Arthur Tugwell, a Casualty of the Somme Offensive.

Text written by Pia Chamberlain.

The following was previously printed in a pamphlet available at St Andrew’s Church, Kingswood, Battle of the Somme, 1st July – 18th November 1916, The Fallen of Kingswood and Tadworth.

Arthur Tugwell was born in 1892. The 1901 Census finds him living at 1 Station Road, Tadworth, with his parents, Luke and Eliza Tugwell. His father was a bricklayer’s labourer and Arthur was the 8th of their 13 children, who at that time were all living under the same roof. Three of the elder sons were working as labourers, whereas his eldest sister was employed at the local jam factory in Tadworth.

By 1911 the family had moved to The Green, in Tadworth. Five of the children were still living at home, including Arthur, who was by then working as a bricklayer’s labourer. Two grandchildren also lived in the same house.

Arthur Tugwell was a Private (G/2137) in the 7th (Service) Battalion, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment).

One cannot help feeling that Arthur Pusey and Arthur Tugwell, being of the same age and living in the same locality, would probably have known each other from school days and might well have joined up together. They both died on the same day during the first phase of the Battle of the Somme, fighting in the same battalion.

The first day of the Somme Offensive, 1st July 1916, had been disastrous for the British army. Whereas in the south of the 16 mile line of attack most objectives had been secured, no gains had been made in the north. Most of the British casualties had been incurred north of the Albert to Bapaume road and by 3rd July, Sir Douglas Haig, the British commander-in-chief, decided, much against French wishes, to abandon the offensive north of the road and to concentrate on consolidating the gains made in the southern sector. Work began on the planning of a major operation for which it was of vital strategic importance that Trônes Wood should be securely held to protect the flank of a British attack. The situation, however, changed dramatically on 12th July, when the Germans retook Trônes Wood. On 13th July in the afternoon, the 7th Queen’s, occupying Dublin Trench, were subjected to heavy German artillery fire, which inflicted 20 casualties on the battalion.

Although the Germans had themselves suffered heavy casualties from previous bombardments of the wood, it was known that they had deep dug-outs and that it would not be easy to dislodge them. After another heavy artillery barrage by British guns, a two battalion attack was launched on the wood at 7pm with the Royal West Kents attacking from the south and the 7th Queen’s from the north. It soon became apparent that the enemy had suffered very little damage from the previous bombardments. The 7th Queen’s came under heavy fire whilst trying to attack across the open ground in the north and were forced to ground 100 yards short of the edge of the wood. Those who had not already become casualties took cover in shell holes, unable either to advance or retreat. Meanwhile the West Kents had got lost and 150 of them eventually managed to reach the east end of the wood. A further bombardment was attempted at 8.30, but the operation was finally abandoned at 9.00 pm.

Under cover of darkness, the survivors of the 7th Queen’s started to make their way back towards the British lines and from then until 2.30 am on 14th July, when the battalion withdrew under continuous shell fire, efforts were made to bring in all the wounded. Initial returns recorded 4 officers and 22 other ranks killed, 7 officers and 150 other ranks wounded and 2 officers and 44 men missing. Of those initially listed as missing, a number had in fact been killed in action. In the end, 6 officers and 36 other ranks had been killed on that day. Out of the total of 42 men, 32 have no place of burial and are listed on the Thiepval Memorial, amongst them Private Arthur Tugwell. Sergeant Pusey, who also died on that day, is buried in Delville Wood Cemetery, Longueval. Trônes Wood was finally retaken by the British troops in the morning of 14th July.

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