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George Arthur Whitfield


George Arthur Whitfield, generally known to the family as Arthur, was born in the first quarter of 1892 in Stockton Heath, the first of three children born to George and Mary Ellen (neé Isherwood). George Whitfield senior had been born in Lower Walton, Cheshire. He married Mary Ellen Isherwood possibly at Stockton Heath, the marriage was registered in Warrington, in 1890.

Early Life

By 1891, George and Mary Ellen were living at London Bridge Cottages, in Appleton, and he was employed as a Wheelwright. At some point between then and 1901, George became an Assurance Agent and the family moved to Gaskell Street, in Stockton Heath, where they remained until at least the 1920s. Arthur had two younger sisters, Ethel Mary (born in 1895) who died as a child, and Elsie Maud (born in 1898).

Chester College

By the time of the 1911 Census, Arthur was a student at Chester College, Parkgate Road, Chester. He left the College the following year, in the summer of 1912. George went on to teach at Arpley Street School (formerly known as Warrington British School), in Warrington.

Military Service

On October 22, 1915 George enlisted in the Army in Warrington. He was passed fit for service and initially posted to the Army Ordnance Corps, in which he served from the October 22, 1915 until June 18, 1917 as Private 012396, and appointed to (unpaid) Lance Corporal on October 23, 1916.

As the war increasingly demanded front line soldiers to replace the casualties, the Army regularly combed through its serving men seeking to move fit soldiers from support sections into front line duties. One such trawl in June 1917, saw Arthur’s transfer from the Ordnance Corps to the 2nd/4th Battalion West Riding (Duke of Wellington’s) Regiment, when he was renumbered as Private 17113. Four months later, on October 3, 1917, he travelled from Folkestone to Boulogne, and then on to the Infantry Base Depot at Etaples. After a brief stint of further training there, he arrived at the 2nd/4th in the field on October 11, 1917. When he transferred from the Ordnance Corps to the 2nd/4th he had lost his appointment as Lance Corporal and reverted to Private. However, on December 10, 1917 he was again appointed to the rank of Lance Corporal, this time as a paid position.

The war diary for the 2nd/ 4th Battalion West Riding Regiment for the period leading up to Arthur’s death is very sparse, the whole of May 1918 is covered on just one page. The Battalion began the month at Bois De Warnimont, out of the line and not doing very much. On May 16, the Battalion went into the line in front of Aglainzevelle, in place of the 4th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment. The next entry is four days later on May 20, when the Battalion was relieved from that section of the line, back into support trenches. Then, on May 24, they went back into the front line at Bucquoy. There are no further entries for that month.

Lest We Forget

George Arthur was killed on May 26, 1918, presumably in the front line at Bucquoy. As there are no details of any action on that day in the diary the inference would be that his death was occasioned by the effects of random German shelling. Arthur’s last letter home was written May 25, 1918.

Post Mortem

Arthur’s personal effects were sent back to his father, as were the British War and Victory Medals, to which he was entitled. He is buried at Bienvillers Military Cemetery, in France.