On 18th February 1915, 44-year-old Major Arthur Joseph Clay died of pneumonia at Harpenden, whilst serving with the 2nd/6th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment. Born on 29th April 1870 at Burton-on-Trent, he was the eldest son of Charles John Clay, barrister at law and Managing Director of Bass Brewery. Arthur’s mother, Agnes Lucy (née Arden) died in 1874, leaving four sons under the age of five. When Arthur was 13, his father married again, and went on to have two daughters with his second wife.
Arthur attended Harrow School and New College, Oxford. He was gazetted Second Lieutenant with the 2nd Volunteer Battalion Prince of Wales’s (North Staffordshire Regiment) in February 1893, and rose to the rank of Captain before resigning his commission in advance of the merger of volunteer units in 1908 to create the Territorial Force. He became a Director of Messrs. Bass, Ratcliffe and Gretton, a Director of the Gordon Hotels and was one of the principal promoters of the Motor Industry in Burton-on-Trent.
The Harrow Memorials of the Great War reports that on the outbreak of the First World War,
“he immediately offered his services and resumed his Captaincy in the 6th (Reserve) Battalion, in the raising of which he showed great energy. He died of pneumonia, at Harpenden, whilst on duty with his Regiment.”
His three younger brothers, Gerard, Ernest and Wilfred, erected a plaque in his memory in St Nicholas’s Church, Harpenden. They had all served in the Army – Gerard in the Boer War, and Ernest and Wilfred in the First World War. Arthur is buried in the churchyard at All Saints, Newborough, Staffordshire.
The link with Solihull is that Arthur Clay was a member of the prestigious Woodmen of Arden archery club, and is commemorated on the club’s memorial at Forest Hall, Meriden.
If you have any more information about Arthur Clay and the Woodmen of Arden, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
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