Welcome to my blog......

The purpose of this blog is to remember the fallen heroes of the Great War, whose names are recorded on the memorial plaque situated in St Barnabas Church, New Whittington, Chesterfield.

To mark the centenary of World War 1 I aim to research all of the men on the memorial. I hope to ensure that the brave men who gave their lives for their country 100 years ago are remembered and each man's story told.

I would love to hear from anyone who may have information regarding the men; photos, letters or passed down memories. Any descendents are most welcome to contact me and I will provide copies of the research that I have undertaken.

"They shall not grow old, as we that are left to grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them"

For The Fallen,
Laurence Binyon September 1914.

Monday, 20 October 2014

ARTHUR JAMES MITCHELL



Arthur James Mitchell

Private 9580

2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters Regiment

Killed In Action - 20th October 1914

 
 
Arthur James Mitchell was the first of the 85 men named on the St Barnabas Memorial to lose their lives during World War 1.  Here is the story of Arthur's life, his family and his war service.
 
Arthur was the eldest son of William and Lucy Mitchell.  He was born in 1884 at Morton in Derbyshire. 
The Mitchell family did not originate from Derbyshire though; William was born in Cockfield, Suffolk in around 1854, the son of James and Mary Ann Mitchell.  The move to Derbyshire took place sometime in between 1871 and 1875. In 1871 William was still living at home with his parents, the main employment in the village was agricultural labour.  May be William sought more from life than working the land and took his chance on finding employment in Derbyshire.
 
By 1875 William had certainly begun life’s adventure; he met and married Lucy Cooper at St John’s Church, Staveley nr Chesterfield on 17th May 1875.
Lucy was also new to these parts, her mother and father Sarah and John Cooper had moved here from Shefford in Bedfordshire after the 1871 census.  William Mitchell and Lucy’s father John had one thing in common; they worked in the coal mining industry.

On the 1881 census John Cooper and his family were still living in Staveley at 10 Devonshire Terraces.  William and Lucy Mitchell had moved home again and now lived in Blackwell at 224 Primrose Hill.  There were no children to the young couple at this time, but a few years on in 1884 came their son Arthur James Mitchell, taking his paternal grandfathers name James as his middle name.
By 1888 the Mitchell family had moved to New Whittington.  Another son named William Henry was born in New Whittington in the year 1888. 
Not long after a sister for Arthur and William to play with was born; Lucy was baptised on 23rd October 1890.  In 1891 the family were living on South Street in New Whittington.  Arthur was at school aged 7 years old.  His father William was still working down the pits as a coal miner.
Two more sisters followed over the coming years, one named Edith was born in 1892, she was baptised on 3rd November 1892. Rose Ellen was born on 17th November 1894, she was baptised on 21st December 1894.  George evened out the numbers and another brother for Arthur was born on 17th August 1899.  George was baptised on 14th September 1899.
The 1901 census see’s the Mitchell family settled with their six children living at 87 South Street.  The eldest Arthur was now 17 years old and worked as a coal miner as was his father William.  The youngest child was George aged just 6 years old.
At some time over the next few years Arthur decided that he too should seek adventure and broaden his horizons.  We know from his obituary that he was a reservist when he was remobilised to serve with the 2nd Battalion Sherwood Forester’s in those early months of World War 1.
 
As a reservist Arthur would have already served with the colours, meaning that he had served his seven years army service.  His army number of 9580 indicates that he joined some time in 1904. As he is recorded as living in New Whittington on the 1911 census which was taken on 2nd April; then he probably joined in the months of January, February or March to have fulfilled his 7 years with the colours and be released by April 1911.  On his enlistment he would have signed for 12 years’ service; 7 years with the colours and 5 years as a reserve soldier.

