Woodward, Arthur. Died 27th Oct 1918

Arthur WOODWARD was born on 13 December 1899 in Rugby.  He was the son of Thomas Woodward, who was a ‘carpenter and joiner’ born at Stretton-under Fosse on 4 February 1869, and Agnes Lillian, née Roden, born in Rugby on 12 December 1869.  They were married on 5 September 1893 at St Andrew’s church, Rugby.

By 1891 the family had moved to Rugby, and living at 25 Stephen Street. By 1901, their first son, Arthur Woodward, was two years old, and his brother, Bernard, was one.  Their father was still a ‘joiner – carp’ and the family was now living at 39 Stephen Street, Rugby.

In 1911, they were still at the same address, a five roomed house.  The brothers were at school; Arthur was 12 and Bernard, now more fully named Alfred Bernard, was 11.  Arthur’s parents had been married 16 years, and it seems that they had had three children, one of whom had died.  Arthur’s father was still a ‘joiner’ and was a ‘worker’ for a ‘builder’, quite possibly he was already working for J Parnell and Son of Rugby.

A later report[1] stated that Arthur Woodward attended St. Matthews School and after leaving school and before the war and joining up, it seems that he also worked for J Parnell and Son of Rugby.

Because of his age, Arthur should probably not joined up until about 1917 and he probably should not have gone abroad until at least the end of 1918.  However, his family relate that ‘he served in action in France and Flanders’ which suggests he went abroad before his Battalion went to Italy in later 1917 – so it seems almost certain that he lied about his age!

For some reason, possibly so he would not be recognised to be under age, he joined up in Taunton, and thus, perhaps unsurprisingly, he joined the Devonshire Regiment.  Arthur served, at least latterly, as a Private, No: 31616 in the 8th (Service) Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment

The 8th (Service) Battalion was formed at Exeter on 19 August 1914 as part of K1 and from a nucleus of officers and NCOs from the 1st Battalion, and were attached as Divisional Troops to 14th (Light) Division.  In May 1915 they left the Division and landed at Le Havre on 26 July 1915.  On 4 August 1915 they came under orders of the 20th Brigade, 7th Division.

If Arthur did serve in France and Flanders, in early 1917, then he may have been with the 8th Bn. in April 1917 during the Battle of Arras, when the Battalion attacked Ecoust with great success and light casualties, or a month later, when they captured part of Bullecourt at a very much higher cost.    In early October 1917 the 8th Battalion was near Passchendaele in the worst of the Third Battle of Ypres and on 26 October, an unsuccessful attack on Gheluvelt again led to heavy casualties.  Arthur could perhaps have been in a draft of reinforcements after any of these actions.

In May 1915, the Italians had entered the war on the Allied side, declaring war on Austria.  Commonwealth forces were later transferred to the Italian front between November 1917 and November 1918.   In March 1918, XIV Corps (the 7th, 23rd and 48th Divisions) relieved Italian troops on the front line between Asiago and Canove, the front being held by two Divisions, with one Division in reserve on the plain.[2]

It is quite possible that Arthur only joined the 8th Battalion in France, just in time for them to be transferred to Legnano, Italy, as part of the 7th Division in November 1917.  They were to strengthen the Italian resistance against the Austria/Hungary forces.  By the end of January 1918 the 8th Battalion was in Northern Italy on the Piave front.  Later, on 21 October 1918, the 7th and 23rd Divisions were sent to the Treviso area of the River Piave front, taking over the section of the front from Salletuol to Palazzon, and serving as part of the Italian Tenth Army.

On the night of 23 October, the 8th Bn. captured Papadopoli Island.  The main channel of the river Piave was crossed using small boats and the northern half of the island was occupied, this being completed two nights later by a combined Commonwealth and Italian force.  This was the start of the decisive Battle of Vittoria Veneto ‎[24 October – 4 November 1918] which resulted in the Austrians being forced back and an Armistice coming into effect on 4 November 1918.

After the capture of the island, the Allied attack east of the Piave began early in the morning of 27 October 1918.  The bridging of the river Piave proceeded rapidly, however the strength of the current meant that the two bridges built for the crossing were frequently broken and many men were drowned.  It seems most likely that Arthur Woodward was one of those men tragically drowned when a bridge broke – his family related that he drowned when in Italy.[3]

Arthur died, ‘aged 20’, on Sunday, 27 October 1918.  He was then in fact only some 18 years and 10 months old – and was still under the official age of 19 for service ‘abroad’.[4]  He was buried at the Tezze British Cemetery in Plot 6. Row B. Grave 4. Tezze Provincia di Treviso – Veneto Italy.

