Arthur George STAY was born in Rugby in late 1883 or early 1884, his birth being registered there in the 4th Quarter of 1883.
He was the eldest of three sons of Stephen Stay [born in Longham; whose birth was registered in Q1, 1853 at Wimborne 5a, 284], and his wife, Mary Ann, née Hartnell [b.c.1854, Trull, Taunton]. They had married at Trull, Taunton on 27 December 1882. His father was a ‘plasterer’ and before 1883 they had moved to, and were living in Queen Street, Rugby.
Arthur was baptised on 20 April 1884 in Bilton, Rugby. His two younger brothers, Walter Edward [b. 10 June 1885], and Alfred William were both baptised later on 31 October 1886 at St Matthew’s church, Rugby.
In 1871, Arthur’s father, Stephen Stay, was a plasterer’s apprentice, aged 17, and lodging and working with another plasterer in Ringwood. He was later known for a period as Frederick. This caused considerable confusion when researching the family, however, he when he later remarried – once again as Stephen Stay – he stated that his father had also been Stephen Stay, a joiner, which probably explains why he was known as Frederick in his younger days.
In 1891, Arthur George was 7 and his father was now enumerated as ‘Frederick’ Stay. His two younger brothers, Walter E, and Alfred W, were aged 5 and 4 respectively. They were living at 25 Queen Street, Rugby.
In 1901, both Arthur and his brother Alfred were at home with their mother. Their father was presumably away working, and seems to have missed being enumerated. Arthur was now 17 and an ‘Apprentice Plasterer’ and the family were living at 61 Claremont Road, Rugby. His brother Walter was following the family trade as a 15 year old plaster’s apprentice, and was boarding in Newmarket.
Sadly, in later 1904, Arthur’s mother, Mary Annie Stay, died in Rugby aged 51. Some three years later, on 28 September 1907, his widower father remarried, now again as Stephen Stay, a ‘Master Plasterer’, with a widow, Kate, née Taylor, Mills at the Parish Chapel, in St Pancras, London.
Arthur married on 6 June 1906 at Tempsford in Bedfordshire with Emily Scrivener; who had been born in Felmersham, Bedfordshire in about 1884. They had three children, a son, Harold George Stay in late 1907 who was registered in Rugby; then a daughter, Bessie Eileen Stay who was born in 1909, and registered in Lutterworth; and then another son, Frederick John Stay, born on 21 September 1910 in Rugby. It seems that his wife later had returned to her home area and was living at Roxton, and that village is given as Arthur widow’s address on some documents.
For the 1911 census, Arthur’s father Stephan Stay, now 58, was with his second wife, Kate who was 41. They were living at 99 Grosvenor Road, Rugby; he was still a plasterer. His wife filled out the census return, which probably explains why she has entered his place of birth as ‘Old Eastbourne’ rather than the similarly sounding ‘[Old] Wimborne’. Nellie Taylor who was a visitor, was possibly his wife’s, sister.
In 1911, Arthur was away from home, still working as a ‘Plasterer’ and in lodging with another plasterer at 37 Claremont Road, Romford, Essex. He was no doubt working on a contract in that area. His wife, Emily, and their three children, were at their home at 45 Lodge Road, Rugby. His brother, Walter, now 25, was working in Camberwell.
Arthur’s youngest brother Alfred also became a Plasterer and by 1911 had just married Nellie Ruth née Mill from Epsom and was living at The Firs, Welton. They married on 1 August 1910, at West Fordington, Dorset, so maybe there was still a family connection to his father’s birth county.
With the outbreak of World War I, Arthur first joined up in Lambeth, London, originally as a Private, No.6341, in the ‘London Regiment’, although in which of its many Battalions is unknown.
He would later transfer, or be posted, to the 122nd Machine Gun Company as No.65340, and would later be promoted to Lance Corporal. He does not appear to have been awarded the 1915 Star, so it seems that he did not go to France until 1916, which would suggest he was with the 122nd MG Company when they first went to France.
The 122nd MG Company became part of the 122nd Brigade, 41st Division in May 1916. The Company War Diary noted that the 122nd arrived at Le Havre at 5a.m. on 17 May 1916. They left for Rouen and arrived at Steenweerk by rail on 21 May. They undertook familiarisation training over the next few days. On 27 May they moved to Le Romarin, and then on 28 May to Ploegsteert.
July started quietly except for two NCOs being sent for Court Marshal for being drunk on duty!! The Acting Battery Sergeant Major was paraded and publicly reduced to the ranks – the other NCO was found not guilty.
They were later in action at the Battle of Flers-Coucelette [15-22 September 1916] and the Battle of Transloy Ridge [October 1916], these being the last two actions on the Somme. In 1917 they fought during the Battle of Messines; the Battle of Pilkem Ridge; the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge.
The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, was part of the 3rd Battle of Ypres, and the 122nd Machine Gun Company’s War Diary gave some information on the actions in the month of September, before and after Arthur’s death. It shows something of the training, constant movement and the fierce battle actions that the men endured:
1 to 6 September – the Company was training at Barringhem. Then until 13 September, one Section went to help make ready barrage preparations and various C.O.’s conferences were held whilst various further training took place.
