I expect many of you will have seen the fantastic work that has been undertaken on our war memorial over the last few weeks?
Stonemason Jon, of Blackmore and Moody has indeed done a good job. It is now possible to easily read the names of those brave men, and of course, that of Margaret Caswell, the only women whose name appears on the memorial.
It is very fitting, that this work has been carried out now as we begin to remember the events which began 100 years ago, and resulted in so many making the ultimate sacrifice.
Many of you may be planning to attend, or indeed attended, the special service at St Boniface on Sunday 3rd August, at 6.30pm, to commemorate the start of First World War.
I thought it appropriate, to share with you this month the lives of Private Arthur Blake and Captain Arthur Gerald Ritchie, both of whom were killed in the first four months of the war.
Private Arthur James Blake (89784) 1st Battalion Rifles Brigade The Prince Consort Own.
Arthur was born 1884 in Romsey, the eldest child of Willie, a railway carpenter, and Kate Blake. When I found Willie and Kate on the 1911 census their family had increased, Arthur now had nine younger siblings, four brothers and five sisters and the railway had promoted Willie to foreman and they were living in Eastleigh.
Following in his father’s footsteps Arthur became a carpenter also working for the railways, building wagons. In 1909, Arthur married Ada Noah and the 1911 shows them living at 4 Fern Hill Cottages, (these cottages are just along from Halfway Inn) Chandler’s Ford with their daughter Ada Florence aged 14 months.
In 1903 Arthur had enlisted in the Militia reserves. On the outbreak of war he was mobilised and immediately drafted to France, where he took part in the first major action in ‘The Battle of the Frontiers’. Arthur was killed in action at ‘The Battle of Mons’, on August 23rd 1914, aged 28. Sadly, Arthur is among the thousands of servicemen who have no known grave, he is commemorated on The Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais, France panel 3. Arthur was the first of those recorded on the Chandler’s Ford’s war memorial to be killed.
Neighbours of Arthur and Ada Blake were Charles and Julia Harris, grandparents of local historian Barbara Hillier. Barbara’s uncle ‘Bert’ Hillier is also remembered on the war memorial. When I met Barbara she told me her grandmother told her how sad everyone was when the telegram arrived which I guess began with those dreaded words ‘We regret to inform you ……’ Over the next five years, many, many more families were to receive the same devastating news both here in Chandler’s Ford and around the world.
Captain Arthur Gerald Ritchie 1st Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
Arthur was born 30th October 1879, in Kensington, London, the 2nd son and youngest child of William Irvine, Civil Servant and Examiner in the Eduction Dept. and Magdaline Alice Ritchie. Arthur was educated at St Paul’s School London, he was a good student a keen sportsman, a clever draftsman and used to illustrate his letters and diaries with amusing sketches.
Arthur joined the Scottish Rifles in 1899, making Lieutenant in 1900 and Captain in 1906. In November 1909, he was appointed Adjutant of the ‘East Indian Railway Volunteers Military Rifles’, up until the war Arthur’s military career had been wholly in India. He was in England at the outbreak of the war and spent some time training new recruits before joining his Battalion at the front line in early October.
On 23rd October 1914 he was given command of ‘C’ company, holding an advanced trench and farmhouse near La Boutillerie, west of Lille. On 30th of October, Arthur was severely wounded by a sniper. He died on 22nd November at the Allied Forces Base Hospital, Boulogne and is buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery.
He was 35 years old and unmarried. Captain Ritchie was Mentioned in Sir John French’s Despatches of January 11th 1915.
Arthur was the nephew of Dr Edward Duguid Ritchie who was the doctor here in Chandler’s Ford between 1897-1912 and whose wife Lillian gave money to build the Ritchie Hall as a memorial to her husband.
(Note: My main source for Arthur Ritchie is The Bond of Sacrifice; A Biography of All British Officers Who Fell in the Great War Volume 1.)
Post Series: Chandler’s Ford War Memorial Research, by Margaret Doores: