowned in Erieau on the 5th of July, 1913 when he was 17 years old.) Dr. Charteris was educated in Chatham and he enjoyed sports, particularly hockey. He played on the Chatham Collegiate Institute hockey team and he was a decorated boy scout.
While in university, Dr. Charteris left his medical studies to serve in World War I. He became an officer in the Canadian Navy and served in the medical section. He was assigned to a P.T. vessel and served as a Surgeon Sub Lieutenant. While Dr. Charteris was aboard the H.M.S. Vidette, he wrote a letter to his uncle, Frank Charteris who shared the letter with the Chatham Daily Planet. It was published in the December 18th, 1918 edition. Dr Charteris witnessed the surrender of the German naval fleet in the North Sea. He wrote, “As the Hun (used in WWI to describe German military personnel) drew nearer, the British Fleet drew themselves up into two parallel lines of steel and Fritz, headed by our advance squadron passed down the centre flying his white flag of surrender. Some of the Hun ships had not been out since the battle of Jutland and this was their last trip under the German flag. When they let go their anchors they ceased to exist as a fighting force. It was the greatest tragedy and victory in history – this tame surrender of a fleet, which had been built to secure for Germany the domination of the high seas.” Dr. Charteris wrote that his ship was part of the escort that accompanied the Von Der Tann, the Moltke, the Seydlitz, the Hindenburgh and the Derfflinger to the Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands, off the coast of Scotland. Further, Dr. Charteris wrote, “I leave to-mow (sp) for Kiel Canal, Baltic and Germany, for four weeks. We are going with HMS Hercules and three other “V” destroyers. A signal has been issued to German High Seas fleet requesting we be allowed passage through Kiel Canal to the Baltic and Germany. You can imagine how pleasant a Christmas I shall have in Germany under present food conditions and civil unrest. It will be rather dangerous trip on account of German mines; but we shall get by all O.K. I am sure.” Dr. Charteris tells his Uncle Frank that he expects to be home in Canada some time in February “if all goes well”.
Dr. Charteris was awarded the King George VI Coronation medal in 1937.
After the war ended Dr. Charteris resumed his medical studies but remained in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corp as a reserve officer. In 1918, Dr. Charteris was elected Vice President of the Medical Society for his medical school. Dr. Charteris graduated M.B. in 1921 from The University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine. He returned to Chatham and set up a medical practice and registered with the College of Physicians and Surgeons on the 20th of June, 1921. In the 1924-5 edition of the Vernon’s City of Chatham Business Directory, Dr. Charteris had an office listed at 117 Wellington Street West.
Dr. Charteris married Thelma Bronson Dietrich on October 4th, 1924. Mrs. Charteris was born in Findlay, Ohio on the 18th of December, 1898. She was the daughter of Bert Dietrich and the former Ida Estelle Bronson. Her father worked as an oil driller and she had a younger brother named Thurman Clarence Dietrich. According to the 1910 U.S. Census, the Dietrich family’s living in Durham Twp, Greene County, New York. By 1920, Mrs. Ida Dietrich was living with her children back in Findlay, Ohio. Mrs. Dietrich was working as a nurse and Thelma was a public school teacher.
Dr. and Mrs. Charteris had a son Richard Webster Charteris born to them on the 29th of November, 1929 in Chatham. He was their only child and he also became a physician in Chatham.
Dr. Charteris served as the medical officer to the Second Kent Battalion during World War II.
In 1936, he served as the President of the Kent County Medical Society. According to the 1941 Shepherds City of Chatham Business Directory, his medical office was located still located at 117 Wellington Street. His love of sports continued and he could often be seen on the sidelines in Tecumseh Park, watching soccer matches and tending to injured players. He was made an Honorary President and life member of the Chatham and District Soccer Association.
Dr. and Mrs. Charteris resided at 430 King Street in Chatham. After a lengthy illness, Dr. Charteris died at the Public General Hospital in Chatham on the 20th of November 1964. Mrs. Charteris died in 1995. Dr. and Mrs. Charteris were buried at Maple Leaf Cemetery in Chatham.
*Dr. Walter Francis Charteris is also featured on the Gathering Our Heroes website. The webmaster is grateful for the assistance of Mr. Jerry Hind.
**Dr. Charteris’ father Dr. Charles Richard Charteris and his son Dr. Richard Webster Charteris also appear on the Chatham-Kent Physician Tribute website.
***Mrs. Charteris’ brother, Thurman Clarence Dietrich served with the United States Military during WWII.