Born at Crowle in 1892, Arthur was the younger brother of James and youngest surviving son of the seven children John William and Jane Anne Donnelly (nee Staniforth). His father, born in Ireland (although his census returns until 1901 said Liverpool), was a flax linen worker when Arthur was born. His mother from Crowle also worked at the flax mill. The family had moved to Selby by 1901 in 1911 were living at 17 Harper Street in 1911. At that time Arthur was working as a labourer.
As they have consecutive Army Numbers, Arthur appears to have enlisted in the East Yorkshire Regiment on the same day as his brother, 14th November 1914. When he was assigned to the 13th (Service) Battalion, who whilst officially the 4th Hull were commonly known as the ‘T’Others’.
The 13th East Yorkshire’s in 92nd Brigade, 31st Division, embarked for Egypt on 15th December 1915 and arrived there on 29th December 1915. However their stay in Egypt was short, being transferred to France in March 1916.
Not involved in any of the major actions during the early days of the Battle of the Somme, the 13th East Yorkshires were called forward during the night of 12th October to attack the village of Serre. The village had been an objective on the first day of the Somme, back in the beginning of July, but was still in German hands.
The men had trained for the forthcoming attack for nine days and, on the night of the 12 October, they moved into assembly positions for an attack on the village of Serre. The village had been an objective for the first day of the battle, 1st July, but over 3 months later was still in German hands. Now it was 92nd Brigade’s time to try and capture it. An assault for which they practiced thoroughly over the preceding nine days.
The task given to the 13th East Yorkshires was to attack and then form a defensive flank to protect the other attacking troops in the sector. The artillery bombarded the enemy trenches from 5am until zero hour at 5.45. The Regimental History records “The enemy’s trenches during the preliminary bombardment were, in places, battered and pounded almost out of existence and the ground was in an appalling condition. The rain had turned No Man’s Land into a veritable quagmire which not even the dry cold weather could make passable. Progress was therefore bound to be slow.”
“The wire in front of the Battalion presented few difficulties having been well cut. The bombardment had so effectively wrecked the hostile trenches that many men of the first wave passed over the German front line having failed to distinguish it. The first wave of the 13th Battalion experienced little difficulty in taking the German front line although there was a certain amount of bomb-throwing, machine gun and rifle fire. Numbers of Germans surrendered and others were discovered in dug-outs where they were captured or killed if they refused to come out.”
The Battalion’s second and third waves now moved up and continued the advance to the German third line of trenches. Unfortunately, neighbouring units had not advanced as well and the third wave became isolated and was attacked from the rear. At least 50 men were cut-off and taken prisoner.
The 13th East Yorkshires held the captured second line trench line all day until, at 7pm, they were ordered to withdraw, first to the original German front line and then back to their own trenches. Although they captured over 200 prisoners (some of whom escaped), the failed attack cost the 13th East Yorkshires nearly 400 casualties. One of whom was Corporal Arthur Donnelly. Arthur is buried in Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps.