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Arthur Farnworth was born in Bolton in 1890 the son of Robert, a clay moulder and Mary Ann (nee Greenwood). He had three sisters Mary Alice, Ada and the younger Clarice. In 1901 the family were living at 53 Oxford Road, Lostock near Horwich.

All the children worked in the cotton industry of Horwich. Arthur was initially a quilt weaver and later became a spinner at the Victoria Mills in the town.
By 1911 the family had moved down the road to No 37, the father had taken up work as a night watchman at the cotton mill, the two older girls had grown, married and left home.

Arthur aged 23 married Polly Hollowell 21 a cotton weaver at Fall Birch Wesleyan Chapel, Horwich on 3rd May 1913 by the Rev George Allcock. Polly had come from a large family of children and lived on Victoria Road Horwich. Her mother had given birth to twin boys in 1897, the newlyweds were to have their own twin sons Norman (1913-78) and Robert (1913-77) born a month later on 24th June 1913.

After the marriage they lived at 5 Whitworth Street, Horwich and at the start of hostilities in 1914 the 5’5” tall Arthur enlisted for three years short service on 31st August 1914 he was then 24 years and 240 days old, his stated occupation was as a labourer and his religious denomination as Wesleyan.

He commenced military training whilst the battalion was at Tidworth in December 1914 moving onto Whitchurch in March 1915. He was promoted to lance corporal (paid) on 27th March 1915 and landed at Boulogne France on 17th July 1915 with the 7th battalion, part of the 56th Brigade of the 19th Division.

On arrival in France they marched to Vielle Chapelle here they were attached to the Sirhind Brigade part of the Lahore Division, where they were trained in a variety of methods. They had practical instruction in the use of Trench Mortars, bombing, how to sight loopholes and sandbag revetments amongst many other lessons they would need over the coming months. The officers practiced with their revolvers, Arthur would eventually spend 16 months at the front.

At the start of the Somme offensive 1st July 1916 the battalion had moved from their positions on the Tara Usna line near Albert for their push on Ovillers, but their attack had been cancelled at the last minute and they retired back to the Tara Usna line. For the rest of the British and allied army involved they had not been so lucky. The day had started with the explosion of a series of deep mines under the enemy front line, but by the end of the day the allies had suffered nearly 60,000 casualties 19,000 of which were fatalities.

On the 3rd July the battalion had moved into the trenches at La Boiselle to find them ‘knocked about and filled with dead’, they were then busy utilised for burial detail in order to clear their new trenches.

Arthur for his own reasons whatever they were, reverted back to private at his own request on 16th July 1916.

The Somme offensive continued after the disastrous first day and by the 17th July 1916 the battalion was practicing for their next attack. On the 19th July they were in the trenches at Bazentin-Le-Petit, they had been continuously shelled and had taken casualties. Their attack on the enemy line after they went over the top had been only a partial success.

At 00.15 hrs on the 23rd July ‘B’ and ‘D’ companies attacked the enemy line, followed by ‘C ‘company at 00.45 then ‘A’ company at 01.00. As they approached the enemy they had been met by heavy machine gun fire and only a few men had managed to enter a small part enemy trench system and not enough to hold on and consolidate and the battalion were forced to withdraw. On the 24th July they were rested at Mametz Wood, they had suffered 11 officer and 290 other rank casualties in the last four days of fighting.

In October the battalion was in the trenches around Thiepval and the Leipzig Redoubt. In November they were around Aveluy and on 14th November 1916 Lt Nightingale was ordered to take just one company for a raid on the enemy trenches. The raid started at 06.15hrs, the remaining company with 5 prisoners returned at 07.50hrs but had taken 1 officer and 16 other rank casualties.

On his Medal Index card and his service file, Arthur is shown as having died of wounds on the 20th November 1916, the 7th battalion War Diary show no casualties for the 20th November or any of the days immediately before. The closest casualties’ to the date was the above raid on the enemy line the week previously.

He is also shown by the C.W.G.C. site as having died on this day and buried at St Sever Extension Military Cemetery, Rouen (Grave Ref: 0 II Q3). Around this large city, were situated the Base Military Hospitals and cemeteries.

Without any further evidence it is difficult to say with any certainty when and where Arthur received the wounds that would ultimately lead to him being taken to one of the main base hospitals and his ultimate sacrifice.

A small article on him together with his photograph appeared in the Bolton Journal & Guardian of Friday 24th November 1916:

His wife Polly asked for the following sentiment to be engraved upon the headstone: “Gone, but to memory ever dear wife and children” The soldiers effects returned to his family consisted of two unopened letters.

For his war service he was posthumously awarded the 1914-15 star on 30th January 1920, the British War Medal 4th October 1921 and the Victory Medal 17th November 1926, his wife as next of kin would have also taken delivery of the Memorial Plaque commemorating his death.

Garry Farmer
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