Arthur Ward Centenary
1st July 2017

Photo: Ranmoor Church & the War MemorialRemembering Arthur Ward

The Ranmoor Bell Ringer who died in the First World War

Memorial Plaque as it would have originally appeared

by Bob Rae 

John Nash’s painting, Evening Arthur Ward’s enlistment papers
This year marks the centenary of the death of St John’s bell ringer Arthur Ward during the First World War. He was  killed on the Western Front, at Gavrelle, when British troops launched an attack on German defences near the French city of Arras.

Arthur was just 26 when he died on July 1 1917, the youngest of five brothers who all rang at St John’s and one of four Ranmoor ringers who served in the British Army during the War.

Arthur Ward enlisted in the York and Lancaster Regiment and sailed for France in November 1916 to join its 14th Battalion – also know as the 2nd Barnsley Pals.

The Pals had suffered severe casualties earlier in the year in an attack on Serre on the first day of the Somme campaign, at about the same time as Arthur was being mobilised. On June 26 1917, the Battalion was at Sainte Catherine-lès-Arras, to the North West of the city of Arras, before moving east to capture the German-held Cadorna trenches, north of the village of Gavrelle, and Oppy Wood.

The one acre wood, west of the village of the same name, had been fortified and contained many German observation posts, machine-guns and trench-mortars.

An attack on the wood in May had been repulsed with many British casualties, however the new attack, mounted as part of a series of feints intended to simulate threats to the cities of Lens and Lille, proved successful.

According to Jon Cooksey's book on The Barnsley Pals: “At 'zero-hour' on 28th June, the Battalions of the 94th Brigade rose from their trenches under cover of a brief but ferocious artillery barrage and fairly dashed across the one hundred yards of damp and cratered No-Man's-Land.”

By the time the Germans had recovered enough to launch a counter barrage, it was already too late and German counter-attacks were defeated by artillery-fire.

Cooksey continues: “By 1am on the 29th, the 14th Battalion [Ward's Battalion] was well established in 'Cairo Alley' [the name of one of the trenches] and by daybreak the entire stretch of the line was bristling with rifles and Lewis guns, ready for the expected counter-attack, which never came.”

This time, the Barnsley Pals suffered an “unusually low” number of casualties. But one of these was Arthur Ward, who now lies with 3,000 First World War casualties in at ‘Orchard Dump Cemetery’ on the D 919, between the villages of Bailleul-Sire-Berthoult and Arleux-en-Gohelle, to the north-west of Oppy.  A year after suffering heavy losses on the Somme, the Pals had gained the Battle Honour of 'Oppy'.

Arthur was posthumously awarded the British War and Victory Medals, which were given to his mother, along with two discs (probably his military identity discs), a letter, photos, pocket book, religious book, metal mirror, comb and £33 8s and 5d. - around £2,200 today.

Arthur's father, Henry, is thought to have died before him, but he was survived by his two sisters, Elsie and Mary, and his four brothers. Alfred, the eldest, served as a driver with the Sheffield-based 3rd West Riding Royal Field Artillery, which also saw action in France. Maurice, like Arthur, was a Private in the York and Lancaster Regiment, serving in the 4th West Riding Battalion. Two months before Arthur's death, he was reported as Missing In Action in France, but by September he was known to have survived and recorded in Ranmoor ringers' archives as being a Prisoner of War in Germany.

Pictured are War artist John Nash’s painting, Evening, from the Imperial War Museum collection,
showing Oppy Wood after the battle (top left),
Arthur Ward’s enlistment papers(above right), 
and his signature (right).
Arthur Ward's signature

Arthur's grave location plan Commonwealth War Graves Commission Roll Photo: Cadorna Trench  Above:
 Google Map showing area around Arras, France
 (click on marker for name);

 the Orchard Dump Cemetery,  with Arthur's grave,
(Block 7, Row G, No. 6) marked in red;

 his CWGC Certificate;

 and a First World War map showing the trench his unit attacked.

Brothers in Arms - Army and Ranmoor records

Ranmoor Belfry Record, Summer 1917Arthur and his brothers, Alfred and Maurice all served in the First World War, but the first Ranmoor ringer to enlist was Edward Cockey, who joined the 12th (Sheffield City) Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment in July 1914.

Maurice and Arthur Ward followed him, with Arthur enlisting in the York and Lancaster Regiment in December 1915 and being mobilised in June the following year, serving in the 15th Battalion and then being sent to the 3rd Battalion in Sunderland.

Edward returned to Sheffield in April 1917 after being wounded and discharged from the Army. Maurice, who was in the York and Lancaster 4th Regiment's West Riding Battalion, was captured by the Germans just two months before Arthur was killed and released at the end of the war.

Arthur's Army conduct sheetAlfred, the eldest Ward brother, served as a driver with the Sheffield-based 3rd West Riding Royal Field Artillery, which also saw action in France.

Arthur’s own Army record reveal a run in with military justice, when he was confined to barracks for seven days and docked 10 days pay for overstaying his leave by four days and nine hours in October 1916, a month before he sailed for France.

He also suffered health problems, being pulled out of the field after four months for treatment of sceptic sores on his feet – a not uncommon ailment for soldiers struggling to survive indamp, muddy trenches. However, he was backwith his unit towards the end of May.

Read more about  the Bellringing Wards (II/IV)

Read more about  Ranmoor's Fallen (III/IV)

Read about Visit to Arthur Ward's Grave (IV/IV)

See also Centenary Quarter Peal

End of Article

Versions of this article have appeared in:
  Inspire (Ranmoor Parish Magazine, June 2017),
  The Ringing World (June 16 2017, RW5538:0596 and Roll of Honour 23 June 201, RW5539:0623), and
  The Star, Sheffield (01/07/2017) Brief  article online, fuller article in print in Retro section, and
  Hallam News, Aug 2017 Ed331, p12, and
  ITV Calendar news, 1st July 2017.

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