Unfortunately service records do not exist for Arthur but looking at the two Sherwood Forest Regiments movements for those years he may have seen action in the following places -

1st Battalion –

1904 Singapore

1906 Bangalor

1909 Secunderabad

 

2nd Battalion –

 

1904 Aldershot

1907 Kinsale

1909 Fermoy

1910 Plymouth
 
 
On completion of his 7 years’ service Arthur returned to New Whittington, he was now back in civilian life, knowing that if his country needed him he may be called back up to serve.   On the 1911 census he was aged 27 years old and had returned to work as a coal miner.  The family still live at 87 South Street, nothing much had changed.  Two of Arthur’s sisters were not at home; Lucy would now be 21 years old.  Her name has been written on the census but then a line crossed through it.  I have not found her on any other census return for that year so it does look like she may well have normally been living at home.  Lucy’s crossed out name may well have been an act of rebellion on behalf of the women’s suffrage movement that was popular at this time.  Lucy could very well have crossed through her own name on the census return as a protest if she was a suffragette; no vote, no information for the government!
Edith was aged 18 years old and worked as a domestic servant for the Woodcock family; the head named William was a mechanical engineering draughtsman.  The house was a seven roomed home at number 516 Chatsworth Road.  Edith would have been a busy girl with all those rooms to attend to. 
 
Happy times came in 1913 when the wedding bells were rung at Edith’s marriage to Herbert William Woodland.  Herbert would add some colour to the Mitchell family with his Welsh tongue; he was born in Barry, Glamorgan, Wales.  Herbert had come to New Whittington to work in the mines; in 1911 he was living at 85 Stone Row, High Street, New Whittington with his family.  The couple tied the knot on 25th December 1913 at St Bartholomew’s Church in Old Whittington. 
 
I would like to think that Arthur and his family had a joyful day as they celebrated not only Christmas but the marriage of his younger sister on that day in 1913.  This would be the last Christmas that the family would share, the last Christmas for many years to come where the country was at peace.  Let’s hope that for the Mitchell family it was a wonderful day which gave them all happy memories to hold on to in the coming years.
1914 dawned and with it came expectations of joy for the Mitchell family; Rose Ellen Mitchell was to marry in the spring months and Edith and Herbert Woodland were expecting their first child, the first grandchild for William and Lucy.  Arthur was to be an Uncle very shortly.  A baby girl was born on 15th May 1914, named Lucy after her Grandmother. 
Rose Ellen married the local postman, a Scottish chap by the name of James Craig.  Their marriage was registered in the April of 1914. 
Only week’s later events that shook the world would change the lives of the Mitchell family forever.  Arthur was probably listening intently to the news and was fully aware that he would be called upon to serve for his King and Country once more.  England declared war on Germany at 11pm on 4th August 1914.
On that same day the 2nd Battalion Sherwood Forester Regiment were ordered to start to mobilise; this was commenced on 5th August at Sheffield.  On 6th August 350 reservists arrived from the depot.  Arthur may have been one of these men.  At this time the 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters were stationed in India.

James Craig the husband of Rose Ellen was also to enlist in the months that followed; he arrived in France on 31st August 1914 with the 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders.
Edith’s husband Herbert Woodland enlisted with Lincolnshire Regiment at Sutton In Ashfield on 2nd September 1914.  He entered the theatre of war 9 months later after completing his basic training arriving in France on 16th June 1915.
In a few months the Mitchell family had seen three of its members leave for war sons, husbands and fathers.  Wives and sisters left to cope and await their letters and news. 
 
 


