Family story contributed by Henry Pelham (provided by Brian Gudgeon)
Arthur Pelham was born on 8 March 1878, to Richard and Amy (née Dudley) Pelham. Richard was a farm labourer and the family (they had 13 children) lived at Leigh. Arthur married Lottie Louise Scrace on 1 October 1904 and they had two sons: Frank Arthur (born 1877) and Samuel (born in 1912) H.R. Arthur and Lottie lived at Kinnersley Cottage, Reigate, and he worked as a labourer. They also lived at 33 Warren Road, Meadvale.
In January 1915, Arthur enlisted in Guildford with the 1st Battalion, the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, as Private G/4073. Arthur was undoubtedly a very brave man as the Surrey Mirror of 1 September 1916 reported. With the headlined ‘Gallantry by a Sidlow Man, military medal awarded’ it records that he gained the coveted award for bringing in wounded and of heavy fire. He had been sent to France in April, where he had seen much fighting, and it was on 15 August that he distinguished himself.
Lottie received a letter from a Mr Carslake of Wimbledon, which gave some idea of her husband’s heroic act. It read: ‘I do not know if you have heard of the very gallant thing your husband and three other men of the Queen’s did on the 15th? My son (Captain Carslake) was wounded rather severely, and your husband and the other three bandaged him up and carried him on a stretcher over 300 yards of ground that was swept with heavy rifle, machine-gun and shrapnel fire. I am sorry to hear your husband has since been wounded. I hope it is not serious and that he is going on well. You will understand from what I have said above why I am asking, as I believe your husband helped to save my son’s life, and I want you and him to know how grateful my wife and I feel. Where is your husband in hospital? I would like to know, as if it is in London I should like to go and see him. I hope he will recover quickly’. Unfortunately, this was not to be.
The Surrey Mirror of 5 January 1917 reported: ‘MILITARY FUNERAL – Great interest was taken in the funeral of Private Arthur Pelham, of the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, which took place at Sidlow Bridge on Tuesday, amidst many manifestations of sympathy for the family. Private Pelham, who leaves a widow and several children, prior to joining up lived in the village and was greatly respected. He was wounded some time ago, and was taken to the King George’s Hospital, London, where he died on December 27, being 39 years of age. It is worthy of note the private Pelham and three others, after some severe fighting, and amidst a shower of shells, carried Captain W. B. Carslake. The Kensingtons provided a firing party, and buglars who sounded the Last Post.’ The Sidlow Bridge Parish Magazine for February 1917, reported that Captain Carslake said of him “he was quite one of the finest stretcher bearers in the battalion, which is saying a good deal.” The surgeons, nurses and comrades were struck by his extraordinary patience, courage and unselfishness. He never murmured or complained. He bore his sufferings with fortitude and calm resignation to the will of God. The wounds sustained by Arthur proved to be serious, and his death certificate states cause of death as 1. Pulmonary haemorrhage; 2. Gunshot wound face three months. A courageous man to the end.