(L to R) British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal; Médaille Commémorative des Batailles de la Somme
Arthur was born on the 24th December 1896 in Patricroft, part of Eccles in Lancashire. His father was called John James and his mother was called Elizabeth Ann. He was the oldest of their 3 children that we know of; Frank and Theodora were his brother and sister. The family were members of the Church of England.
John worked as a pawnbroker and in 1901 the family lived at 28 Trafford Road in Eccles. By 1901 they had moved to 63 Norway Street in Gorse Hill, part of Stretford in Manchester. John was now the manager of a pawnbroker's and Arthur had found work as a grocer's assistant. The family were clearly much better off in 1911, they were able to employ a domestic servant named Jane Morriss.
The First World War broke out in August 1914. On the 12th July 1915 Arthur travelled to Heaton Park in Manchester and enlisted in the Manchester Regiment. By this time he lived with his family at 514 Manchester Road in Hollinwood, Oldham. He worked as a pawnbroker's assistant. We don't know for certain whether the pawnbroker he assisted was his father, but it seems likely.
When Arthur enlisted he was 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighed 132 pounds. He was accepted into the 17th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment and given the service number 26333. Arthur had lied about his age; he told the Army he was 19, not 18, years and 210 days old.
Arthur was assigned to the Depot Company of the 17th Battalion. This would be used to provide reinforcements once the battalion began taking casualties. The Company was grouped with others into the 25th (Reserve) Battalion of the Manchester Regiment on the 30th August. They moved to Prees Heath in Shropshire the next month, and then to Southport, Lancashire during October. On the 29th February Arthur was absent without permission from a parade held at 8pm. He was confined to barracks for 3 days as punishment.
On the 10th March 1916 Arthur was sent to France to join the 17th Battalion. They were based in and around the village of Bray when he joined them and they stayed in this area until mid June when they were pulled out of the line to begin training for the Somme Offensive.
This attack began on the 1st July, and Arthur and the 17th Battalion attacked towards the village of Montauban. The attack was successful, but around 350 out of 900 men in the 17th Battalion were killed or wounded. Arthur was not one of these, so it is likely he took part in the fighting at Trones Wood on the 10th July.
Whilst the 17th Battalion was resting and recovering Arthur was struck down with what was thought to be eczema but turned out to be Seborrhoeic dermatitis. It must have been serious because after treatment at the 21st Casualty Clearing Station he was sent back to the UK on the 29th July.
Arthur was not well enough to return to France until the 28th March 1917. We don't know much about his time in the UK. His illness seems to have been either serious, or recurring. He was supposed to go home on leave on the 16th November 1916, but this had to be cancelled because he was 'unable to leave hospital'. He was well enough to take this leave by the 2nd December.
On his return to France Arthur was assigned to the 30th Infantry Base Depot. He joined the 19th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment on the 20th April. He was just in time to take part in their attack towards the village of Cherisy on the 23rd. Arthur seems to have avoided injury that day, unlike many of his new comrades who were killed, wounded or went missing.
During May Arthur moved north to the area around Ypres in Belgium. He took part in an attack near Observatory Ridge on the 31st June that lasted for 3 days. The Battalion endured heavy German fire, as well as rain that turned the battlefield into a sea of mud and water that was waist deep in parts.
Arthur reported sick on the 8th July and was treated at the 58th General Hospital until the 7th August. He spent the next 3 weeks at the 30th Infantry Base Depot before rejoining the 19th Battalion on the 29th.
During September Arthur served in the front line around Wytschaete, but he was taken ill with scabies on the 10th October. He was treated at the 50th Casualty Clearing Station until the 22nd and rejoined the 19th Battalion a week later.
Arthur left Belgium in early January 1918 and was serving in the St Quentin area of France when the 19th Battalion was disbanded on the 6th February. This happened because of a reorganisation of the Army that aimed to have more soldiers in fewer battalions, rather than fewer soldiers in more battalions. Arthur rejoined his original unit, the 17th Battalion; although by this stage in the war he will have recognised very few faces.
The 17th Battalion took heavy casualties during the German Spring Offensive that began on the 21st March 1918. They were forced to retreat throughout the rest of March and April. The 17th Battalion lost so many men that it was forced to form a Compound Battalion made up of men from several other units in the same situation.
Arthur had been a member of C Company of the 17th Battalion. By late April the 17th Battalion had amalgamated its 4 Companies into 2 because of the shortage of men. They were linked with the 16th Battalion, which was in the same position, so until reinforcements arrived Arthur was a member of D Company of the 16th Battalion.
On the 26th April this Company was attacked by the Germans. It was a misty day so the British had not seen them coming. Arthur was shot and evacuated back to the UK. He was treated at Heavy Woollen District War Hospital in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire between the 29th April and the 15th June.
Arthur would not return to France. On the 30th August he sailed to Italy, joining the 24th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment on the 2nd October. On the 26th he took part in the attack across the Grave River. The 24th Battalion was responsible for repairing the bridges used by attacking troops; they were often hit by Austrian shellfire. After this the British advanced rapidly before an armistice covering Italy was signed on the 4th November. The First World War ended on the 11th.
Arthur returned to the UK on the 3rd March 1919 and left the Army on the 30th. We don't know what work he did as a civilian, or anything about the rest of his life.
Arthur joined the Association known as 'Ceux de la Somme', which was only open to veterans of the fighting there in 1916. He either purchased or was presented with the 'Médaille Commémorative des Batailles de la Somme' as a result. The organisation was formed for the 40th Anniversary in 1956, although we don't know when Arthur received the medal.
Arthur died in Oldham between October and December 1971. He was 75 years old. His medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in June 1988.