Arthur James HIBBERT
Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
Unit: B Battery, 79th Brigade ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY
Date of Death: 14 August 1917
Age: 25
Cemetery: Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France

Arthur came from a middle class family that might be described as “comfortably off”. His parents were John and Emily and he was the eldest of their three children. John was a clerk at Manchester Town Hall and had started his married life living in Withington where Arthur was born on 12 September 1891. His brother Henry was born there a couple of years later. In about 1895, the family moved to 9 Lansdowne Road, Didsbury and Edna was born there shortly after. The 1901 Census shows that John’s income was augmented by taking in boarders and four professional men were staying with them at the time. As was common for families like the Hibberts, they could afford to employ a live-in general servant.

Arthur would be educated at Manchester Municipal Secondary School and later went to work for J Shepherd & Co, a firm of cotton merchants with premises at 6 Hall Street, Manchester, where he rose to become a manager. When the Great War started, the family still lived in Didsbury but had moved to 9 Atwood Road. Arthur did not rush to enlist and it was not until 9 December 1915 that he joined the 28th Battalion, London Regiment (the so-called Artists Rifles). His service papers show him to have been just over 5’ 6” tall.

There is some confusion in the records about his service. His medal entitlement records held at the National Archives suggest that, after training, he served abroad as a private for some time. However, his service file, also at the Archives, indicates that three weeks after enlisting and whilst still in training, he was selected to become an officer and was transferred to the Officer Training Corps. It seems more likely that this is what happened. In November 1916, he received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant and was posted to the artillery, going overseas in January 1917 and joining his Brigade on the 27th.

On 4 August, he was able to return home on leave for two weeks and arrived back at Boulogne on the day he died. A tragic accident was to follow as described in a letter to his father from the War Office Court of Enquiry.

“The evidence goes to show that 2nd Lieutenant Hibbert, accompanied by two other officers, had just returned from leave and had gone to the railway transport officer’s office to enquire about their trains. On returning, they found two goods trains drawn up between them and the bridge. The first officer climbed through the trucks and was followed by 2nd Lieutenant Hibbert and it appears that in doing so, he must have fallen into the [dock] basin and, although three Englishmen, whose names are not given, went into the water and swam about for some time, they were unable to rescue your son. His body was not recovered until the 19th of August and the opinion of this Court is that his death was the result of a pure accident and that he was on duty at the time and that no blame is attributable to anyone.”

Arthur’s personal belongings were returned to his family and these included his wristwatch, tobacco pouch, pipe, diary, two knives, handkerchief, driving licence, mirror, knitted tie and playing cards.

Henry Hibbert also served during the War, as an officer with the South Lancashire Regiment, and is believed to have survived.

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