Researched and written by Anne Wright
L/Cpl A. R. Bartlett
49thCompany, Machine Gunners Corps
Killed in action, 12.4.1918
Weybridge was Arthur Richard Bartlett’s home from at least 1911; he had previously lived in Kent. He shared a home with his parents Thomas William and Elizabeth and an aunt, at Eric Villa, Oakdale Road. He was born either in Kingston-upon-Thames or Newington; the Census records of 1901 say the latter and the records of 1911, the former. Arthur had two older brothers, Thomas and William who were with the family in 1901 but not ten years later. His father was a fly proprietor who hired out either public carriages or the lighter single-horse variety. Arthur, a former pupil of St James’ School (Baker Street), was a grocer’s assistant.
He enlisted in Kingston-upon-Thames and was in the East Surrey Regiment (2778) before joining the Machine Gun Corps (MGC). His 49th Machine Gun Company was part of the 49th Brigade of the16th (Irish) Division from 29 April 1916. It moved to the newly formed 16th Battalion of the MGC, still in the same Division, on 9 March 1918. The 16th Division arrived in France in December 1915. In the following year they fought at the Battle of the Somme and in 1917 at the Battles of Messines and Langemarck (a phase of the third Battle of Ypres or as it is often known Passchendaele).
In March 1918 Arthur Bartlett and his comrades were caught up in the onslaught that was the German Spring Offensive (Operation Michael) on the Somme designed to divide the British and French forces before the Americans intervened. After launching a momentous bombardment the Germans hurled themselves against the British front line on 21 March and by the 23rd there was a 40 mile breech in the line. The 49th Brigade faced the impact full on. Arthur not only survived this initial attack, the Battle of St. Quentin, but also the Battle of Rosieres (26-27 March). By 5 April, 1085 of the 16th Division had been killed, 3255 wounded and about 1000 were missing; the Division had been annihilated.
Four days later the Germans embarked on the third phase of their offensive with ‘Operation Georgette’ or as it has become known, the Battle of the Lys. The intention was to secure Ypres at last, corner the British and to control the Channel ports. They made a quick breakthrough with both Estaires and Messines Ridge being captured by the 11 April. The desperate fighting of these days is reflected in Field-Marshal Haig’s Special Order of the Day issued on that date:
With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight on to the end.
Arthur Bartlett was killed in action on the 12 April 1918. He was most likely involved in the Battle of Hazebrouck (12-15 April); the enemy was attempting to take this key logistics centre. The Germans had used the tactic of targeting machine gun emplacements at the start of attacks in the spring of 1918; this could explain Arthur’s death. British resistance slowed the attack and the Australian 1st Division finally stopped it 5 miles from Hazebrouck.
He was buried in Wulverghem-Lindenhoek Road Cemetery (V.G.18), 13 km south of Ypres (now Ieper). Arthur was surrounded by the bodies of unknown British soldiers. The inscription on his headstone is as follows:
DEARLY LOVED AND A LIFE LAID NOBLY DOWN
His parents continued to live in Oakdale Road until at least 1934.In August 1918 the Allies launched the general offensive that would lead to victory three months later.
The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long Long Trail – The First Battles of the Somme 1918, www.longlongtrail.co.uk
The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long Long Trail – Machine Gun Corps in the First World War, www.longlongtrail.co.uk
Memorial to the Masters and Old Boys of St James’ School, Weybridge. Who Fell in the Great War, 1914-1918, St James’ Church
Surrey, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1962, www.ancestry.co.uk