Snewing, Arthur Elkington. Died 18th Apr 1916

Arthur Elkington Snewing’s birth was registered in Rugby in the January-March quarter of 1893; he was baptised at St. Andrew’s church, Rugby on 20 March 1893, when his parents were living at 7 Bath Street, Rugby.

His grandfather had been a farmer, and his parents were Charles Snewing who had been born in Marylebone, and Rugby born Mary Barker née Betts. Their marriage was registered in Rugby in the third quarter of 1888. They then [1888] lived at 21 Wood Street, Rugby, but moved the next year [1889] to live at 3 Charlotte Street, and in 1893 when Arthur was born, his father, Charles Snewing, described himself as a ‘gentleman’.

In 1901, aged 8, he was with his parents, and the family was again living in Charlotte Street, but now at No.7. His father was ‘living on his own means’, as he would also be in 1911. He had an older brother Richard C Snewing who was aged 11.

He was educated at the Lower School of Lawrence Sheriff and was a member of the choir of Holy Trinity Church[1]. In 1911, aged 18 he was working as an Assistant Grocer, he was single and living at 142 Brighton Road, Balsall Heath, Birmingham.

After the war broke out he gave up his good situation to enrol in one of the Territorial battalions of the Warwickshire Regt.   When he enlisted his military record gave his residence as Handsworth, Staffordshire. His brother Richard was a Second Lieutenant in a Yeomanry Regiment in London.

He enlisted in the 15th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, he was a Private, No.908. The 15th (Service) Battalion (2nd Birmingham) was formed in Birmingham in September 1914 by the Lord Mayor and a local Committee, together with the 14th and 16th Battalions. These were the ‘Birmingham Pals’ Battalions.

He presumably enlisted in or near Birmingham around 1914 or early 1915, when he would have been aged about 22. Another member of the 15th (Service) Battalion, 19 year old George Henry Ball, who had a slightly later service number 1271, enlisted on 26 May 1915 at the Birmingham Recruiting Office. It seems likely therefore that Arthur would have enlisted slightly before that date.

After formation, the 15th Battalion moved to Sutton Coldfield. On 23 June 1915 together with the other two Birmingham Battalions, they were formally ‘taken over’ by the Army Council and transferred to Wensleydale to join the 95th Brigade of the 32nd Division and then to Codford, Salisbury Plain.

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The Battalion was mobilised for war and on 21 November 1915, which date is also given for the ‘date of entry’ to the France theatre on Arthur’s Medal Card (above), they landed at Boulogne. He was transferred to the machine gun section on 2 February 1916.

The Division was subsequently engaged in various actions on the Western front, including in 1916, the Attacks on High Wood, the Battle of Guillemont, the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, the Battle of Morval, and the Battle of Le Transloy.

Prior to these major actions, on 14 January 1916, the 15th Battalion transferred to the 13th Brigade in the 5th Division. In March 1916, the 5th Division took over a section of front line between St Laurent Blangy and the southern edge of Vimy Ridge, near Arras.

Situated just a few kilometres from German lines for the whole of the war, the town of Arras formed a salient in the front and as such, from October 1914, was a regular target for German artillery. St Laurent Blangy adjoins the north-east side of the city of Arras and until 9 April 1917, the Allied front line ran practically through the village; Vimy is slightly further north.

Whilst there were no major actions at that date, there would have been constant shelling and risk of sniper fire whilst on duty in the trenches.

Arthur Elkington Snewing was killed in action on 18 April 1916, aged 23, shot by a sniper through the heart and lungs, while trying to arrange a rubber ground sheet in the trenches, so as to make things more comfortable for his comrades.

The officer in charge of the machine gun section said he was a thoroughly reliable and fearless man, and a man whose cheery humour at all times would keep up the spirits of the whole section.

He was buried at 6.45pm on 19 April in the Faubourg-d’Amiens Cemetery, Arras in Plot: I. A. 45. The Commonwealth section of the cemetery was only begun in March 1916, behind the French military cemetery established earlier.

Snewing grave

Arthur ‘s grave is in the first row of the cemetery, so was one of the first to be buried there.   These early burials are in approximate order of date of death, suggesting a fairly low casualty rate at that time.

This also suggests that he may have been killed nearby, in the more southern area of the line, nearer to St Laurent Blagny and Arras itself.

He is also commemorated on the Rugby Memorial Gates and Clifton Road Rugby Cemetery and the Old Laurentians Memorial.

His parents Charles and Mary Snewing were living at 20 Bath Street Rugby at the time of his death.

Probate was granted in London on 4 June 1924 to Mary Barker Snewing, widow. This was not Arthur’s widow, he was unmarried, but his mother, who had been recently widowed on the death of Arthur’s father in late 1923. It was no doubt as a result of his father’s death that it was necessary to clarify the probate situation of Arthur who had died some eight years earlier. Arthur’s effects amounted to £1,461-8s.

 

[1] Rugby Advertiser 29 April 1916. See full entry below.

An Old Laurentian Killed

On Saturday morning last Mr and Mrs Charles Snewing of Bath Street Rugby received the sad intelligence that their second son Pte Arthur Snewing had been killed in action. Pte Snewing was a bright, light-hearted and fearless young man of 23, a favourite with all who knew him, whether civilians or fellow soldiers. He was educated at the Lower School of Lawrence Sheriff and was a member of the choir of Holy Trinity Church. After the war broke out he gave up a good situation to enrol in one of the Territorial battalions of the Warwickshire Regt.   He went out to the front in November last, and was subsequently transferred to the machine gun section. The news of his death was conveyed to Mr and Mrs Snewing – for whom much sympathy is felt – in the following letter from the officer in charge of the machine gun section:

“ April 19 – It is with the greatest possible regret that I write to break to you the news of your son’s death. He had been a member of my machine gun section since February 2nd, and during this time I have proved him to be a thoroughly reliable and fearless man, and a man whose cheery humour at all times would keep up the spirits of the whole section.   He is a very great loss to me indeed, as such men are hard to find. He was killed on the morning of the 18th between 6 and 6.30 am. Shot by a sniper through the body, the bullet piercing the heart and lungs, death being instantaneous.

He was buried this evening (the 19th) at 6.45pm, the Brigade Chaplain officiating. Your son was a most popular man in the battalion, and his appearance at concerts was always looked forward to, is humour being so delightful. I assure you sincerely of my heartfelt sympathy for your loss.

The Rev Cecil Williams, the chaplain, also wrote a kind and sympathetic letter, in which he adds: – ‘His loss is really a very great one to the battalion. Always bright and cheerful, whether in or out of the trenches, he helped in a very marked degree to keep the spirits of us all up. I, in particular, shall miss him as during the period he was last in reserve, before going into the trenches for the last time I saw a great deal of him at my club, and the day before he went in he came to my evening service at the little chapel we have attached to the club. He was buried in the British Cemetery here and a cross will be put up on his grave at once’. The rev gentleman also stated that Pte Snewing was shot by a sniper while trying to arrange a rubber ground sheet in the trenches so as to make things more comfortable for his comrades.

Mr and Mrs Snewing had only two sons, and the elder one is a Second Lieutenant in a London Yeomanry Regiment now in one of the spheres of action.

Mr and Mrs Snewing desire to thank all those kind friends who have written or called to express their deep sympathy with them in their bereavement.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

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