To lose one son in the War must have been a devastating experience for a parent, but to lose two must have been almost too much to bear. It is almost impossible to comprehend how John and Emily must have coped with the news that their two lads had been killed on consecutive days. The "dreaded telegram" arriving from the War Office is often mentioned as the way families heard of their loved ones deaths. But, in fact, only officers deaths were notified by telegram. Other notifications came by letter and it would often be the case that families had already heard the news from a son's comrade, before the official letter arrived. It cannot be known now how Mr & Mrs Jones heard about the deaths of Louis on the 22nd and Arnold on the 23rd.
Arnold had been born in the Offerton area but when the 1901 census was taken, the family was living at Sundial Cottage, Hazel Grove. Louis was the eldest child, then aged 7. Arnold was 4 and there was also one year old Norman. During the time of the Great War, the family was living at 115 Commercial Road, Hazel Grove (in the 1920s, Emily Jones, by then a widow, had moved to 6 Brooks Avenue).
Arnold originally enlisted into the Cheshire Regiment. His service number, 4238, suggests that he was not an early volunteer and had probably not joined up until 1916. He went overseas and saw active service with the Cheshires. At some point he was transferred to the Shropshires. This was probably after a period recovering from wounds or a lengthy illness. When he was fit enough to return to duty, the army will have decided that the Shropshires were in greater need of replacement troops than his original unit.
21 August would later be designated as the first day of the Second Battle of the Somme (or the Battle of Albert, after the town at the centre of the area).During the evening of the 20th, the Battalion moved to assembly positions at Adinfer Wood near the village of Gommecourt in the north of the battlefield. Their objective was the Bapaume - Arras railway line and they had orders to reach and hold it at all cost.
Zero hour was set for 4.55am and, on schedule, "A" and "B" Companies led the Battalion's attack, followed by "C" and "D". There was a heavy mist which would make it difficult for the Companies to keep in touch with each other.
The Battalion's War Diary records that "a little opposition was encountered from machine guns west of Aerodrome Trench. These were silenced in passing." A German position known as "Coffee Redoubt" was strongly defended. The attacking company outflanked it and successfully attacked from the rear. It appears that one platoon got lost and simply carried on in a more or less straight line and became entangled with other units. It was not able to rejoin the Battalion until the 23rd.
By 7.30am, the men had almost reached their objective which was the railway embankment still strongly defended by the German. The Regimental History records that "The final assault was made with the bayonet, the enemy being driven out with great slaughter. Four German officers and many men were made prisoners. The objective reached, the Battalion proceeded to consolidate the line and to throw out outposts 150 yards east of the railway."
During the next day, the men of the Shropshires had to fight off two determined German counter-attacks and, on the 23rd, they were ready to resume to advance. "A" and "D" Companies attacked at 4am, inflicting heavy casualties on the defending Germans. It appears that the attack was very timely as the Germans were themselves planning another counter-attack. "B" and "C" Companies now moved up and leapfrogged to the front moving forward to capture the second objective. By 11am the Shropshires had secured all their positions and had captured 70 prisoners. Arnold had been killed during the attack. His body was never found and identified.
On 22 September, a memorial service was held for both brothers at St John's Church, Offerton. The family had previously worshipped there and Arnold had attended the Church's Sunday School.
Further information about Arnold, including a photograph, can be found in the book "Hazel Grove to Armageddon" by John Eaton.