Tezze is a village in the Province of Treviso, a large town north of Venice.  The Italians entered the war on the Allied side, declaring war on Austria, in May 1915.  Commonwealth forces were at the Italian front between November 1917 and November 1918.  The village of Tezze was captured by the Austrians in the advance in the autumn of 1917 and remained in their hands until the Allied forces crossed the River Piave at the end of October 1918.  Many of those who died on the north-east side of the river during the Passage of the Piave are buried in Tezze British Cemetery.  It now contains 356 Commonwealth burials of the First World War.

Arthur’s grave stone had the following inscription added by his family, ‘Until the Day Breaks & the Shadows Flee Away from Father, Mother & Bernard, Rugby’.  The contact for the next of kin was his mother, Mrs L Woodward, 39 Stephen Street, Rugby.

The Rugby Advertiser reported,
‘Pte A Woodward, Devonshire Regiment, son of Mr T Woodward, 39 Stephen Street, was killed in action on October 28th.  He was an old St Matthew’s boy, and before enlisting he was employed by Messrs Parnell & Son,’[5]

His death was also announced in the following January in the Coventry Evening Telegraph,
‘The Roll of Honour – Coventry and District Casualties.  The following are included in the latest casualty lists:- Killed – Woodward, 31616. A. (Rugby) Devon Regt. …’.[6]

The Register of Effects suggests that his father received Arthur’s back pay of £4.16.11d on 29 March 1918, and his War Gratuity of £7 on 27 January 1920.  The official had given his date of death as 87.10.18, whilst the transcription read 8 October 1918!

Arthur WOODWARD was awarded the British War and Victory Medals.  He is also commemorated on the Rugby Memorial Gates in Hillmorton Road, Rugby.

His mother, Agnes Lillian, died in 1946.  His father, Thomas Woodward, was one of the joiners who worked for J Parnell and Son of Rugby and who, in the early 1920s, helped to build Queen Mary’s Doll’s House at Windsor Castle.[7]  He died two years after his wife on 25 March 1948.

Arthur’s brother, Bernard Alfred Woodward, also served in WWI, joining up as a ‘young soldier’ at Budbrook on 17 January 1918.  His somewhat confused Service Record, which may include references to another soldier, has him posted as No:57031 to the 3rd Battalion, the Hampshire Regiment and then as No:45669 in the Princess Charlotte of Wales’s (Royal Berkshire) Regiment and latterly as No:44808 in the 2nd/7th Bn. Royal Warwickshire Regiment and attached to the 9th Worcesters.  It seems that he did go to France, and then from April to June 1918, he had 50 days in hospital with an injured left index finger at ‘Fargo SP’[8] at Larkhill, Wiltshire and this may have been the occasion when the Rugby Advertiser later in November 1918, advised that he had been wounded.[9]  He was not discharged until later in 1919.



– – – – – –


This article on Arthur WOODWARD was initiated by Janet Potter, a relative by marriage, and was further researched, with military additions, by John P H Frearson for the Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project.  It is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, September 2018.

[1]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 21 December 1918

[2]      Edited from: https://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/69804/cavalletto-british-cemetery/.

[3]      Information from Janet Potter, a member of the Rugby Family History Group, who relates that her husband, Tony Potter, also a member, was told that the Battalion were crossing a bridge which collapsed and Arthur was drowned.  Arthur’s younger brother Bernard was married to Maida, the sister of Lily Sarah (née Lowe), Tony Potter’s mother.  [ref: Emails: Janet Potter, 11 & 12 September 2018].

[4]      Official government policy was that you had to be 18 to sign up and 19 to fight overseas. In the early twentieth century most people didn’t have birth certificates, so it was easy to lie about your age.

[5]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 21 December 1918.

[6]      Coventry Evening Telegraph, Wednesday, 8 January 1919.

[7]      Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House was built in the early 1920s, completed in 1924, for Queen Mary, the wife of King George V.

[8]      Fargo Camp (Larkhill) was a hospital established at the army base in Wiltshire.  It had 1037 beds.

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


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