Arthurs War....
On the 8th August the battalion took the train to Edinburgh to Piershill Barracks where they remained until they took up camp at Holyrood Park on 12th August.  The stay in Scotland was short and on 14th August the battalion set off again to Cambridge.  Their camp was on Midsummer Common.  On the 19th August the battalion received 17 more men which took them up to war strength.  Of the men who had remobilised 11 were found to be unfit for service and returned to Sheffield the next day.  Another 5 men were sent from Sheffield on 22nd August to replace those found to be unfit.
Arthur and his battalion remained in Cambridge making preparations for battle until 7th September when they marched to Newmarket from where they boarded a train destined for Southampton.  Once at Southampton Arthur boarded the S.S Georgian which would take the battalion on to the B.E.F.  The war diary tells how conditions on this ship were not very good; it had been fitted out to transport horses and so there was little accommodation for the men.  Even the officers were forced to sleep on deck but luckily the weather was reported as “fine and sea smooth”.
They spent one day at sea and reached the port of St Nazaire at 5am on 10th September.  The sheer numbers of ships and men arriving in the harbour necessitated that the men on S.S Georgian remain on board until about 11pm on the 11th September when the trains to transport the men finally arrived.  It was a slow process of disembarkation and they were forced to leave some carts and wagons behind due to lack of space on the transport.  But eventually at 1.45pm on 12th September they set off, reaching the town of Coulommiers at 7pm on 13th September.  We can only imagine how exhausted Arthur and his fellow comrades would have felt during this long and ardius journey from England to join the B.E.F.
Another local man from New Whittington would share that same journey with Arthur; George Henry Mears was also a reservist serving with the 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters. 
The war that would be over for Christmas was already looking like it was to be a bloody battle, one which the British Army was ill prepared for.  Only 2 weeks earlier on 23rd August the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F) had been forced to retreat at Mons, a humiliating defeat for British pride.
What would Arthur be thinking as he set out on his journey? He was older now and had already experienced army life; this earned Arthur and his comrades the nick name of “the old contemptibles”.  These professional soldiers would soon have the Germans brought to heal, they would save poor little Belgium and bring peace to their lives once more.
During the remaining two weeks of September Arthur would march many miles taking in the villages of Dove, Chateau Thierry, Parcy-Tigny, Chacrise and Dhuizel.  The weather was bad, the rain heavy and the roads were sludgy from the large amounts of heavy transport which was driving by.  Despite the terrible marching conditions and spending the evenings billeted in various farms along the way the 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters were to receive great praise from General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien the distinguished veteran soldier.  When they met with him Dhuizel on 18th September “the battalion filed past him in splendid order at the end of their long days march”.  The General praised their marching stating “he had not seen any marching so good in the expeditionary force”.  The men were said to have been “delighted” to have received such praise. 
The raised spirits were needed as a few hours later at 3am on 19th September the battalion received their first call to arms.  Heavy musket fire had been heard in the distance.  They crossed the River Aisne by a pontoon bridge at Bourg, stayed their long enough to have breakfast then set off again towards Vendresse ending at Troyon to take over from the Black Watch in the trenches.  They were relieved that night by the Gloucester Regiment. 
 
On the 20th September it was seen that the Germans had taken over the trenches to right of the B.E.F line, these trenches were important to the defence of the other trenches and so an attack was made by the battalion to retake the trenches.  Arthur may have witnessed the Germans marching away members of the B.E.F who would now be prisoners of war.  The battalions attack was met by heavy machine gun fire by the German army.  The trenches were taken back by the battalion however there were losses.
Arthur had survived the first battle he was to fight during the Great War.  It is not known if he was wounded.  The war diary noted that “all ranks behaved splendidly”.
The battalion remained in the trenches until they were relieved by the East Yorkshire Regiment on 22nd September.  They had been under heavy gun fire from the Germans throughout this entrenchment period.  On relief they moved back to the reserve trenches at Troyon.
From the reserve trenches they were able to account for the wounded and losses over the dates from the 20th, 21st and 22nd September –
Officers – 5 killed 8 wounded
Other ranks - 44 killed 165 wounded
After a mere two days rest the battalion relived the East Yorkshire Regiment in the taken trenches.  After another day of heavy shell fire they were relieved and set of marching to the town of Pargnan.  They arrived around 2.30 am to find the town was being shelled by the enemy.  During the march more men were wounded and a note in the diary states “a very long trying day”.
On 28th September the battalion were stationed at Moullins.  A tragic accident occurred when Private 9428 T Goode was accidently shot by a sentry guard.  He was buried in Moullins Churchyard.
October followed much as did September with Arthur and his comrades spending their time marching on and relieving in the trenches.  On 18th October the battalion marched from Fleurbaix travelling through the villages until they reached Ennettieres where they relieved the Durham Light Infantry.  At around 9pm the enemy began their bombardment of rifle and shell fire.    They remained in their positions on the 19ththe enemy’s rifles being very active”.
On the night of the 19th into the 20th October the men were employed in improving their trenches keeping their communications active, which was said to have been “considerably interfered with by the enemy’s fire”
The bombardment and attack was carried on more heavily from daybreak and at around 7.10 it was reported that the battalion headquarters in the village had been shelled.  The Germans were gradually surrounding the position of the 18th Brigade.  Until eventually the enemy took hold of the right flank.  The B.E.F continued to fight and hold their position until 7pm that night when it was realised that they had been totally surrounded Captain Wilkin, his 10 officers and 484 men were to surrender and became prisoners of war.  Many of those 484 men would also be wounded.
The regimental history of the Sherwood Foresters states “not one of the trenches held by the 2nd Foresters was taken by direct attack, except some of those on the extreme right flank which were occupied by platoons out of sight of one another – five of these covering some 1500 yards of front”. 

