Researched and written by Anne Wright
Captain A P Nasmith, DSO
7th Battalion, Borderers Regiment
Killed in action, 23.4.1917
Arthur Plater Nasmith was the eldest of five children born to Martin Arthur and Caroline (nee Beard) Nasmith. They married on 2 April 1881 at St. Peter’s Church in Levenshulme. By the time of the birth of their first child they had moved to Barnes in Surrey where Arthur was born on 4 March 1882. He was baptised at St. Mary’s Church, Barnes on 6 May 1882. Three sons and a daughter followed: Martin Eric (1883), Sydney (1885), Frances Carrie (1886) and Reginald (1892). The family lived in at least two locations in Barnes, Bridge Road and Castelnau Gardens before moving to Clevehurst in Queens Road, Weybridge where they were established by 1911. Arthur was educated first at a boarding school in Dorking and then at Marlborough College from 1894 to 1899. On leaving school he followed in his father’s footsteps becoming first a stockbroker’s clerk and by 1911 a partner with his father on the London Stock Exchange.
On the outbreak of war Arthur joined the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps and was subsequently posted to the 7th Battalion, Borderers Regiment of the 51st Brigade in the 17th (Eastern) Division. On 19 November 1914 he was promoted to temporary full Lieutenant and a month later to temporary Captain. His battalion arrived at Boulogne on 15 July 1915; they spent their first 8 months holding the line in the southern sector of the Ypres Salient, followed by a short spell in the Armentieres sector before moving to the Somme in 1916 and then on to the Arras theatre.
The Second Battle of Ypres in the spring of 1915 had reduced the size of the Salient to 3 miles and left the Germans in possession of advantageous high ground. Arthur and his comrades spent their time in and out of the trenches engaged in attritional warfare. He returned from 4 days rest at Cassel on 22 September to be involved in an attack at Hooge three days later where despite initial success they lost all the ground they had gained because of intact enemy wire and a shortage of bombs and bombers. This cost them 7 fatalities, 19 wounded and 1 missing. The poor conditions they often lived and fought in also took their toll: October, 30 reported sick; November, 92 reported sick; December, 21 reported sick. On 19 November the water was anything from two feet and six inches to three feet deep.
By mid-June 1916 the 7th Borderers had moved south to the Somme. On the 28th they were in billets at Morlancourt and on 2 July took up positions in front of Fricourt (SE of Albert). They initially had success but were forced back to Fricourt Wood on the 9th by heavy shelling and machine gun fire from Contalmaison which was still in German hands. For the next phase of the Somme Offensive Arthur and his men moved to Delville Wood (near Longueval) on 4 August where they experienced very difficult fighting. The Germans were firmly established around the northern edge of the wood; the Borderers with others were to strengthen and improve the existing line. On the 7th they were ordered to attack without a preparatory barrage. It was 70 yards to the enemy’s front line; they had barely got half way when the attack floundered because of the hail of machine gun and rifle fire which greeted them. During August they suffered 4 fatalities and 111 wounded.
On 1 November Arthur’s battalion went up to the front line east of Montaubon where they found the communication trenches waist high in mud. An immediate reconnaissance, under Arthur’s direction was made of Zenith Trench; it did not seem to be strongly held by the enemy. Brigade HQ decided that a surprise attack was to be launched on this objective at 5.30pm commanded by Arthur. The attack was a complete success; the trench was taken and consolidated. The enemy counter-attacked in small numbers at about 8pm but were repulsed. For his role Arthur was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO):
For conspicuous gallantry in action. He displayed great courage and initiative in organising and leading a successful attack. He set a splendid example throughout.
Arthur was in command of the battalion from 3 January 1917 to 20 February when Lt Col Alexander took over control. Much of March and early April was spent in preparing for the Arras Offensive. The 7th Borderers arrived in Arras on 10 April and were billeted in Museum cellars. The initial attack on 14 April did not involve them but they went into the front line on the 22nd and attacked on the 23rd. This offensive was launched along the whole front. At first the battalion advanced but was then repulsed by heavy machine gun fire. Arthur was among 10 officers listed as missing, but he was later confirmed to be dead. His body was never recovered. He is commemorated on the Arras Memorial (Bay 6) and on the Roll of Honour at Marlborough College.
All four Nasmith brothers served in the First World War: Martin was in the Royal Navy and won the Victoria Cross, ending his career as an Admiral and his life as Admiral Sir Martin Dunbar-Nasmith; Sydney served in India; Reginald attained the rank of Major in the Highland Light Infantry and was awarded a Military Cross. The family home remained in Weybridge; their mother died in 1912 and their father in 1920. Both funerals were held at St. James’ Church.
Robert Bulford Family Tree, www.ancestry.co.uk
England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966, 1973-1993, www.ancestry.co.uk
DSO Citation, The London Gazette, 9 January, 1917, p.454, www.thegazette.co.uk
Manchester, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1930, www.ancestry.co.uk
Marlborough College Roll of Honour, http://archive.marlboroughcollege.org/
Surrey, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1912, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey, England, Church of England Burials, 1813-1987, www.ancestry.co.uk