Lance Corporal Arthur PHILLIPS

Duke of Cambridge's Own
(Middlesex Regiment)
16th Battalion
Service Number:
Date of Death:
31 May  1917 - Killed in Action
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Bay 7

Personal History:

Arthur was born in the December quarter 1894 the son of John T. (Railway coachman) and Emma Phillips of 1 Alma Square, Fairfield, Buxton. He had an older brother, Robert, and a younger sister, Elsie. (1901 Census RG 13/3269) Just after the Census was taken Elsie died, in the June quarter 1901.

By 1911 (Census RG 14/21234) the family had moved to 14 Cross Street, Buxton, and Arthur had gained six more younger siblings, Edith May, Amy, Gertrude Elizabeth, Lily, Ethel and John. Arthur was working as an "Apprentice", stated in the local paper later to be to "Mr Amos, Painter and Decorator, of Lightwood Road, Buxton". At that time - June 1817 - Arthur's parents were living at Laverndale House, 12 Bridge Street, Buxton.

Military History:
Arthur enlisted at Buxton and his service records do not appear to have survived. His Medal Index Card shows that he entered France with the Battalion on the 8th December 1915 and 'The Buxton Advertiser' reported that he enlisted in August of that year.

The 16th (Service) Battalion of The Middlesex Regiment was also known as the "Public Schools" Battalion, which doesn't quite fit in with Arthur's background. The Battalion was formed in London on 1st September 1914 by Lt. Col. J.J.Mackay. It moved to Kempton Park racecourse, going on in December to Warlingham. In July 1915 they moved to Clipstone Camp and attached to 100th Brigade in 33rd Division, and in August moved again to Perham Down.

On the 17th November 1915 the Battalion landed at Boulogne and Arthur joined them three weeks later. On 25th February 1916 they left Division and transferred to GHQ Troops, before transferring to 86th Brigade in 29th Division on the 25th April 1916, in time for preparation for The Battle of The Somme. Arthur's Battalion, as part of 29th Division, fought in the 'The Battle of Albert' and 'The Battle of the Transloy Ridges'.

"The Buxton Advertiser" of the 25th March 1916 reported the death of Harry Sellers including a letter to his mother from L/Cpl T. Elliott which said, in part:

"... When we came to France there were five Buxton boys in our Battalion; two have given their lives for their Country; and the other two are wounded. Then came Arthur Phillips, but I hope to see Arthur again before long; he has gone into hospital, but should be well again soon." The cause of Arthur's hospitalisation at that time is not known, but when reporting Arthur's death 'The Buxton Advertiser' stated that he had later been wounded - in October 1917.

In 1917, Arthur probably took part in The First, Second and Third Battles of the Scarpe. Arthur was
killed in action on 31st May 1917, no doubt as a result of the action to try to take "Hook Trench",
east of Monchy-le-Preux, which began the day before..

The Battalion had spent the first 2 days of the month marching to Arras and on the 19th on to
Berneville. The next 10 days saw them in various deployments until, on the 29th taking over
'Hill Trench' and 'Dale Trench', to the left of the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers, and the 8th East
Lancashire Regiment further over to the right.

The War Diary describes the subsequent action as follows:

"11 Officers and 230 others ...... attacked HOOK TRENCH under intense artillery barrage. The left
failed to get up but 2 Companies gained their objective. The Battalion on the right failed to reach
the objective. All were driven back by counter-attack with the exception, as far as can be ascertained,
of 2 Officers and some 30 to 40 men of the Battalion. These detachments held out until about midday
on the 31st when they were compelled to give in through lack of bombs and ammunition, and no hope
of any immediate relief.
Casualties: 19th - 31st: Officers:- Killed 1, Wounded 3, Missing 2, Missing blvd. Prisoners 2
                                       Others:- Killed 31, Wounded 139, Missing 70, Missing blvd. Prisoners 6 "

The following day the Battalion was relieved by the 1st Kings Own Scottish Borderers and marched
back to Arras.

It seems highly likely that Arthur was one of the brave few who were cut off after the original attack -
indeed 47 of the total casualties died on that day, many more than recorded at the time in the War
Diary, which probably did not account for the "missing".

He was officially reported missing on the 31st May 1917, later deemed to have been killed in action.
It is perhaps not surprising that his body was subsequently lost and he has no known grave, being
commemorated on The Arras Memorial.

· Three other Buxton boys served with Arthur in the 11th Battalion: L/Cpl Percy PORTER who Died of wounds on the 26 July 1915,
   Pt. John RAWLINSON - Killed in Action on the 18 October 1915, and L/Cpl G4866 Harry SELLORS Killed in Action on the 3 March 1916.

· I am grateful to Chris (Johnno) for the photo of Arthur's name on the Arras Memorial
· I am grateful to Colin Taylor for the War Diary extracts
Link to CWGC Record
The Arras Memorial
L/Cpl Phillips' name on The Arras Memorial
29th Division Memorial
The memorial to the 29th Division in Newfoundland Park near Beaumont-Hamel
Location of Hook Trench
The Location of Hook Trench
Cpl Arthur Phillips