It is also noted how immensely outnumbered the B.E.F was on those 48 hours of attack.  The registers and rolls of the men were lost when the battalion headquarters was shelled so it is difficult to state exactly how many men suffered during those two days but the numbers are estimated in the regimental history as -

Officers – 3 killed, 3 wounded, 10 captured
 
Non-commissioned officers and men – 610 missing and killed, 100 wounded
 
Other ranks – 484 captured, 126 killed and wounded
 
Brigadier General Congreve wrote two days later of the battalion’s service, they “had done exceedingly well all day; it was just worn out and overwhelmed by superior numbers"

Arthur’s war was now over, the Mitchell family were to hear of their first loss and in fact this was the first death of those 85 men who are remembered on the St Barnabas Memorial.
Arthur can be remembered for the brave sacrifice he gave during an extremely difficult and outnumbered period of WW1.  He helped protect the Bridge over the River Aisne in France which was crucial to the B.E.F’s future manouvres. 
 
Arthur has no known grave; his date of death is given as 20th October 1914.  He is remembered on Panel 7 at the Ploegstreet Memorial in Belgium.  He was aged 31 years old.
 
He was awarded the Victory, British, 14 Star and clasp for his service.
Life went on…
William and Lucy Mitchell were told of Arthur’s death from a friend who also lived in the village of New Whittington.  She was the wife of Sergeant Magness who was also serving with the 2nd Battalion Sherwood Forester Regiment.  He sent the sad news home on a postcard to her, asking that she pass the news on to William and Lucy.
The town’s local newspaper the Derbyshire Times dated 14th November 1914 p4 announced the death, no photo was published.
“NEW WHITTINGTON SOLDIER KILLED –
 
Information reached Whittington last weekend that one of our soldiers had fallen at the front.  The victim is Arthur Mitchell who resided with his parents in South Street, New Whittington.
 
Mitchell was 31 years of age, a reservist and belonged to the Notts & Derbys Reg.
The sad intelligence was conveyed by postcard sent by Corporal Magness of the same regiment to his wife at Whittington and asked that Mitchells parents should be told of his death”
New Whittington would spend the coming years receiving messages similar to the postcard sent to Mrs Magness.  The Derbyshire Times would become a place of notification of these deaths, missing in action and of course some promotions and acts of bravery were also mentioned. 
 
The Mitchell Families Future...
Rose Ellen and her husband James Craig were proud to announce the birth of their little son in 1914.  He was named James G Craig.  Sadly this happiness was again over to soon as James was also killed in action on 18th June 1915.  The story of James will be told on that date in 2015.
Edith and Herbert Woodland bore another daughter named Edith she was born on 21st February 1916.  Herbert survived the war but unfortunately tragedy struck again for the Mitchell family when Edith his wife died in 1918.  She would leave Herbert with two toddlers to look after on his return from war service.  Herbert went on to marry Emma Cartledge in 1919.  He died in 1953.
William Henry the eldest Mitchell son married Lucy Jane Woodland in 1919.  Lucy Jane was the sister of Herbert Woodland.  They had four children - William J 1919, George 1921, Edith 1924 and Arthur 1926.  Were these two children named after their deceased Aunts and Uncle; Edith and Arthur?
William Henry I am afraid also came to a tragic end.  The Derbyshire Times reported that on 27th June 1928 he was cycling along Sheffield Road near to the junction of Hardwick Street when two lorries swerved to avoid a collision with each other.  William was hit by the lorries and died of his wounds.  His wife Lucy Jane sued the companies and was awarded £600 damages for her and her four children in 1929. 
What became of Lucy and George Mitchell I have not been able to confirm at this time. 
Arthurs parents Lucy and William saw a great deal of sadness in their lives, William died in 1929 Lucy in 1932.
 
Please feel free to add comments by clicking on the little pen icon at the bottom of the screen.
If you have more information on the Mitchell family I would love to hear from you and add to this post.

 
 
With thanks to -
Members of the WW1 Forum for all their expert advise when I have needed it http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/
Mike Briggs for the pages of the Regimental History of the 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters.
Reference and further reading -
Census
Medal Rolls
Service Records
Newspaper articles - Derbyshire Times
The Long Long Trail http://www.1914-1918.net