Arthur Frederick Hastings Kelk, MC
Private, The Leeds Pals, 2/Lt 14th Battalion The Welsh Regiment
From The Sphere, 1917
Arthur Frederick Hastings Kelk, known to his family as ‘Fred’, volunteered for the Leeds Pals on 4th September 1914, the day recruiting started. He gave his address as St. Margaret’s Vicarage, Cardigan Road, Leeds, his father, Rev. Arthur Hastings Kelk, being the vicar of the church of St. Margaret of Antioch, which lay alongside of the vicarage. Arthur was in fact the first vicar here, taking over the vicarage in 1897, the year before the church, initially an iron building, was built. The vicarage, however, was an old Georgian house, and like many vicarages of this period, was very large, to accommodate large families, of which the Kelk’s was no exception.
Arthur Kelk had married Elizabeth Ann Watson, known as Bessie, in 1890, in Jerusalem, he being at the time chaplain in Beirut (spelled Beyrout on contemporary documents). Their first child, Fred, was born in Beirut in 1892, and that same year the family returned to England and Arthur to a curacy in Sheffield, which he held for one year before moving to Northallerton. Here the next two children, Grace and Charles, were born, the other three, Margaret, William and Edith, being born after the move to Burley, and too late for the 1901 Census.
Fred does not appear on this census either, having been sent to The Mount School, Northallerton. But later that year, 1901, he moved to the Grammar School at Leeds, where he stayed until 1910, when he was eighteen. On the next census he is listed as a student, having gone up to Cambridge, following his father to Magdalene College. He may have been intending to follow him into the church, this being regarded at the time as a family profession like many others, and no longer somewhere to dump the youngest son. He graduated with a BA degree, just in time for the war.
Fred’s service records have not survived and facts are sparse, but according to his great niece he joined the Pals as a private and didn’t wish to be an officer. But after a few months he was persuaded, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Welsh Regiment, and it is only this that appears on his medal card and death record. With this regiment he went to France, landing on 14th February 1916, so presumably the time up to then was spent in training. In July he was wounded in a bomb accident, sadly quite a common occurrence with the early grenades, and invalided home. He returned in September, and two months later was awarded the Military Cross, for gallant conduct during a trench raid on the night of 17/18 November. Four months later he was killed by a machine gun bullet just below the heart whilst out wiring in front of the trench at about 1 am on 9th March 1917. As recorded in the letter to his father by Major Montgomery, “it was a very light moonlit night and everything seemed very quiet — the enemy must have observed the party, for he turned on a machine gun, and your son was hit. His death was instantaneous and he can have felt no pain”.
Fred is buried in Bard Cottage Cemetery, West Vlandeeren, Belgium. He was subsequently awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, and his name is recorded on the memorials of Leeds Grammar School and Magdalene College. His younger brother Charles Kingston Kelk also volunteered but joined the Yorkshire Regiment, and it was as a Lieutenant here that he was captured in May 1918 and held as a POW at Stralsund-Dähnholm Camp, from where he was repatriated in December 1918.
Ancestry – Medal records, Census records
Free BMD – marriage records
CWGC – Death records
Researcher: Peter Taylor
- All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
- Please refer to our Glossary of Terms for further information on the terms and phrases used in this post.