Greatrex, Arthur. Died 10th Nov 1918

Arthur GREATREX was born in Coventry in 1893 and his birth was registered in Q1, 1893 in Coventry.  He was the second son of John Greatrex (b.c.1850 in Coventry) and Harriett Hannah, née Mayo, Greatrex, (b.c.1845 in Coventry), who were married on 25 December 1875 at St. Michael’s church, Coventry when both were living in Smithford Street.  They were both able to sign their names.

In 1881 Arthur’s father was a ‘cabman’ and the family lived at 8 Garden Row, Coventry.  There were then two young daughters, Amy, 5, and Maggie, 2.  In 1891 the family was still at 8 Garden Row, and Arthur’s father was still a ‘cabman’, his wife was a ‘waitress’ and Amy, now 15, was a ‘general domestic servant’ but still living at home, where there was now also an eight year old son, John Greatrex.

In 1901, they were still in Coventry, but now living in both 7 & 8 Garden Row. John Greatrex [sen] was now a ‘stableman and groom’; John [jun] was now 19 and a ‘postman’, having been made an ‘Assistant R. Postman – Coventry to Little Heath’ in 1899, and then been appointed ‘Postman’ in March 1901 in Coventry.[1]  There was also now another son, Arthur Greatrex, the main subject of this biography, who was eight years old.

The next year, in 1902, Arthur’s mother, Harriet, died aged 56.  Arthur’s father died in 1909, before the next census.

By 1911, John Greatrex had moved to 44 Victoria Avenue, New Bilton, Rugby, and had been married for eight years to Minnie Lona and they already had four children, all born in New Bilton.  He was now a ‘wireman’.

It is not known whether Arthur might have moved to Rugby at a similar date to his brother, but he could not be found in the 1911 census.  He had travelled to North America.  He arrived back in Liverpool on the Empress of Britain, Canadian Pacific Line, from St John, New Brunswick, Canada, on 18 January 1913.  He was then 20 and described as a ‘constructor’.

For some time, possibly both before and certainly after his visit to North America and before the war, Arthur worked in the Wiring Department at BTH.  Whilst his name does not appear among the early lists of men who enlisted from the BTH, the records show that he enlisted in Rugby,[2]  initially as a Private, No: 10578, into the 7th Battalion, the South Staffordshire Regiment.

7th (Service) Battalion, the South Staffordshire Regiment, was formed at Lichfield in August 1914 as part of K1 and became part of 33rd Brigade in 11th (Northern) Division.  It moved to camp at Grantham in mid-September 1914, and then moved to Frensham in April 1915.  They sailed from Liverpool in early July 1915 for Gallipoli, landing at Cape Helles and remaining there 23-28 July 1915.  First were casualties sustained in the “Horseshoe” facing Achi Baba.  They were withdrawn to Imbros and rejoined rest of division for landing at Suvla Bay on 7 August 1915.  They were evacuated from Gallipoli in December 1915, and moved to Egypt via Imbros.  They were then moved to France in July 1916.

The War Diary of the 7th South Staffs in France from July 1916 to 1919 can be consulted,[3] but whilst the history of the Battalion is known, it is not known exactly when Arthur joined them.  It was probably in 1914 which would have allowed time for a period of training, as his Medal Card showed that he went to Gallipoli with the Battalion, departing to that ‘Theatre of War first served in – 2(B) Balkans’ on 2 July 1915.  As noted they were then moved to France in July 1916.

However, it seems that Arthur returned to UK at some date in 1917, and took the opportunity to marry with Alice Parnham in Grantham, their marriage being registered during Q3, 1917 (Grantham 7a, 947), when he was about 24.  As noted, the 7th South Staffordshires had been stationed in Grantham between September 1914 and April 1915, and that is probably when Arthur and Alice met – she was some 10 years older than him.

His address was later recorded as Grantham,[4] and indeed he had ‘moved in’ with his wife at her family home, although it is unlikely that he was there for long.  She was an only child, born on 1 June 1883 in Grantham, and in 1891 she was living with her parents – her father was a joiner – at 32 Sydney Street, Grantham.  Her father died before 1901, when her mother was in receipt of Parish Relief, and she and her mother were still at the same address in 1911, indeed she lived with her until her mother’s death aged 73, in June 1928.

Arthur must have been in UK in mid to later 1917, for his marriage, and then also around March 1918, when his wife became pregnant.  It seems to have been a long home posting, but two leaves in short succession seems unlikely, perhaps he was wounded and returned to UK to recover and convalesce and they took the opportunity to get married.

Arthur later served abroad again as a Private, No: 47679, with the 10th (Service) Battalion of the Essex Regiment.  Again, the date of this transfer in not known, but if he had been recovering in UK, that might have been the opportunity to post an experienced soldier.  He would thus have only experienced the actions from later 1917 that are outlined below.

The 10th Battalion of the Essex Regiment were formed at Warley in September 1914 as part of K2 and came under orders of 53rd Brigade in 18th (Eastern) Division.  They moved to Shorncliffe and then to Colchester, going on to Codford St Mary in March or May 1915.  On 26 July 1915, they mobilised for war and landed at Boulogne and engaged in various actions on the Western Front including:-

1916 – The Battle of Albert; the Battle of Bazentin Ridge; the Battle of Delville Wood; the Battle of Thiepval Ridge; the Battle of the Ancre Heights; and the Battle of the Ancre.

