Webb, Arthur Edward. Died 23rd Oct 1918

Arthur Edward WEBB’s birth was registered in Q3, 1896 in Rugby.  He was the son of Frederick Webb, b.c.1861 in Rugby, (d. 4 January 1947), and Fanny, née Shaw, Webb, b.c.1862 in Dunchurch, (d. 25 October 1945).  They had married on 11 June 1885 in Dunchurch when Frederick was a printer and Fanny a servant.

In 1901 Arthur was four, and the family was living, as they had in 1891, at 81 James Street, Rugby.  Arthur’s father was not at home on census night 1901, as that night he and his brother were with their widowed mother in Yardley, Worcestershire.

Arthur attended the ‘Murray School’, Rugby.

By 1911, his father, now 50, had been married for 25 years.  He was a ‘Compositor’ in the ‘Advertiser office’ and the family had moved to 16 Alexandra Road, Rugby – a six room house.  Arthur Edward, now 14, was an ‘office boy’ at a steel works; his eldest sister, Hilda Annie was 25 and was working at ‘etching BTH Works’; the next eldest, Alice Jessie was 22 and was a ‘clerk at BTH Works’; and the youngest, Elsie Newman, was 18 and a ‘Clerk in Coop Society’.  Two of the original six siblings had died before 1911.

Arthur later served an apprenticeship at Messrs. Willans & Robinson’s as a turner and fitter.  Prior to joining up, he was employed at Leicester.

Arthur apparently enlisted in November 1915, under ‘Lord Derby’s Scheme’, as indicated by an item in the Rugby Advertiser.
Lord Derby’s Recruiting Scheme, Local Enlistments under the Group System.
The following have enlisted at the Rugby Drill Hall under the Group system.  A considerable number of the men have enlisted under Reserve B for munition workers.
… Webb, Arthur Edward, 16 Alexandra Road, Rugby.[1]

Arthur would become a Private No:48241 in the 1st Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment.  Arthur’s Medal Card did not have any date for when he went to France, and he did not gain the 1914-15 Star, which both support the date he enlisted under Lord Derby’s Scheme, and confirm that this would have been after late 1915.  However, it seems likely that he was in the ‘Reserve B’ list as his work was probably involved with Munitions.  This is confirmed in a later item in the Rugby Advertiser (obituary below) which stated that he was ‘… joining up, early in May [1916] …’, and that when he was killed in October 1918, he ‘… had been in France just over a fortnight’.

1st Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment was in Fermoy, Ireland, when war broke out in August 1914.  They were mobilised with 16th Brigade and returned to England, where 6th Division concentrated near Cambridge for training.  They proceeded to France on 10 September 1914, landing at St. Nazaire.  They marched to the Aisne to reinforce the hard-pressed BEF before moving north to Flanders.  They were in action at Hooge in 1915.  On 17 November 1915 the battalion transferred to 71st Brigade, but were still in 6th Division.  In 1916 they were again in action at Battle of Flers-Courcelette on the Somme, and again in the Battle of Morval and the Battle of Le Transloy.  In 1917 they were in action at Hill 70 and Cambrai.  In 1918 they saw action in the Battle of St Quentin, the Battles of the Lys, the Advance in Flanders, the Battles of the Hindenburg Line [12 September – 12 October 1918] and the Pursuit to the Selle [prior to the Battle of the Selle (17-25 October 1918)].[2]

It seems that Arthur might only have joined the Battalion towards the middle of October 1918 and would probably have missed the actions at the end of the Hindenburg battles, namely:
The Battle of the St Quentin Canal, 29 September – 2 October 1918,
The Battle of Beaurevoir, 3 – 5 October 1918,
The Battle of Cambrai, 8 – 9 October 1918,
The Pursuit to the Selle, 9 – 12 October 1918.

The War Diary of the 1st Battalion[3] provides information on the Battalion’s positions and actions in October 1918.  There is very considerable detail of the movements in some 20 poorly legible handwritten pages, which include map references but a paucity of actual place names.  However, the general progress of the Battalion can be followed as they advanced in a north-easterly direction, some 20 miles south-east of Cambrai.

On 3 October the battalion was preparing to move to Magny-la-Fosse, where they were on 6-7 October.  By 12 October they had moved to Bohain-en-Vermandois, and were in billets there on 16 October until 19 October when they received 43 O.R.s as ‘new recruits’ – 20 were immediately sent for Lewis gun training.

Bearing in mind Arthur had only been in France for two weeks when killed, he may well have been one of those new recruits, as it would probably have taken some days to travel from the coast to join his Battalion.

