Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Arthur Phillips

Arthur Phillips : Photograph of Arthur in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre.  Reference: MRP/7F/027

Photograph of Arthur in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MRP/7F/027

Arthur Phillips : (L to R) General Service Medal 1918-62 with clasps 'Palestine', 'Malaya'; 1939-45 Star; Pacific Star; 1939-45 Defence Medal; 1939-45 War Medal; Long Service and Good Conduct Medal

(L to R) General Service Medal 1918-62 with clasps 'Palestine', 'Malaya'; 1939-45 Star; Pacific Star; 1939-45 Defence Medal; 1939-45 War Medal; Long Service and Good Conduct Medal

Arthur was born on the 16th March 1913 in Glossop, Derbyshire. He was named after his father and his mother was called Florence. He had a younger sister, Alice, who was born between July and September 1914. The family were members of the Church of England.

Arthur senior and Florence had married in 1901. They had one child between then and 1911, but it died. That year they lived at 143 Back Hall Street in Glossop. Arthur was a labourer in a paper mill and Florence was a weaver in a cotton mill.

We don't know much about Arthur junior's early life. His mother died between April and June 1929, aged 53. By 1932 his father lived at 86 High Street, although we don't know whether Arthur was living with him.

On the 21st July 1932 Arthur decided to leave his job as a painter and join the Army. He travelled to nearby Ashton-under-Lyne and enlisted in the Manchester Regiment. He was given the service number 3525679.

When he enlisted Arthur was 5 feet 7 1/2 inches tall and weighed 128 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion and brown hair and eyes. He reported to the Manchester Regiment Depot at Ladysmith Barracks in Ashton on the 24th and began his training.

During his training Arthur obtained the 2nd Class Army Certificate of Education. He passed out on the 18th March 1933 and was posted to the 1st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in Gosport, Hampshire. They were ordered overseas towards the end of that year, so on the 23rd January 1934 Arthur and his comrades boarded the troopship Devonshire in Southampton. They were bound for the Caribbean.

Arthur was stationed in Jamaica with half the battalion. The rest were in Bermuda. Before he left Gosport Arthur had passed examinations in English and Maths. In Jamaica during February 1934 he passed Geography.

On the 26th September 1935 the 1st Battalion left Bermuda for Egypt aboard the troopship Dorsetshire. Arthur passed Map Reading during the voyage. This fully qualified him for the 1st Class Certificate of Education, which he received, whilst still at sea, on the 16th October.

The Dorsetshire called into Southampton on the 13th October. The next day a family reunion was held, meaning Alice and Arthur were able to see each other for around 6 hours.

Tensions between the UK, who ruled Egypt, and Italy, who ruled neighbouring Libya, were rising during this period. The 1st Battalion took part in patrols of the border until the situation calmed in early 1936. Arthur then returned to barracks in Moascar.

Alice married George Burford in Glossop between July and September 1936. Just over a year later Arthur's father died, aged 62. Alice now became his next of kin. She lived at 4 Brooke Street in Glossop.

The 1st Battalion stayed in Egypt until January 1938, and spent much of this time training to become a mechanised machine gun battalion. Arthur was promoted to Acting Lance Corporal on the 24th May 1937. Between April and November 1937 he was stationed in Cyprus. This suggests he was a member of B Company during this period.

A rebellion broke out amongst several of the Arab tribes living in Palestine in late 1937, and the British soon needed more soldiers to bring it under control. Arthur served there with the 1st Battalion between the 14th January and the 23rd September 1938. The 1st Battalion was based in the area around the city of Acre. Their roles were to search for gangs of rebels, to patrol the countryside and to guard important areas against attack.

On the 1st June, Arthur passed a carpenters and joiners course. His rank of Lance Corporal was confirmed on the 3rd September, although he was not paid any extra.

After serving in Palestine the 1st Battalion moved to Tanglin Barracks in Singapore. They began to build defences and train to resist an invasion. Their main role was to man pillboxes on the beaches of the island.

Arthur was promoted to Acting Corporal on the 3rd May 1940 and joined the battalion's Pioneers. These soldiers had specialist skills. They were used to construct and demolish obstacles and fortifications, lay and clear mines, and other vital jobs that ensured the battalion could keep moving on the battlefield. As a qualified tradesman Arthur's pay was increased from the 6th March 1941.

The Japanese invaded Malaya on the 8th December 1941, and by the 27th January 1942 the British had been forced back onto the island of Singapore. It was constantly bombed, and as the Japanese closed in, the British position became hopeless. The British garrison surrendered on the 15th February and Arthur became a Prisoner of War (POW).

Arthur was held at Changi until the 29th October 1942. On this day he was one of a group of around 900 POWs put aboard the hellship Dainichi Maru and taken to the island of Formosa, now known as Taiwan. They arrived on the 14th November and Arthur was sent to Heito Camp Number 3. He was held there until the 12th March 1945.