1917 – The Operations on the Ancre; the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line; the Third Battle of the Scarpe; the Battle of Pilkem Ridge; the Battle of Langemarck; the First Battle of Passchendaele; and the Second Battle of Passchendaele.

1918 – The Battle of St Quentin; the Battle of the Avre; the actions of Villers-Brettoneux; the Battle of Amiens; the Battle of Albert; the Second Battle of Bapaume; the Battle of Epehy; the Battle of the St Quentin Canal; the Battle of the Selle and the Battle of the Sambre.  They ended the war at Le Cateau, France.

The detail of all these actions would be far too extensive for this summary, indeed the Narrative on the near final attack near LE CATEAU on 23 October, which were appended to the Battalion War Diary,[5] took up two typed pages alone.

It was assumed that in this major attack on LE CATEAU or some similar action, Arthur was wounded, as recorded by the CWGC.  His chain of evacuation might have included a Regimental Aid Post, in or close behind the front line, and then a Field Ambulance, a mobile medical unit, and then a Dressing Station, where a casualty would receive further treatment and be prepared to be evacuated to a Casualty Clearing Station, and then on to a Base Hospital, which in Arthur’s case, was the No.1 English General Hospital on the French coast at Etretat, a small seaside town about 26 kilometres north of Le Havre.

However, a note on his entry on the Medal Roll of the Essex Regiment of those to be awarded the 1914-1915 Star, had an added note ‘Died Lobar Pneumonia[6] 10.11.18’.

Whether he ‘Died of Wounds’ or of ‘Lobar Pneumonia’, or possibly a combination of both, he died at 8.45 pm on 10 November 1918, the day before the end of the War, in the No.1 English General Hospital, as shown on an official copy extract – in French – of the entry in the Register of Deaths of the ‘Commune d’Etretat’.[7]

He was buried in the neighbouring Etretat Churchyard Extension in grave ref: III. E. 3.

In December 1914, No.1 General Hospital was established in Etretat and it remained there until December 1918.  In July 1917, it was taken over by No.2 (Presbyterian USA) Base Hospital Unit, but it continued to operate as a British hospital.  The first seven burials took place among the French civil graves but in February 1915, two plots were set aside for Commonwealth burials in the churchyard.  These were filled by December 1916 and from then until December 1918, the extension was used.  Etretat Churchyard contains 264 Commonwealth burials of the First World War and one German grave.  Etretat Churchyard Extension contains 282 First World War burials and four from the Second World War.  There are also 12 German graves in the extension.  The extension was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield.

His CWGC memorial headstone has the additional family inscription from his wife, ‘Until the Day Breaks and the Shadows Flee Away’.

Arthur Greatrex’s Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal and that he also won the 1914-1915 Star. 

He is commemorated on the Rugby Memorial Gates in Hillmorton Road, Rugby; on the list of BTH Employees who served in the War 1914 – 1918; and also on the BTH War Memorial.[8]  He does not appear to be commemorated in Grantham.

His back pay of £14-16-10d was paid to his widow and sole legatee, Alice, on 14 February 1919, and a further 2/3d on 19 May 1919.  His War Gratuity of £19-10s was paid to her on 6 December 1919.

His residence at his time of death was recorded as Grantham; and that of his widow was noted as 32, Sydney Street, Grantham, and it seems that they had briefly set up home in her family home, where she continued to live.  In 1939 she was recorded as a widow, undertaking ‘Unpaid domestic duties’.  Also in the house in 1939 was Martha Alice Greatrex, born on 3 December 1918, who had worked as a ‘Cashier, Book-keeper, Grocery, retail trade, telephonist Grantham …’.  She would later marry Leonard Chambers on 18 October 1944.  It would seem that Arthur and Alice had a daughter.  She was born less than a month after her father died – a father that she never met.   Arthur’s widow, Alice’s death, aged 94, was registered in Grantham in Q1, 1978.  Their daughter, Martha, died in August 2001 in Bourne, Lincolnshire.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Arthur GREATREX 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, September 2018.

[1]      British Postal Museum and Archive; Series: POST 58; Reference Number: 95, and Reference Number: 97.

[2]      UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919.

[3]      UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, South Staffordshire Regiment, 11th Division,  Piece 1816/1-4: 7 Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment (1916 Jul – 1919 May).

[4]      UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919.

[5]      UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Essex Regiment, 18th Division, Piece 2038/1-5: 53 Infantry Brigade: 10 Battalion Essex Regiment (1915 Jul – 1919 Apr).

[6]      Lobar pneumonia is a form of pneumonia that affects a large and continuous area of the lobe of a lung.  It is one of the two anatomic classifications of pneumonia (the other being bronchopneumonia).  Lobar pneumonia usually has an acute progression.  It seems this was often the main cause of death in case of deaths in young men in the 1918 influenza epidemic.

[7]      The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; General Register Office: Miscellaneous Foreign Death Returns; Class: RG 35; Piece: 45.

[8]      This is from a list of names on the BTH War Memorial when it was unveiled.  It is taken from the list published in the Rugby Advertiser, 4 November 1921 and given at https://www.rugbyfhg.co.uk/bth-war-memorial.

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