23-year-old Second Lieutenant Arthur George Ansell, 1st Field Survey Company, Royal Engineers, died of gas poisoning in No. 8 Red Cross Hospital, Boulogne, France on 25th April 1918, after being gassed at Passchendaele. He was the eldest of the three children of parents Arthur John (an agent for the Prudential Assurance Company at Solihull) and Emma (née Lynes) who had married in Notting Hill in 1893. Arthur John Ansell was a widower – his first wife, Kate Purvey (1867-1892) had died in childbirth in 1892, after just one year of marriage.
Arthur John Ansell’s daughter from his first marriage – Kate Purvey Ansell – was born at Cheshire Workhouse on 27th January 1892. Her father’s occupation was recorded as grocer’s assistant.
The first two children of the second marriage were born in Haywards Heath, Sussex in 1894 and 1897. By 1901, the family had moved to Leamington Spa, before moving to Erdington by 1911, and then to “Liscard”, New Road, Solihull by 1918.
Arthur and his younger brother Percy Raymond (1897-1972) were educated at Solihull Grammar School as day boys, with Arthur joining the school in 1906. During 1912, his final year at the school, Arthur was the editor of the school magazine, The Shenstonian.
In 1912 he gained one of the exhibitions founded by Sir William Lancaster for sons of members of the staff of the Prudential Company, of £160 per year, tenable for four years at Oxford or Cambridge. He elected to go to Cambridge, and entered Trinity College where, in addition to his exhibition, he gained a college scholarship. At Cambridge he obtained a first class in the Natural Science Tripos in 1915 and was to have returned to Cambridge after the war.
He was commissioned Temporary Second Lieutenant with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in August 1915, but was then transferred to the Machine Gun Corps, and then the Royal Engineers Field Survey Section. He went to France in August 1916.
He is buried at Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, and is commemorated locally on Solihull School war memorial, as well as on Solihull war memorial.
His brother, Percy Raymond Ansell (1897-1972) also joined the Armed Forces, being commissioned Second Lieutenant with the Royal Field Artillery in April 1919. Raymond, as he was known, was a gifted mathematician and, after taking the highest honours in Mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge, he returned to Solihull School in 1924 as Assistant Master, given the nickname “Swatty” Ansell. He remained at the school for the next 48 years, and a tribute from the Headmaster after his death in 1972, described him as a “truly remarkable man… an outstanding scholar… with a prodigious brain and an astonishing memory, but he was equally outstanding as a teacher.” He was a form master of Shell A for the whole of his teaching career, and he was a fine footballer and talented cricketer. After giving up playing sport, he turned to mountain walking, and there is a Lake District memorial to him on Barrow.
The boys’ sister, Dorothy May (born 23rd February 1902) also became a certificated teacher, and was Assistant Mistress at Penrhos, Colwyn Bay 1924-25, before returning to Solihull and working as a private pianoforte teacher. In 1939, she was living at 483 Streetsbrook Road with her parents, and her brother, Raymond. She married John E. W. Payne in 1947.
If you have any further information on the family, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977
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