15/1031 Sergeant Arthur Bowsher Ward, 15th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment
Photo courtesy of East Kent Gazette
Arthur Bowsher (his mother’s maiden name) Ward, a resident of Rodmersham Green, near Sittingbourne in Kent, was the second son of Arthur Ward and Josephine Mary Bowsher. He trained at Leeds as a teacher before following his parents in to the teaching profession and was in Leeds at the start of the First World War in 1914. He was, however, born at Wigston Magna, Leicestershire on 6 December 1891 and his mother came from Kendal, Westmoreland. They had a nomadic life as teachers.
In 1901 the family were living in the village of Rodmersham Green, Kent and consisted of Arthur (father, born at Howden Yorkshire 7 January 1872), Josephine Mary Bowsher (mother, born 20 April 1873 and died 26 August 1946 at Kendal) and brother Harold Tully who was born on 29 December 1895 at Sheerness, Kent and died in London in 1939. His parents were married on 20 May 1891 at Kendal, Westmoreland and his father was listed as an Elementary Schoolmaster. By 1911 his father was now headmaster at the elementary school in the village of Rodmersham Green, Kent where his mother was an assistant teacher, as was Arthur Bowsher who was just 19, and they were still resident at Rodmersham Green. Arthur Bowsher went to Borden Grammar School on winning a Kent County scholarship and afterwards proceeded to the City of Leeds Training College, followed by an appointment to St Hilda’s School, under the Leeds Education Committee. On the outbreak of war he patriotically joined the City of Leeds Pals Battalion.
Arthur only served with the Leeds Pals for about 11 months and trained with them at Colsterdale in Yorkshire; he was described as being 5ft 8½in tall, with a fair complexion, light brown hair and blue eyes. However, he did not deploy with the Pals on operations in Egypt or to France and therefore missed the slaughter of the Leeds Pals at Serre on 1 July 1916. He was an ‘Original’ Leeds Pal having enlisted in the 15th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment (the 1st City Battalion) on 23 September 1914 and was given the number 15/1031. Promoted to Corporal on 27 January 1915, he was posted to the 19th Battalion (a training unit) on 23 July 1915. He gained further promoted to Lance Sergeant on 15 August 1915 and later that year to Acting Sergeant. Arthur remained with the training unit when it became the 88th Training Reserve Battalion and was given a new number of TR5/72019. On 1 December 1916 he was attached to a Cadet Battalion at Oxford before commissioning into the 3rd Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment as a Second Lieutenant on 27 March 1917. He moved to the 8th Battalion and entered the ‘Theatre of War’ in France on 1 May 1918.
Arthur Bowsher Ward was killed in action near Beaumont-Hamel at 5.15pm on 15 August 1918 while serving with the 1st Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, attached from the 8th Battalion. At the time he was Signalling Officer working with the battalion headquarters staff. In a letter to his parents the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel F L Du Moulin described Arthur’s last moments: ‘As we had been on the go since the midnight of the previous day everyone was pretty tired. The enemy had been shelling us furiously all the time. At 2pm we …… were resting in a shell hole after partaking of a scratch meal. Later in the afternoon, being worn out, your son ….. lay down to snatch a few minutes sleep. At 5.10pm a couple of Boche aeroplanes were circling overhead ….. when a 5.9 shell landed right in our trench, about 6ft from where your son was dozing. Poor fellow, he was killed instantly.’ He then went on to express his sympathy to the family.
Arthur was buried in a temporary grave in France close to where he died but was relocated in 1920 to the Ancre British Cemetery, Beaumont-Hamel, grave VIII C3. His parents at the time were living at Hoveden, Stockers Hill, Rodmersham. For his service he was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal, and his family received a Bronze Memorial Plaque and scroll. By 1939 Arthur and Josephine had retired to 4 Kentrigg, Kendall and were living with William Edgar, also a schoolmaster, and his family.
Sue Shiels and Historical Research Group of Sittingbourne – Obituary and Photograph (courtesy of East Kent Gazette)
The National Archives (TNA) – Officers Service Record
Ancestry (Online) – Army Service Record, Medal records, Effects Register, Birth and Census registers
Findmypast – 1939 Register
Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) – Cemetery Registers
Researcher: David J Owen
- All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
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