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ARTHUR, Henry Bartle Compton
Harry went up to New College, Oxford in 1896 but he took his degree early as the South African War broke out before he had completed his course; on the recommendation of the Vice-Chancellor Harry was appointed to the Royal Artillery
Indian Army records show that HBC Arthur was commissioned on the 28th July 1900.
Harry studied the theory and practice of war. A prize essay of his on the comparative value of regular and irregular troops in war was published in 1908 by direction of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff
Harry attained the rank of Captain on the 21st August 1911. At that time he was with the Royal Horse & Royal Field Artillery in India.
Harry landed in
France on November 7, 1914. By that time the Indian Corps was holding a
stretch of the Western Front in Artois, running between Rouge Bancs
(just north of Fromelles) and Givenchy-lès-la-Bassée (just west of
la-Bassée). The Indian Corps remained in this sector until
In 1915 he was given the command of 64th Battery, which he held till his death, rendering distinguished service; he was twice slightly wounded and three times mentioned in Despatches.
involved in the following actions:
Harry's letters from the front were addressed to his unmarried sister, Leonora Arthur, of Well House, Banstead, and the section on Banstead in A History of the County of Surrey , published in 1911, mentions that Well House "... is now the residence of the Hon. Mrs. Arthur." That was Harry's mother, who died in 1916. The Arthur family connection with Banstead is through the oldest daughter, Aileen Mary, who was married to Sir Henry Lambert. Christina Lucy Arthur (1875-1962), the youngest daughter, was married to Robert Vaughan Johnson, and they lived in Banstead with their four daughters.
Harry gained the rank of Major whilst still in the service of the Royal Field Artillery.
In July 1916 the Lahore Divisional Artillery moved south to the Somme. They spent a couple of weeks at rest in Fieffres (about 15 miles northwest of Amiens) and then moved east over several days to Albert.
At this time, the British army in France was dangerously lacking experience. The original British regular army, six divisions strong at the start of the war, had been effectively wiped out by the battles of 1914 and 1915. The bulk of the army was now made up of volunteers of the Territorial Force and Lord Kitchener's New Army, which had begun forming in August 1914. Major Arthur was a very experienced soldier and therfeore a great asset to the army at that time.
The battle of the Somme started on the 1 July 1916 with horrendous nnumbers of casualties on the British side.
No significant progress was made in the northern sector in the first few weeks of July. Ovillers, was not captured until 16 July. Its capture, and the foothold the British had obtained in the German second position on 14 July, meant that the chance now existed for the German northern defences to be taken in the flank. The key to this was the village of Pozières.
The Fourth Army made three attempts to seize the village between 14 July and 17 July before Haig relieved Rawlinson's army of responsibility for its northern flank. The capture of Pozières became a task for Gough's Reserve Army.
Going in shortly after midnight on 23 July, the attack on Pozières was a success, largely thanks to very careful preparation and an overwhelming supporting bombardment; however, an attempt to capture the neighbouring German second position failed. The Germans, recognising the critical importance of the village to their defensive network, made three unsuccessful counter-attacks before beginning a prolonged and methodical bombardment of the village. The final German effort to reclaim Pozières came before dawn on 7 August following a particularly heavy bombardment.
By this time, the Lahore Divisional artillery had been assigned to 4th Australian Division, relieving the Australian Field Artillery in Sausage Valley on 9 August 1916 The valley was an approach route for infantry moving up to Pozières and, clearly, a site for supporting artillery. Harry’s battery was on the northeast slope of the valley. The war diary of the 5th Brigade indicates that the enemy shelled Sausage Valley heavily on the 10th, and in the Lahore
Divisional Artillery diary for the same day, there is a note of Harry’s death, along with that of two subalterns and an RAMC Captain attached to the 5th Brigade.
The four casualties are buried in a row in Gordon Dump Cemetery, no more than a few hundred yards from where they were killed.
The three other officers buried with the Major are :
Lieut. J V O'Brien RAMC Attached 5th Bde. RFA
Lieut. N MacIver 5th Bde. RFA
2nd Lieut. Ewan Fergus Lord Macpherson 5th Bde. RFA
Grave/Memorial Reference: I. A. 23.
GORDON DUMP CEMETERY, OVILLERS-LA BOISSELLE Somme, France
Photo of HBC Arthur from the CollegeArchivist at Winchester College (See also Winchester College Great War Archive )
Last updated 17 Feb 2016