Photograph of Arthur in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MRP/5D/097
(L to R) 1914 Star with clasp '5th Aug.-22nd Nov. 1914'; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal; 1939-45 Defence Medal; 1939-45 War Medal; Long Service and Good Conduct Medal
Arthur was born in around March 1886 in Oldham, Lancashire. His father was called John and his mother was Elizabeth. He was the oldest of 7 children: John, Mary A., William, Francis Joseph, Noah and James were his siblings. The family were Roman Catholics.
John and Elizabeth raised their family on Honeywell Lane in Oldham. In 1891 they lived at number 111, but by 1901 they had moved next door to 109. They still lived here in 1911. Like thousands of other Oldham residents, John worked in a cotton mill. He was a card room hand in 1891 and 1901. Arthur was a cotton room spinner piecer in 1901. We don't know who he worked for at this time, although in 1903 he worked for the Honeywell Spinning Company.
Arthur began his military career on the 30th June 1903. On this day he travelled to nearby Ashton-under-Lyne and joined the 5th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was a unit of the Militia, so after his initial training Arthur would keep his civilian job and home and then train as a soldier for a short period every year. He was given the service number 9296.
For some reason Arthur changed his mind after 5 days. He purchased his discharge for £1 on the 4th July. He decided to enlist again on the 8th March 1904. He rejoined the 5th Battalion with the service number 9861. When he reenlisted Arthur was 5 feet 2 1/2 inches tall and weighed 104 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion, hazel brown eyes and dark wavy brown hair.
After enlisting Arthur carried out 49 days of Recruit's Musketry and Training. He then returned to the Honeywell Spinning Company. He attended the 1905 training and must have taken to military life, because on the 20th September 1905 he decided to join the Regular Army. He chose to stay in the Manchester Regiment. As a Regular he received a new service number: 625.
We don't know anything about Arthur's early service. His obituary mentioned that he was 'seconded from the Regiment for 8 years' to another unit. We don't know which unit he was assigned to. 'Eight years' may be a mistake, as in April 1911 Arthur was serving with the 1st Battalion at Kamptee in India.
We believe Arthur was still with them that December, when they took part in the Delhi Durbar. This marked the coronation of King George V as Emperor of India. The 1st Battalion took part in the Durbar itself on the 12th, and the spectacular military parade on the 14th. It also provided many guards of honour for dignitaries. A total of 100 Delhi Durbar 1911 Medals were allocated to the 1st Battalion, Arthur did not receive one.
After the Durbar was over Arthur and the 1st Battalion moved to Jullundur in the modern Indian Punjab. By early 1914 he had been promoted to Lance Corporal. Also around that time Arthur passed the Army's Elementary Pushtu language examination. This will have helped him to communicate with some of the Indian soldiers the 1st Battalion was serving with.
The First World War broke out that August, and the 1st Battalion was quickly mobilised. It set sail for Europe on the 27th August and arrived in France on the 26th September. We believe Arthur stayed with them throughout the war. They fought at Festubert and Givenchy during 1914 and at Neuve Chapelle, the Second Battle of Ypres and the Battle of Loos during 1915. At the end of this year the 1st Battalion was withdrawn from France and sent to Mesopotamia, now called Iraq. They arrived in Basra on the 8th January 1916.
In Mesopotamia the 1st Battalion fought against the Turks. They first attempted to relieve the British forces trapped in the city of Kut-al-Amara, but were unsuccessful. The city was captured on the 29th April. The rest of 1916 was fairly quiet. In early 1917 the British began another attack northwards. This was very successful and by the end of March the 1st Battalion was at Hamrin near the modern Iran-Iraq border. Again, the rest of this year was uneventful.
The 1st Battalion was moved to what was then called Palestine in April 1918. They took part in the British campaign in this country until the end of the war on the 11th November 1918. We believe Arthur served as an Orderly Room Clerk for at least some of the war. The Orderly Room was the battalion office, so Arthur will have been responsible for helping to deal with the paperwork and administration that went with running an infantry battalion. He held the rank of Colour Sergeant by the end of the war.
We know that Arthur was in the UK at the end of 1918, because on New Year's Day 1919 he married Bridget O'Toole at the Roman Catholic Church on High Road in West Ham, London.
