Lance Corporal Richard Victor Arthur, 3rd Battalion, Coldstream Guards was the first casualty from the Solihull district to die in France during the war. Born in Shirley on 9th February 1892, he enlisted in the Army in October 1908 and was killed in action at Landrecies at 8.30pm on 25th August 1914 during the retreat from Mons.
Richard was the seventh of the ten children (seven sons, three daughters) of parents John Meredith Arthur (a grocer) and his wife, Emma Jane (née Wright), who had married at Edgbaston in 1873 and appear to have set up home in Digbeth. Three of the couple’s children had died by 1911, including a daughter, Gwendoline Margaret (1883-1884).
The family moved to Shirley around 1890/1 and lived in Heathfield House, Shirley Street before moving to High Street, Bordesley, Birmingham sometime between 1895-1900. By 1911, John (by now an insurance agent) and Emma were living in Small Heath and all but one of the couple’s children had left the family home. Their youngest son, Gerwyn Ivor (1895-1962) was living at home, aged 17, and working as a hosier. He joined the 2nd Birmingham Pals in September 1914 and was discharged in July 1917 as unfit for further service following a gunshot wound to the hand sustained in July 1916. He never married, and became a tax official working for the civil service, living in Bewdley.
His brother, Richard, became a regular soldier with the Coldstream Guards, joining the Army on 5th October 1908. He married Margaret Emily Herridge at St Michael’s Church, Camberley, Surrey on 27th July 1912, and they had two sons – Richard John (1913-1999) and Victor Gerwyn (1915-1988). Margaret remarried after her husband’s death, marrying regular soldier, Private Samuel Poulter, 15th Hussars, in Frimley, Surrey in 1917.
Richard is buried at Landrecies Communal Cemetery, France. He is not commemorated locally on Shirley War Memorial, presumably because of the family having moved away from the area more than ten years earlier.
If you have any further information about the family, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
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