Arthur Freeman was born in Steyning, Sussex, in 1891 but by the age of 10 he was living with his parents Peter and Emily in Moors Cottage, Fetcham. His father Peter was a miller and Arthur’s brother Ernest was then a 15-year-old butcher, and his brother Charles a 14-year-old telegraph messenger. In December 1908 Ernest died aged 23.
The 1911 census shows Arthur as a 20-year-old, employed as a builder’s labourer living at home with his parents.
In May 1915 24-year-old Arthur underwent a medical examination upon his enlistment. He was then a baker employed by A.W. Wild, baker and confectioner of Bridge Street, Leatherhead, who described him as “steady, honest and industrious, clean in his person and work”. He was 5ft 5 ½ inches tall with a 39″ chest and had four childhood vaccination marks on his arm.
Arthur joined the 3rd Battalion of the Machine Gun Corps (MGC) and embarked in Folkestone in July 1917 bound for Boulogne and the MGC base at Camiers (now known as Etaples camp, the principal depot and transit camp for the British Expeditionary Forces in France). The military camp had a reputation for harshness and the treatment received by the men there led to the Etaples Mutiny in 1917. He was posted as missing in May 1918.
Upon his return, Arthur stated that he had served in France and Belgium, been 9 months as a POW and suffered general weakness and weak back which started when a POW – caused by not having sufficient food and working in a weak condition and exposure – and had been treated in German hospitals.
Prisoner of First World War Records International Committee of the Red Cross
He was examined at Horton (County of London) War Hospital, Epsom, where no disability was found. The medical report shows that he “Complains of pains in back and that he perspires and becomes short of breath on exertion. Exercise tolerance is found to be very good. States he was POW for 9 months. Returned to England 1.1.19. Present condition. An exceptionally strong and well nourished man who looks the picture of health. Heart appeared normal. There is nothing abnormal to be found on examination of lungs and abdominal organs. Pathologists report on urine attached shows no abnormality. Weight 12st. 10lbs. 24.7.19”.
Arthur’s army service papers show that he was discharged in April 1919.
In 1924 he married Dora May Sopp at St Peter’s Church in Woking and the couple went on to have three children, Eileen, Raymond and Kenneth. Arthur passed away in 1980.