Researched and written by Anne Wright
Sapper A Chalcraft
68th Field Company, Royal Engineers
Arthur Chalcraft’s parents William and Emily Amelia (nee Matthews) were born in Pyrford and Addlestone respectively in 1856 and 1859. Their marriage was registered in the Chertsey Registration District in 1884. Arthur was the fifth of seven children; he had three brothers and three sisters. He was born in early 1892 and baptised at St. Paul’s Church, Addlestone on 27 March of that year. In 1901, the family, by now consisting of the parents and five children lived in Albert Road, Addlestone. William Chalcraft earned his living as a gardener’s labourer. Ten years later Arthur was still living at 54, Albert Road with his parents and three siblings; he was a boot repairer. Three years later on 7 November 1914 he married a dressmaker, Olive Annie Whattingham at St. James’ Church, Weybridge. They both recorded their address as Rose Cottage, 19 Radnor Road. By this time William Chalcraft described himself as a gardener and Arthur referred to himself as a bootmaker.
He enlisted in Guildford and was assigned to the 68th Field Company of Royal Engineers. This company served in the 11th (Northern Division) and was part of Kitchener’s New Armies. On 12 June 1915 the Division received orders to prepare for service at Gallipoli (Turkey). They left from Liverpool on 30 June and landed at their destination over 6-7 August. They remained here until December, when they were withdrawn. By 27 July 1916 they were on the Western Front and about to be embroiled in the September phases of the Battle of the Somme.
The 68th Field Company was involved in the Battle of Thiepval Ridge between 26-28 September. The objective was to drive the Germans off their commanding line from Courcellette to the Schwaben Redoubt. This had not been achieved in July but the Germans’ position was now weaker as they were outflanked to the East; the 11th Division attacked Mouquet Farm, which had been a heavily fortified point but was by now reduced to rubble. They had great difficulty in subduing the survivors; the last 56 Germans surrendered at 5.30pm on 26 September. The Division then moved against the Zollern Redoubt but heavy casualties slowed their progress and the attack stalled at the edge of the Redoubt.
Arthur was fatally wounded at some point during 26 September 1916. He is buried at Ovillers Military Cemetery, 5 km NE of Arras. This cemetery was started in July 1916 and continued to be used until March 1917 by which time it had 143 graves. More burials took place after the Armistice. His wife lived in Surbiton by the time the Commonwealth War Graves Commission completed Arthur’s record. She remarried on 25 October 1922 to Charles Samuel Holland at St. Peter’s Church, Hersham. Like her first husband, Charles was a bootmaker. Olive died, aged 80, in 1974 in Battle, E. Sussex.
England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1837-1915, www.ancestry.co.uk
England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1912, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey, Church of England Marriages, 1754-1937, www.ancestry.co.uk
The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long Long Trail – 11th ( Northern) Division, www.longlongtrail.co.uk