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War Memorials

In Memory of
Lance Corporal 83559
2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment)
Who was Killed in Action on Thursday, 19th September 1918
Age 37

No Known Grave. Panel 7
Vis-en-Artois Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Vis-en-Artois Memorial

Vis-en-Artois Memorial, Pas de Calais, France1

Arthur James Newton was born in Nottingham in 18812, the second of six children, eldest son, of James (b. 1856, Radford, Nottingham) and Annie Newton (b. 1858, Nottingham née Clarke)3. James was a lace draughtsman who spend all his working life in the lace trade, first in Nottingham, for a short time in Germany and, by about 1898, moving with his family to live in Beeston. In 1901, they were living there on Humber Road by which time the two sons - including the then 20-year-old Arthur James - were working in the lace trade4. On 29 August 1906, James was found drowned at Cleethorpes in unexplained circumstances and an open verdict was returned at the subsequent inquest5.

In December 1906, Arthur James married Eliza Ann Lee (b. 1881, Beeston), the daughter of John & Eliza Lee. Their first child, John Arthur, was born in 1908 and Edward, their second, in 19096. By 1911, they had moved to live at 83 Imperial Road, Beeston7 and their third child, Geoffrey, was born in 19138.

By the time that war came in August 1914, Arthur James was well established with a good job, a pleasant home and a young family of three so it is perhaps not surprising that he was not amongst those who enlisted so enthusiastically in the early months of the war. By the middle of 1915 however, the number of volunteers had dropped off and the relentless demand for more and more men at the front was not being met. In an attempt to boost numbers without invoking the unpopular option of conscription, the Government adopted a scheme devised by Lord Derby that became known as the 'Derby Scheme'. It encouraged men to voluntarily attest, for service at a later date and, in the mean time, to be placed in an army reserve and released to everyday life until needed. Those in the reserve were categorised by age and marital status to be called on in a structured way. Crucially, the scheme promised that married men would not be called on until the pool of single men was exhausted. Despite active canvassing, the scheme did not produce the numbers required and, early in the following year, conscription was introduced.

In the event, Arthur James, who had by then moved with his family to live at 9 Montague Street, Beeston, attested under the Derby Scheme and was placed in the Reserve on 8 December 1915 in Beeston, just days before the scheme was wound up9. Over 18 months later, on 10 April 1917, he was mobilised with the 3rd Battalion Sherwood Foresters. After training, he joined 2/8th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, part of 46th Division, on 20 August 1917 at a time when the Third Battle of Ypres - known as Passchendaele - was under way. It was a period of brutal trench warfare, fought in a quagmire of stinking mud with horrendous casualties. For its part, 2/8th Battalion saw action during September at the Battles of Mennin Road and Polygon Wood.

For Private Newton, it would have been a terrible introduction to the horrors of the Western Front and, in fact, by the end of 1917 he was suffering badly from trench foot which developed into trench fever, such that he needed to be evacuated through the medical evacuation chain, eventually arriving back in England for treatment and convalescence, in all over four months, first in the St John's Hospital in Southport followed by the military hospital at Ripon.

But the manpower demands of the Western France were relentless, such that, as soon as he was fit again, he was returned to France on 2 August 1918 and joined 2nd Battalion, Sherwood Foresters, part of 6th Division, on the 16th August. This was a time which later was seen as the turning point of the First World War on the Western Front and the beginning of the Allies' Hundred Days Offensive during which the enemy was pushed back, but against relentless resistance. On 18th September, the battalion took part in what became known as the Battle of Epehy. This was an offensive against enemy forward outposts in front of the Hindenburg Line, Germany’s last line of defense on the Western Front. During the attack, the battalion faced heavy machine gun fire but was able to take a considerable number of prisoners. The attack continued with heavy fighting into the next day with significant overall progress 11. The battalion's casualties were very heavy - 14 officers and 360 other ranks10. Sadly, Private Newton was one of those killed on that day.

Private Newton's body was never identified and he is commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial to the Missing which stands as the back drop to the Vis-en-Artois British Cemetery, situated to the west of Haucourt on the Arras/Cambrai road, about 10 kilometres south-east of Arras. The Memorial bears the names of over 9,000 men who fell in the period from 8 August 1918 to the date of the Armistice in the Advance to Victory in Picardy and Artois, between the Somme and Loos, and who have no known grave. They belonged to the forces of Great Britain and Ireland and South Africa while the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand forces are commemorated on other memorials to the missing. The Memorial consists of a screen wall in three parts. The middle part of the screen wall is concave and carries stone panels on which names are carved. It is 26 feet high flanked by pylons 70 feet high. The Stone of Remembrance stands exactly between the pylons and behind it, in the middle of the screen, is a group in relief representing St George and the Dragon. The flanking parts of the screen wall are also curved and carry stone panels carved with names. Each of them forms the back of a roofed colonnade and, at the far end of each, is a small building11.

Private Newton was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal12. His financial effects of £4 12s 5d were paid to his widow as sole legatee on 27 January 1919 and she also received his War Gratuity of £6 on 27 November 1919.13.

Annie, Arthur James' mother, died in 1928, aged 70, and was buried in Beeston Cemetery, where a named urn survives in her memory. Eliza Ann, Arthur James's widow, continued to live at 8 Montague Street, Beeston for the rest of her life. At the time of the 1939 Registration, all three of her sons, all then unmarried, were also living there with their mother and all three working at the Ericssons Telephone factory. She died in 1961, aged 80, followed within weeks by John, her eldest son and Edward died in 1981. Geoffrey, married in 1946 and died in 1990.14.

1The photograph of the Vis-en-Artois Memorial is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Nottingham Registration District in Q2/1881 (Ref 7b 269).
3James Newton and Annie Clarke were married at Nottingham All Saints Church on 28 June 1878.
4Beeston, Nottinghamshire: 1901 Census, Piece 3153 Folio 168.
Arthur James's siblings were Mabel Clarke (1879-1921), George Frederick (b. 1884), Ellen Amelia (b. c1892), Mary Florence (1895-1983) and Henrietta Margaret (b. 1897-1971).
5An account of the circumstances of his death and the inquest appeared in the Nottingham Journal, 31 August 1906.
6Arthur James Newton and Eliza Ann Lee were married in Beeston Parish Church on 22 December 1906.
John, their first son, was born on 13 February 1908 and Edward, their second, on 28 April 1908, both in Beeston (Arthur James's Army Service Record and the 1939 Registration).
7Beeston, Notts: 1911 Census, Piece 20428 RD429 SD3 ED3 Schedule 90.
8Their third son, Geoffrey was born in Beeston on 7 September 1913 (Arthur James's Army Service Record and the 1939 Registration).
9Arthur James's enlistment and subsequent deployment details are recorded in his Army Service Record which is available at ancestry.com
10The summary of the battalion's deployment on 18th & 19th September are from the more complete account in the battalion war diary which is available at ancestry.com
11This description of the Vis-en-Artois Memorial is based on that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
12Details from Arthur James's Medal Card and his Medal Roll entry - available on ancestry.com.
13Details from his entry in the Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929 - available on ancestry.com.
14Family details from standard genealogical sources, including the Registration of September 1939.

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