14 September – ‘Company moved into billets at Le Nieppe.’
15 September – ‘Company moved into billets at La Rounlushille.’
16 September – ‘Company moved into camp at Shippewa Camp. 2 Section relieved 2 guns 194 Coy and 2 guns 116 Coy in the Line.’
17 September – ‘No 3 Section rejoined the Company …’.
18 September – ‘Nos 3 & 4 Sections reported at 4pm to the 11th R W Kents at Ridge Wood and Larch Wood. Company Headquarters moved into Hedge St. Tunnels. …’.
19 September – ‘… Sections … moved up to assembly positions in Bodmin Copse. Assembly complete by 12 mid-night.’
20 September – ‘3.40am, attack delivered on Tower Hamlets Ridge. All sections arrived at final positions with only 4 casualties. 12 noon R W Ks unable to hold on in Green Line owing to their right flank being exposed, withdrew and Srg O’Connor, commanding No 4 Section (2/Lt Wearne having been wounded) brought forward the two rear guns to cover the gap. He remained in this exposed position till 6.0pm when he withdrew to the same line as the R.W.Ks.
21 September – ‘4.15 am – German counter attack delivered on right and left of Menin Road. The sub-section No.3 was wiped out & both guns destroyed and all of No.4 Section with the exception of 6 men became casualties through the heavy bombardment which preceded this counter-attack. Counter-attack was beaten off. 2/Lt Hale inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy. 2/Lt Cantnell wounded. Reinforcements from reserve sub-section sent up to No.4. 7.0pm – Second counter-attack attempted, which never materialised.’
22 September – ‘Situation normal. 122 Inf. Bde. relieved out of the line by 116 Bde.’
23 September – ‘Situation normal. Relief expected but did not turn up.’
24 September – ‘Relieving Company arrived but owing to heavy shelling, no relief was possible till 6.30 am. Relief complete by 9.0am Company proceeded to Jackson’s Dump where limbers were waiting for the guns & then to Ridge Wood. Casualties in the line, 3 Officers + 52 ORs. 2.0pm Left Ridge Wood by bus for Eecre. Transport followed from Millekreose and arrived in camp 8.30pm.’
It is not known exactly where and when on 21 September 1917 that Arthur was ‘Killed in Action’, but it must be assumed that he was probably in either in No.3 sub-section that was ‘wiped out’ or in No.4 Section, where all but six men were casualties.
His body was either never found, or was not identified. He is remembered on one of the Panels 154 to 159 and 163A of the Tyne Cot Memorial. The Tyne Cot Memorial is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient. Whereas those who died before 16 August 1917 are remembered on the Menin Gate, the United Kingdom servicemen who died after that date are named on the memorial at Tyne Cot.
Arthur George Stay was awarded the British War and Victory Medals and is also commemorated on the Rugby Memorial Gates in Hillmorton Road, Rugby, and remembered on a family grave in the Clifton Road Cemetery, Rugby.
Probate was granted to his widow, Emily Stay, at London, Arthur was then recorded as ‘of Roxton, Bedfordshire’, his wife’s home village. His effects totalled £579-0-1d.
The Register of Effects confirms his rank, number and date of death. His back pay owing of £2-5-1d was paid to his widow on 30 January 1918, and his War Gratuity of £4-10-0d was paid to her on 3 December 1919.
Both of Arthur’s brothers joined up, and both survived the War.
Arthur’s younger brother, Walter Edward Stay, joined up on 19 November 1914 at Gosport Regimental as No.53445 in the Royal Garrison Artillery [RGA] and had served in the 19th Siege Battery, RGA, and became an Acting Corporal. He went to France on 25 June 1915 and served with some distinction and was awarded both the DCM [Distinguished Service Medal] on 1 January 1918 and the Belgian ‘Croix de Guerre’. His DCM was presented by Major General Franks on 6 October 1918. He survived the war and his marriage to Elsie Agnes Francis (b.22 July 1892 in Shaftesbury St James, Dorset, but who had been resident in Bilton, Rugby in 1901 and 1911) was registered in Q3 1919 in West Ham, Essex. He died aged 84 in 1969 in the Salisbury area; his wife died at about the same date.
Arthur’s youngest brother, Alfred, joined up on 10 December 1915 into the Gloucester Regiment, and was later in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as a Private, No.39776 and was discharged on 27 November 1918.
Arthur’s father, ‘Stephen, otherwise Fred’ Stay of 18 Murray Road, Rugby, died on 19 May 1933, with probate, giving both first names as alternates, in London to the value of £932-19-1d, granted to his two surviving sons: Walter Edward Stay, still a plasterer, and Alfred William Stay, now an Inspector.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM
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This article on Arthur George STAY 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, July 2017.
 The National Archives, UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Various Infantry Brigades, 41st Division, Piece 2635: 122 Infantry Brigade – 122 Machine Gun Company (1916 – 1919).
 Information from: http://www.wartimememoriesproject.com/greatwar/allied/mgcompany.php?pid=10712.
 UK, Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929.