Arthur Middleton

lincolnshire regimental badgePrivate, 15296, 2nd Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment, died of wounds, 24th October 1916, aged 22

Born at Crowle in 1892, Arthur was the son of Matilda Middleton, who was unmarried. When Arthur was born Matilda was living with her three brothers in Pott’s Lane and from 1891 they lived with the eldest, George, a postman who later opened a newsagent’s, in Commonside. When he died his mother was living in Church Lane. Arthur was a brickmaker’s labourer, presumably at Crowle Brickworks.

Arthur enlisted in the Lincolnshire Regiment at Epworth in February 1915. He arrived in France on the 12th May, 1915 as a reinforcement for the 1st Battalion, then in trenches across the Comines-Ypres Canal, north-east of Ypres. Arthur found his introduction to trench life a frightening and eye opening experience and probably kept the censor busy when he wrote to his parents in June about his experiences of suffering fifteen hours under an artillery barrage:

‘I shall never forget the first time I was there. We went in at 1pm on Thursday and about 2 o’cclock the Germans started and shelled us without mercy for 15 hours. We had 150 casualties. One shell came in the trench where I was, killing one man and wounding two more not a yard away. Our officer was also killed as he was running through the wood. The shells were deafening and came about ten at a time. Most of us ran from one trench to another for shelter and a good many of us lost our kit bags and food. We had nothing to eat the whole of the day until the Germans stopped shelling us. Some of our fellows lost our top coats but I stuck to mine and also my rifle. We passed through Ypres one night and saw a remarkable sight, the town, a large one, being in ruins and in flames. German shells were dropping in the town as we went through it. I came across Sergeant Walton and Tom Tune (Crowle boys); they are with our battalion. Some of the old soldiers say the fifteen hours continuous shell fire we experienced was the worst since the war began. We thought every second was our last, but thank God I am still alive and hope to be safe back in England again soon.’

Shortly afterwards Arthur was himself wounded and transferred home, suffering from the effects of gas poisoning and fever. On his return to France he was transferred to the 2nd Lincoln’s and was with them on the 20th October 1916 during the Battle of the Somme when they took over the front line trenches, known as Gusty Trench and Misty Trench, near Lesboeuf’s,  captured at the Battle of Le Transloy Ridge. Here they were subjected to heavy artillery shelling and the threat of possible counter-attack. So in order to push home the advantage gained at Le Transloy, on the 23rd October the British decided to raid the German trenches, known as Zenith Trench opposite. At the same time as the German infantry decided to attack theirs!

The assault was originally timed to begin at 9.30 am, but owing to fog was postponed until 2.30 pm. At 2.30 pm. a creeping barrage fell and, keeping close up to the screen of fire (several men who got too close were wounded by shrapnel), the 2nd Lincoln’s, advanced to the attack. They had only advanced about ten yards, when the massed ranks in the trench opposite began volleys of rifle fire. The fusillade was so heavy that the first wave of the Lincoln’s (A and D Companies) were as the Regimental History records it ‘shot down almost to a man’, only one section reaching their objective. The second wave, now coming under violent machine gun fire as well as the rapid rifle fire, also failed to cross No-Man’s Land. As the Regimental History records it once again, ” By about 5 p.m., the information available (to the Brigadier) was to the effect that the 2nd Lincolnshire appeared to have been wiped out.”

Not quite wiped out but the 2nd Lincoln’s still suffered terrible casualties in the attack. Prior to going over the top their strength had been 16 officers and 470 other ranks. They came out of the action having lost 13 officers and 272 other ranks.

Arthur was one of the injured having received a gunshot wound in his chest. Taken initially to the 25th Field Ambulance, he was moved to one of the Casualty Clearing Stations situated in an area known as Grove Town on the edge of the village of Meaulte, south of Albert. At some point the following day, 24th October 1916, Arthur Middleton died from his wounds. He is buried in Grove Town Cemetery.