Private Arthur Hill

Private Arthur Hill, 1st Battalion Scots Guards. Service number 6762.

Arthur was born on 16th October 1887, his birth being registered at Keighley in the third quarter of the year. His parents were Henry and Mary Hill. Father Henry was a striker (for a blacksmith).
In 1891 Arthur was three years old and living with his parents and his one year old sister Matilda at 16, Sunderland Street in Keighley.
He was baptised at the age of four on 28th February 1892 at St Peter's Church in Keighley and the family were still at Sunderland Street.
By 1901 he was 13 years old and working for a paper tube manufacturer (probably Joseph Stell, Paper Tube Manufacturer). The family had grown to six children who were Arthur (13) Matilda (11) Sarah (8) Clarence (4) Harry (3) and Lily (1)
By 1911 Arthur had gone for a complete change of occupation because the census records him as single and a 23 year old soldier. The family were now living at 37, Parker Square, off Halifax Road in Keighley. His 67 year old father Henry had retired and 50 year old mother Mary was a charwoman.
When war broke out in August 1914 Arthur would have been immediately called to the colours as he was either a reservist or serving with the 1st Battalion, Scots Guards.
The battalion was ordered to mobilise at Aldershot on August 4th with the first reservists arriving on the 5th. After intial preparations they were ready to entrain for Southampton. The whole battalion travelled on two trains, arriving at the port at 6.45 am and 8.00 am on the 13th August. They sailed for France at 12.00 noon on the Dungevan Castle and arrived at Le Havre at 0100 on the 14th.
The 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards arrived in France in October 1914. Between these two battalions, they served in all the major battles of the war and won 33 battle honours. Arthur served through the whole war with the 1st Battalion.
On 16th August 1918 he was awarded the Medaille Militaire by The President of The French Republic. The London Gazette reports that he was given unrestricted permission by King George V to wear the medal. Infortunately there is no citation available for this award.

Arthur was discharged on 31st May 1919. He was awarded the 1914 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his war service. He would also have been entitled to wear the clasp and rose on his 1914 Star as one of the first part of the British Expeditionary Force serving in the war, because he was within range of the enemy's guns between 5th August and 22nd November 1914. This would also make him an 'Old Contemptible.'

For a few years after the war ended, he was living at 14, Parker Square in Keighley. He also held an Army pension for a short while, but sadly he died on 26th October 1922 at the age of 35. The death was registered in Keighley in the last quarter of the year.
Arthur is named along with his brother Clarence as one of 'Keighley's Gallant Sons' as an early volunteer in the war because he was mobilised in the very early days, then went out to fight shortly after the outbreak of war. They are also both named in the 'served and returned' section of the St. Peter's Church roll of honour, which is currently in the care of The Men of Worth Project.

St Peter's Church War Memorial.
Photo by Andy Wade.

Here is a transcription of a letter which was pasted into a scrapbook around the time of the Great War by Herbert Arthur France who was a Sub-Editor at the Keighley News, who probably received it from Arthur's family as it would be of great interest to anyone at home wondering what was happening to the lads serving at the front.

Part of the BK424 Herbert A. France archive at Keighley Library. Archive number: BK424/2/4.
The transcription is verbatim so it still contains some grammatical and punctuation errors.

A sad story.

Dear Mother and Friends,

The story I am about to write, what happened in, France during my retreat back from Belgium. I remember it was on, the 1st September we had been marching from 2 am, in the morning, until 11 at night when we arrived at a very small village when our Brigade was ordered into billet. I was detailed to a farm barn and it being very dark and no light allowed we had a very trying time to get settled down and we were very glad when we got down to rest. In about [1] to 2 hours after I got detailed to go and find the rest of the Battalion and to see where they were billeting so that in case of alarm we should know where to find them.
I and my comrade started down the road in search of the Battalion when we had marched about 500 yards down the road we were startled at hearing the cry of a small infant on the side of the road and I and my comrade went to see and there it was laid on a parapet made of stones and it was the most pitiful sights we had seen in all our lives. And then further down the road we found a woman and two children resting from a day tramp, as they had been turned out of there home, with the German's.
I went back to the barn and brought some straw back with me, and we made a bed for them in the parapet, and we put the baby in. And then we carried the little boy and girl and we laid them down to rest and there ages were about 5 and 6 and the poor woman replied mercy, mercy which in our language means thank you. It was a picture that needed no painting it was in reality.
I wondered what the great War Lord of the Germans would have thought it he had stood in my place. My thoughts wandered to every home in England, what a sight if the Germans got into England. I was sad at heart and thought of the saying 'such are the horrors of war' not being able to speak the language to give the poor woman and children a word of sympathy, I and my comrade turned away and wiped the tears away from our eyes and getting back to barn. I crawled over my comrades legs to my place to lie down and thank God that England were safe from the horrors of war and asking him to protect all those who were dear to him at home and the poor women and children of Belgium.

From a wounded soldier at the Battle of Aisne.
Pte. Arthur Hill
1st Battalion Scots Guards.
Now detained Royal Berks Hospital, Reading.

1st Battalion Scots Guards war diary entries for the same period:

August 30th.
Paraded at 12.30 am and marched till 8 am to TERNY to the General reserve at Army Hqrs. Bivouaced in field till 5 pm then marched to ALLEMONT and billeted.

August 31st.
Moved S. on Paris - Mauberge Road at 8 am. Stopped N. of SOISSONS by report of German Cavalry Corps. Marched through SOISSONS up steep hill to VAUBUN and bivouaced in Field.

September 1st.
Wagons packed by 3.30 am. Marched 6 am through FORET DOMINIALE DE METZ. Dinners at VILLERS COTTERETS. Marched to LA FÉRTE MILON on Route de Meaux. Took up position above and S. of town before dark, slept in cornfield for few hours. Mens' packs carried on wagons specially provided.

September 2nd.
Started at 1.30 am on the Meaux road, halted for breakfasts at 8 am. Moved on at 10.45 am, to CHAMBRAY arriving at 2.30 pm and billeted.

Between them, the first and second battalions of the Scots Guards fought in all the major battles of the Great War, earning 33 battle honours and three Victoria Crosses.

Source information:
Births, Deaths, Marriage records.
Church of England Baptismal Records.
1891 Census.
1901 Census.
1911 Census,
British Army Medal index cards and medal rolls.
Keighley Library Archives:
BK424 Herbert A. France Archive. Keighley News archives.
The National Archives - British Army War Diaries 1914 to 1922: 1st Battalion Scots Guards - WO 95/1263/2.

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