The next day the Battalion seems to have moved back westward to Brancourt, and then very quickly up to St. Souplet and on to Le Quennelet, a distance of some ten miles.  The next day, 21 October, shelling was observed at Bazuel, about a mile ahead of them.  They were coming into the front line of the advance and on 22 October, four men were wounded, two by shellfire and two by rifle fire.  They prepared for an attack on Pommereuil on 23 October, and the Diary gives detailed dispositions.

By midday on 23 October, the Regimental Aid Post had already dealt with 3 Officer and 74 Other Rank casualties which, from later figures, suggests that the majority of the casualties were incurred in the initial part of the attack.

At 21.15 the Battalion was relieved.  Because of the muddy state of the road from Bazuel, the guides were delayed in reaching the Battalion at the front and the relief was not completed until the early hours.  The move back was competed at 4.15am, when tea and rations awaited the men.  At noon the Battalion moved to billets at St. Souplet.

By 25 October, the casualties suffered during operations from 20-24 October 1918 were listed.
Killed         Wounded         Missing
Officers               0                  5                     nil
O.R.s                 8                  85                    33

It seems that Arthur Webb would have been among those eight O.R.s ‘Killed in Action’ during the attack on Pommereuil.

A report in the Rugby Advertiser noted,
ANOTHER OLD MURRAYIAN KILLED IN ACTION
Much sympathy is felt for Mr. and Mrs F. Webb of 16 Alexandra Road, who received news on Sunday of the death of their only son, Pte. Edward Webb of the 1st Leicestershire Regt. The sad event has been conveyed to the lad’s parents by the Chaplain of his battalion in a sympathetic letter.  Pte. Webb who was 22 years of age, was educated at the Murray School, where he was most popular with his schoolmates.  He served an apprenticeship at Messrs. Willans & Robinson’s as a turner and fitter.  Prior to joining up, early in May, he was employed at Leicester.  He had been in France just over a fortnight.  His chum, Pte. Percy Tyers,[4] of Leicester (who was also apprenticed at Messrs. Willans & Robinson’s) was killed a week previously.[5]

In the same issue of the Rugby Advertiser, the family posted an ‘Acknowledgement’,
MR and MRS. F. WEBB and DAUGHTERS, of 16 Alexandra Road, wish to thank all Friends who have shown sympathy with them, and sent Letters of Condolence in their sad bereavement in the loss of their only son, killed in action.

Arthur was killed in action, aged 22, on 23 October 1918 and was buried in grave ref: I. B. 4., at St Souplet British Cemetery, very near to the Battalion Headquarters for the action on 23 October.  When his temporary cross was replaced with a memorial headstone, the family had the following inscription engraved on it – ‘REUNION OUR ABIDING HOPE’.

St. Souplet is a village about 6 kilometres south of Le Cateau, which is a small town approximately 20 kilometres south-east of Cambrai.  St. Souplet village was captured by the American 30th Division on the 10 October 1918.  The American troops made a cemetery of 371 American and seven British graves on the South-West side of the village, on the road to Vaux-Andigny.  A smaller British cemetery was made alongside.  The American graves were removed after the Armistice and the seven British graves were moved into the British cemetery.  Further British graves were brought in from the surrounding battlefields.

Because of the Battalion’s location, it is likely that Arthur was buried in the cemetery soon after his death, and was not one of those moved to the cemetery later.  Certainly his position in the central ‘Plot I’ suggests that he was one of the first to be buried there.  There is also no record on the CWGC site of him being ‘concentrated’ from any of the other cemeteries, most of which contained burials from much earlier in the advance, and which are fully documented.

Arthur Edward WEBB’s Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  He is also commemorated on a pillar of the Rugby Memorial Gates in Hillmorton Road, Rugby.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

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

[1]      https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2015/11/27/27th-nov-1915-lord-derbys-scheme/, and Rugby Advertiser, 27 November 1915.

[2]      Edited from: https://wartimememoriesproject.com/greatwar/allied/battalion.php?pid=4905.

[3]      UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Leicestershire Regiment, 6th Division, Piece 1622/1-5: 71 Infantry Brigade: 1 Battalion Leicestershire Regiment (1918 Jan – 1919 Apr).

[4]      This was Private TYERS, H. P., No: 48242, who died on 10 October 1918; he was buried at Tincourt New British Cemetery, some 10 miles west of the 1st Leicester’s positions on 3 October.  It is likely that he had been wounded and evacuated to one of the Casualty Clearing Stations located at Tincourt.

[5]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 16 November 1918.

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