Life at Heito was hard. The POWs were put to work picking rocks and stones by hand from a vast area of dried river-bed so that it could be used to grow sugar cane. The rocks would then be carried away in wicker baskets and dumped in nearby railway cars. The POWs had a target number of cars to fill every day, and they were beaten if they fell short of their quota.

Other POWs were put to work in a nearby sugar factory, operating furnaces and machines that refined sugar cane into sugar. They also worked long hours in poor conditions.

The tropical conditions and poor nutrition meant disease was rife. No medicine was provided for men who fell ill. Arthur contracted a serious strain of malaria.

The Americans bombed Heito Camp on 7th February 1945. This forced the Japanese to close the camp in early March and move the POWs. Arthur was sent to Shirakawa Camp Number 4. Some of the POWs there had formed a Rover Scout Crew. This was the branch of the Boy Scouts aimed at older boys and young men. The Crew did many 'good deeds' around the camp, especially caring for sick prisoners. Arthur joined the Crew on the 24th May.

The Japanese surrendered in August. On the 6th September Arthur was evacuated from Taiwan aboard the USS Santee and taken to Manila for medical care. He returned home by crossing the Pacific and Canada, then sailing to Southampton aboard the SS Queen Elizabeth. He arrived on the 5th November. He weighed just 84 pounds. Arthur remembered a 'very poor reception' when they arrived.

Arthur was sent home on leave. His malaria was so serious that he had to receive specialist treatment at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

By November 1946 Arthur had recovered enough to return to his Army duty. He was assigned to the 63rd Primary Training Centre at Dunham Park near Altrincham in Cheshire, where recruits for the Manchester Regiment were trained. He was promoted to Sergeant on the 5th December.

On the 24th May 1947 Arthur married Stella Marguerite Caldwell at Caxton Hall in Westminster, London. In September 1948 they adopted Stella's 8 year old son Clifford Steen (known as Cliff).

During April 1948 Arthur rejoined the 1st Battalion and on the 19th July he went with them to Wuppertal, West Germany. His family came with him, and they lived in Wuppertal until April 1950, then moved to Berlin. Arthur left the battalion on the 18th December and returned to the UK.

Arthur had a place on the Unit Pay Clerk's Course at the Royal Army Pay Corps (RAPC) Training Centre at Devizes in Wiltshire. Becoming a Pay Clerk meant he would transfer to the RAPC. This occurred on the 2nd January 1951. Arthur rejoined the 1st Battalion as they moved to Malaya in July 1951 and took up the post of Pay Sergeant.

The 1st Battalion spent 3 years fighting the Communist insurgency in Malaya. They took part in patrols of the jungle and guarded the civilian population from the insurgents. The battalion's companies were spread over a large area, so Arthur often had a lot of travelling to do. Stella and Cliff joined him in Malaya in February 1952.

The 1st Battalion left Malaya in May 1954 and returned to Formby in Lancashire. Arthur was posted to Woolwich in London. He left the Army on the 19th July 1955.

As a soldier Arthur had been 'an example of the best type of non-commissioned officer'. He was 'cheerful and pleasant', 'a first-class Army Clerk', 'most painstaking and very reliable'.

Arthur and Stella separated at this time. Cliff remembers that 'he made sure I was settled' in the Royal Air Force before he left. They then lost contact with each other.

After he left the Army, Arthur went to work for an accountancy firm in London. He lived at 8 Roach Avenue in Rayleigh, Essex for a time and also lived in Sussex.

By 1957 Arthur was living in London with Lorna Jones. He decided to change his name to hers so on the 4th February he became Arthur Jones. Stella died on the 21st April 1960. Arthur and Lorna married on the 11th June. He gained 2 step-daughters, Penelope and Priscilla.

After Arthur retired in 1978 the family moved to Northamptonshire. In 1982 he and Lorna moved to Shrewsbury in Shropshire, and 4 years after that they went to live at 7 Meadow Close in nearby Wem.

In Wem Arthur became involved in the life of the town. He was Chairman and Secretary of the local Royal British Legion and the United Services Club. He was also Secretary and Vice-President of the Probus Club of Wem. He helped the annual Poppy Appeal and organised the Remembrance Sunday service every November. Arthur also enjoyed making marquetry pictures, using pieces of wooden veneer to create images.

In February 1992 Arthur and Lorna visited Singapore. This was his first time in the country since 1954. Although he offered to take photographs of war graves for the relatives of soldiers who died as POWs, he was mainly going 'to enjoy myself'.

He and Lorna visited Thailand in November 1997. Just before they left Arthur received a letter from Cliff. He had found him after 42 years.

Arthur and Lorna enjoyed their 38th wedding anniversary 'in a very quiet way' on the 11th June 1998. Nine days later Arthur died. He was 85 years old. Arthur's funeral was held at St. Paul's Parish Church in Wem on the 3rd July.

Arthur's medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in December 2007.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf

Telephone: 0161 342 5480
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council