Affetside Village

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Pte Arthur Aspinall

No. 281862, 2nd/7th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers

Arthur Aspinall was born in 1898 in Blackburn, Lancashire. He was the sixth child of William T Aspinall and Hannah Aspinall (nee Fearnley). Both his parents were originally from Derbyshire and were married on the 15th February 1882 in Glossop, Derbyshire with Hannah being 5 years younger than William. After their marriage the coupled moved around a lot. Arthur’s fathers’ profession is indicated as a “Professor of Music” and living on his own accord  (this would likely place him as a freelance musician or music teacher, and not as an academic). In 1884 they were living in New Mills, Cheshire, which is about 10 miles south of Glossop. In 1886 they were living at Strines, Cheshire which is about 5 miles to the north west of New Mills. In 1889 they were living at Shaw in Lancashire, which is about 20 miles to the north east of Strines. 

Several months prior to April 1891 Arthur’s family had moved to Blackburn, Lancashire and were living at 83 London Road, Blackburn. This was a brick built 2 bedroom terraced house, typically found in Northern mill towns such as Blackburn and was common in the area. On the 16th of January Arthur was born and he was baptised on the 13th February 1898 at St Thomas’s Church, Lambeth Street, Blackburn. The church was demolished in 1977 after having stood for 111 years and was approximately a mile and a half from the family home on London Road.

In the 1901 Census, when  Arthur was three years old, his family were living at No. 6 Deal Street to the north of Blackburn town centre. The house was similar to the one on London Road and a mass constructed, brick built terrace. It was amongst other streets named from types of tree. The house would have been relatively new as the map of the time shows Deal Street to be partially built.

Map from around 1900 with No 6, Deal Street highlighted in red
Typical terraced house of the period for this area

By the 1911 Census, Arthur, now aged 13 and attending Affetside School, and his family were living at The Pack Horse Inn at Affetside. William, his father, now aged 52 has his occupation listed as Innkeeper.

Enlisting with the Lancashire Fusiliers

The minimum age for enlistment as a soldier during the 1914 –  1918 war was 18 years of age. At the outbreak of war volunteers were required, but by January 1916 the Military Service Act was passed through Parliament which imposed conscription on all single men aged between 18 and 41, although certainly occupations were exempt.

Arthur would have turned 18 years of age in January of 1916 and thus became eligible for military service. The local Regiment was the Lancashire Fusiliers who had a large barracks in Bury, Lancashire, and Arthur enlisted in Bury in May of 1916 and was placed into the 2/7th Battalion. Army Service No. 281862 and he held the rank of Private.

Battalion History

The 2/7th Battalion, Lancashire Fusilliers was raised at Salford in August 1914 as a home service (second line) unit of the Territorial Force. They then moved to Mossborough, near St Helens, Lancashire. The 2/8th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers was also formed at Mossborough. On the 8th of February 1915 they joined 197th Brigade, 66th (2nd East Lancashire) Division at Southport.

During 1915 those men who had not volunteered for service abroad were transferred to other home service units and the battalion prepared for overseas service. They trained at Crowborough, East Sussex in May, moving to Tunbridge Wells in October and then moving to Hyderabad Barracks, Colchester, Essex in March 1916 where they took over defence of the East Coast in that area.

It is likely that Arthur joined them whilst they were based at Colchester. The Battalion proceeded to France, landing at Le Havre on the 28th of February 1917. They were in action during The Operations on the Flanders Coast (Operation Hush) and The Battle of Pilckem Ridge, The Battle of Menin Road Ridge,  The Battle of Poelcapelle

In 1918 they saw action during The Battle of St Quentin, The Actions at the Somme Crossings, The Battle of Rosieres. Due to heavy losses they were withdrawn in April 1918, although the Divisional Artillery and 541 Company ASC of the Divisional Train remained in action.

The Division was reduced to a training cadre and on the 30th June 1918 they returned to England, transferring to 74th Brigade, 25th Division and moved to Aldershot.

On the 9th of July the 2nd/7th Battalion was disbanded and reformed as the 24th Battalion.

Battalion War Diary

From reading the 2nd/7th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, War Diaries for the period we can see that Arthurs Battalion landed at La Harve on the French coast in February 1917 and by March 1917 they were on the front line undertaking trench warfare around the small village of Givenchy (les la Bassee), which is situated north of Arras and south of Lens and adjacent to the canal of Pas de Calais.

The diary notes various point such as times of patrols, German shell fire, sandbag filling, clearing trenches and installation of barbed wire.

Diary page noting the death of Arthur Aspinall on 27.3.17 at 10:30am
27th March 1917

02:00 – We exploded MINE opposite J SAP, at the same time artillery put barrage down for 4 minutes on the enemy’s front and support line. No enemy retaliation whatever. Trial of new mortar Rocket satisfactory.
10:30 – Casualties: One OTHER RANK killed by “MINNIE”
16:50 – Relieved by 2/8th LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS, moved into RESERVE for 4 days at GORRE. Relief completed by 16:50

From this we can see that Arthur Aspinall was killed in the trenches around Givenchy les la Bassee by artillery fire from a German gun known as “Minnie” at 10:30am. He wasonly 19 years old and was the only casualty in the Battalion on that day. 6 hours later his Battalion were relieved by 2/8th Lancashire Fusiliers and they went to Gorre for 4 days rest.
We can only presume that the shell exploded close to where Arthur was positioned, and not a direct hit as his body was laid to rest in Gorre British Cemetery (Plot ref V11.D.6.)

Trench Map of Givenchy from 1917. (Map ref - 36C.NW1.9A ) Green area indicates area of activity of Arthur's Battalion

The death of Private Arthur Aspinall was reported in the local newspaper, The Bury Times which read

Information has been received by Mr and Mrs Aspinall of 68 Royd Street, Tottington, that their son, Private Arthur Aspinall, of the Lancashire Fusiliers, has been killed in action. Private Aspinall, who joined the army last May, was 19 years of age, and before enlisting was employed at Tottington Printworks, His name is on the roll of honour of the Affetside Congregational Church, where he was a member of the sunday School and Temperance choirs. A brother is in the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, and another in the Loyal North Lancaster Regiment.

Notice from The Bury Times

Private Arthur Aspinall’s remains were interred at Gorre British and Indian Cemetery in northern France.

Gorre is a hamlet 1.5 miles north of Beuvry, and 2.5 miles east of Bethune. The Cemetery is 150 metres from the church in Gorre, to the left of the D72 (Rue de Festubert).

Headstone for the grave of Private Arthur Aspinall, Gorre British & Indian Cemetery. Plot ref VII.D.6.

As Arthur had served overseas he qualified for, and was awarded the Victory Medal and British WWI War Medal as indicated on his medal card. His name and rank would have been inscribed on the rim of the two medals. The two medals, if worn togther, were popularly known at the time as “Mutt & Jeff” from the newspaper cartoon strip of the time.

Arthurs’ Service medals would have been delivered in the post to his next of kin, unlike gallantry awards recognising acts of bravery which were sometimes awarded formally in person. Most service medals were received after the war. Presumably they would later have been passed down through the family.

As Arthur was killed in action his next of kin would have also received a Memorial Plaque and Scroll with the King’s message.

Pte Arthur Aspinall WWI Medal Card
WWI British Victory Medal (obverse & reverse)
WWI British War Medal (obverse & reverse)