Webster, Arthur James. Died 29th Sep 1918

Arthur James WEBSTER’s birth was registered in the first quarter of 1899 in Rugby.  His mother was Amy Webster, who was born in Grandborough in about 1874.

In 1901, Arthur, aged two, was living at 67 Abbey Street, Rugby, with his mother, Amy Jane Webster, and his grandparents – Thomas Webster who was a ‘general labourer’ and born in Drayton, Northamptonshire in about 1840, and his wife Eliza, née Woodward, who was born in Flecknoe in about 1839.

In 1911, Arthur was 12, and he was still living with his grandparents in their six room house at 67 Abbey Street, Rugby.  His grandfather, now 71, was a ‘grave digger cemetery’.  His grandparents had been married for 41 years and had had three children, all still living.

Arthur’s mother, Amy had married in Rugby in later 1906 with William John Wilcox, who was born in Sambrook, Shropshire in 1876, and who had been a lodger in the Webster house in 1901 when working as an ‘Engine Cleaner’.  In 1911, they were living almost next door to her parents at 71 Abbey Street and her husband had been promoted to be a ‘Railway Engine Stoker’.  There was now also a young half-sister for Arthur, Eveline Mary Wilcox, aged one year.

Unfortunately no Service Record has survived for Arthur, and unless he joined up ‘under age’, he would not have been old enough to go overseas until some time in 1917, although he could have been under training in UK before then.  He joined up, and served, at least latterly, as a Rifleman, No: 47534 in the Rifle Brigade, although the CWGC notes that before he died, he had been posted to the 2nd/17th Battalion, the London Regiment.

The 2nd/17th (County of London) Battalion (Poplar and Stepney Rifles) was formed in London in August 1914.  By January 1915, it was in the 2nd/5th London Brigade in the 2nd/2nd London Division at Reigate.  This formation was later re-titled as the 180th Brigade in the 60th (2nd/2nd London) Division.  They moved to St Albans in March 1915, and then went on to Bishops Stortford in May 1915 and to Sutton Verny in January 1916.

On 23 June 1916 they landed at Le Havre, and in November 1916 they moved to Salonika.  On 2 July 1917 they withdrew to Egypt, arriving Alexandria on 5 July 1917.  On 27 May 1918 they left the Division and moved to France, arriving at Audruicq by 30 June 1918, and transferred to the 89th Brigade in the 30th Division.

The War Diary for the 2nd/ 17th London Regiment is included in the 89th Brigade papers in the 30th Division.[1]  A summary of their movements from July to September shows that … Having arrived at OUEST MONT, the Battalion was involved in training in July, but in the later part of the month occasional casualties were suffered when working within range of shellfire.  In August they moved to LE CARREAUX, and by the middle of the month were at BOESCHERE, and then at LOCRE at the end of the month.  At the start of September, the Battalion was in support, then in reserve at WORMLOW CAMPS, and then again in support.

3/9/18 –   ‘… took up a defensive line from DONEGAL FARM … Bivouac area shelled with H.E. & Gas during night.  Casualties 10 O.R. killed 1 O.R. wounded. …’

4/9/18  – ‘Battn engaged on salvage work & interior economy.’

5/9/18 –   ‘As for 4/9/18.  Further reinforcements sent to line in front of WULVERGHEM.  Preparations for attack on MESSINES RIDGE at dawn.’

It seems these were preparations for others as their Battalion withdrew to a bivouac area and were training and undertaking salvage work until …

8/9/18  – ‘… moved forward to take over line …’

9/9/18  – ‘3am – relief complete … fighting patrols out on each Coy front …’

There was continuing patrol activity until they were relieved …

14/9/18  –    ‘… Support position at LOCRE CHATEAU, … [and then] into Divisional Reserve at BOEDSCHEPE.’

From 16 to 24 September they were involved mainly in ‘Reorganisation and interior economy’ and ‘training & salvage work’.

25/9/18 – ‘Battn moved up to relief 2nd Sth Lancs,…’

26/9/18 – ‘Patrol activity during night.  Bn H.Q. shelled during evening.  Casualties NIL.’

27/9/18 – ‘Preparations for advance to be carried out on 28th inst.’

28/9/18   – 5.30am – ‘… Coys advanced under cover of artillery, T.M. & M.G. barrage against enemy strongpoints … inflicting severe losses upon the enemy capturing 13 Germans, 2 M.G. & much materal.’

– 6.30pm – ‘Under cover of further bombardment advance was continued towards MESSINES WYTSCHAETE RIDGE … Despite strong resistance … & the difficulties of the country … & the darkness of the night, the attackers advanced steadily finally gaining their objective … taking 1 prisoner & capturing 1 field gun, 2 M.G’s, 4 T.M. & great quantities of war material, before dawn.  Casualties: 7 O.R. killed, 2 Offs 41 O.R. wounded.’

29/9/18   – 8.30am – ‘Consolidation of objective.  2nd S Lancs passed through & advanced on YARES COMMINES CANAL.’

                  – 7.00pm – ‘Concentration of Battn about O27.  Casualties 6 OR killed, 5OR Wounded.’

In this advance against the Messines Ridge, over the two days 28 and 29 September, 13 ‘Other Ranks’ were killed.  Arthur’s death was recorded by the CWGC on 29 September 1918, during the ‘Consolidation of objective’.  He was 19 years old.  He was buried in the Dranoutre Military Cemetery in West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, in grave reference: III. A. 2.  There was no family message added to the gravestone.

Eight other men from the 2nd/17th (County of London) Battalion, or who had been transferred to the Battalion from the Rifle Brigade, were amongst those killed in the advance and were buried alongside Arthur.  They are buried in graves III. A. 3 to 9 and 15.

Dranoutre Military Cemetery is located 11.5 kilometres south of Ieper [Ypres] town centre, on a road leading from the Dikkebusseweg.  Dranoutre (now Dranouter) was occupied by the 1st Cavalry Division on 14 October 1914.  It was captured by the Germans on 25 April 1918, in spite of the stubborn resistance of the 154th French Division, and it was recaptured by the 30th Division on 30 August 1918.  Dranoutre Churchyard was used for Commonwealth burials from October 1914 to July 1915 when the military cemetery was begun.  It was used by fighting units and field ambulances until March 1918 (Plots I and II), many of the burials being carried out by the 72nd Brigade (24th Division) in April-June 1916.  Plot III [with Arthur and his colleagues] was added in September and October 1918.[2]

In November 1918, the Rugby Advertiser reported, ‘The following Rugby men have been posted as missing:- … A. J. Webster, London Regiment, …’.[3]

Arthur is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates.  His medal card shows that he was awarded the Victory and British medals.



– – – – – –


This article on Arthur James WEBSTER was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, June 2018.

[1]      UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Various Infantry Brigades, 30th Division, Piece 2336: 89 Infantry Brigade (1915 – 1919). [p.142-166 in Ancestry.co.uk].

[2]      From: https://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/52300/dranoutre-military-cemetery/.

[3]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 9 November 1918.

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