The 1st Battalion was reformed in Blackdown near Aldershot, Hampshire, in July 1919. Arthur rejoined it as a Company Quartermaster Sergeant (CQMS). He would be responsible for keeping the soldiers in his Company supplied and equipped.
In early April 1920 the 1st Battalion was sent to Ireland, where they found themselves fighting in the Irish War of Independence. The Battalion faced Irish Republican Army fighters who fought as guerrillas in small groups. They mounted ambushes and hit-and-run attacks, never standing and fighting the British.
The battalion was based in small bases in Kilworth and Ballincollig and faced a determined enemy in the IRA. When martial law was imposed it became responsible for an area of around 240 square miles in County Cork. Arthur and his comrades continued patrols and searches of the countryside, occasionally engaging in combat with IRA fighters, until a ceasefire was signed on the 11th July 1921. This led to the Anglo-Irish Treaty on the 6th December 1921, and the establishment of the Irish Free State the next year.
The 1st Battalion left Ireland for the Channel Islands on the 3rd February 1922. Elizabeth had been living with Arthur in Ballincollig during his service there. A month before they left Ireland, on the 3rd January, she gave birth to the couple's only child, Mary Elizabeth Olive.
Arthur was soon sent back to Northern Ireland because of the threat of an attack on this British territory by the Free State. After some minor skirmishes in June the battalion left again in December 1922. By this time the Army had issued new service numbers to all soldiers. Arthur's became 3512212.
By 1924 Arthur was serving with the battalion's Headquarters Wing. This contained the specialist and the administrative units the battalion needed to run efficiently. We don't know his exact job, although he still held the rank of CQMS. His 18 years service was recognised during this year, when he was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.
The 1st Battalion left the Channel Islands in October 1924 and moved to Cologne in Germany, as part of the British Army of the Rhine. Arthur spent just over a year taking part in the occupation of this part of Germany. He left the 1st Battalion in early December 1925, at around the same time they moved to Konigstein near Wiesbaden.
Arthur had been appointed Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant (RQMS) at the Manchester Regiment Depot in Ashton-under-Lyne. This new job included a promotion to Warrant Officer Class II. He held this job for the rest of his Army career. As RQMS Arthur ensured the soldiers based at the Depot were properly equipped. He also assisted in maintaining discipline and military standards. Many of these soldiers were new recruits, which must have made his job more challenging.
Most soldiers served a maximum of 21 years in the Army. We can tell how highly respected Arthur was by the fact that when he reached this point, in 1926, his service was extended 1 year at a time until the 21st January 1931, and he only left then because he chose to give 3 month's notice.
Arthur had joined the Regiment's Old Comrade's Association whilst he was still a soldier. He attended several events and reunions, and by September 1933 he had been elected Secretary of the Ashton Branch of the OCA. Later he would become its President. As time went by though, Arthur's civilian job meant he was less and less able to attend events. Despite this, 'he was a wonderful Regimental contact'.
Arthur's civilian job was running the Stamford Park Hotel and pub with Bridget. This was at 9 Mossley Road in Ashton. He must have missed Army life though because on the 24th February 1936 he joined the 9th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was a Territorial Army unit based in Ashton. Arthur will have trained with them during evenings and weekends as well as running the Hotel. He became the Orderly Room Quartermaster Sergeant at the Headquarters of 127 Infantry Brigade.
When the Second World War broke out in September 1939 Arthur was called into full-time Army service. We don't know much about what he did during this war. He was commissioned as an officer on the 4th July 1940. He became Lieutenant and Quartermaster to the 8th Battalion of the Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire). Later he was transferred to the Royal Artillery and he ended the war in 1945 as a Captain.
After the war Arthur returned to Ashton and his pub. He was taken ill in early 1951, and then again towards the end of that year. He was suffering with pneumonia and was forced to miss a number of Regimental events. In a letter written in June 1952 Arthur described how he 'had a major operation on the 12th March, and had a couple of relapses, but for the past 2 months I have been gradually regaining my strength, which seems to be a long job'.
We don't know whether Arthur recovered from this illness or if it stayed with him for the rest of his life. He died at the Lake Hospital in Ashton on the 7th January 1954. He was 67 years old. In 2013 this is part of Tameside General Hospital. Bridget lived at 9 Mossley Road until the 8th January 1960, when she died aged 74.
Arthur's medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in mid 1957.