William Arthur STOTT
Rank: Lance Corporal
Number: 250361
Unit: 11th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 16 August 1917
Age: 24
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium

The Stotts originated from the Hulme area of Manchester and Arthur had been born in Stretford, the second child of James and Alice (nee Brown). His older sister, Edith, had been born in Salford. In the late 1890s, the family moved to Marple and a third child, Charles, was born in about 1899. Their address locally was "Manor Hill" on Station Road.

He was Honorary Secretary of the Marple Cricket Club and an active member of the League of Young Liberals. In the past, he had been a member of the 6th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was a Territorial unit and many of its members worked in professional positions in Manchester city centre. He had left in about 1912 but, when War was declared in August 1914, he joined up again with his friend Carlos Bates. He was given the service number of 2091 and, by the middle of September was aboard a ship bound for Egypt where he spent the next seven months. Some details of this time can be found here. Whilst there, he was assigned to guarding prisoners and made two trips to Malta taking PoWs to camp there.

The Battalion left the safety of Egypt on 3 May, to go into action at Gallipoli. He took part in the charge on 4 June described here and, whilst holding the positions, was wounded the next day. The local newspaper reported "A rifle bullet struck the jack-knife he was carrying and tore away all the bone on the handle and bent the flat iron side of the knife until it was a curved groove and then glanced off." He was wounded by shrapnel later in the day. Arthur was evacuated to Malta arriving there on the 14th and then, a week later, he was sent back to the UK for further hospital treatment.

When he had recovered, he was sent to Colwyn Bay to train new troops in musketry and it was reported in the press that around this time he was recommended for a commission (although it cannot have been approved). He returned to overseas service at Easter 1917 and this will have been when he was transferred to the 11th Battalion which will have been more in need of replacement troops at the time.

On 30 July, the Battalion moved to bivouacs in hop fields near the village of Elverdinghe, to the north west of Ypres (now Ieper). It stayed here for the next two weeks preparing for its part in a coming attack. The Third Battle of Ypres had started on 31 July, and, in this sector, the next phase would advance to capture the village of Langemarck. The Manchesters formed part of a mile-wide infantry attack.

The starting point for the attack was the west bank of the Steenbeck (a small river). On the way to their assembly positions, the Battalion's guides took to them to the wrong spot. Eventually, they made it to the correct place about an hour before zero hour.  There had only been two casualties, although the German artillery bombardment had been heavy.

At 4.45am, the men left their assembly positions and crossed the Steenbeck by way of a footbridge. As the Battalion was crossing, the enemy artillery fire increased and it destroyed the bridge. 8 officers, out of 16, were killed or wounded at this point. It was not a good start and the advance was made more difficult by the fact that it had been raining for days and the ground had turned to deep mud. The troops simply could not move quickly.

By 6.12, they had advanced to their designated point, about a kilometre away and were given orders to lie down in the mud until the 8th Northumberland Fusiliers had captured a position. It is reported that, at 6.30, the Fusiliers signalled for the Manchesters to advance, but they had not yet secured their objective. This exposed the Manchesters to heavy machine gun fire from an enemy strongpoint at Maison du Hibou. The Battalion also had an objective to capture an enemy post on its right flank, west of the Langemarck-Winnepeg road. "P" Company, captured some prisoners here, but they then came under rifle and machine gun fire. They pressed forward to a series of concrete structures where they captured more prisoners. The Company had become somewhat isolated and had to withdraw back to the main body of troops.

On the left of the attack, "Q" and "S" Companies had lost all their officers and the men were now involved in very difficult and uncoordinated fighting for some huts, east of the Langemarck Road. Eventually the battalion managed to establish a defensive line here, running from the huts to the road. An enemy counter-attack, later in the day, was beaten off. The attack had been successful but at a significant cost. 5 officers, including Carl Lowther, had been killed. 46 other ranks had also died. Arthur and Robert Dawson. 170 others had been wounded.

It seems that Arthur may have felt that the attack would not go well as he wrote a short letter to his sweetheart beforehand. He put it in his wallet with a note asking that anyone who found it after his death to send it on to her. It was found and the chaplain did send it. Her name and the letter's contents are not known. As his body was found, it must be presumed that he received a proper burial and the location of his grave noted by the army. Perhaps it was destroyed by shellfire during the remaining months of the War or its location could not be found after the Armistice. Whichever was the case, it is now lost and Arthur's name is recorded on the nearby Memorial to the Missing

Further information about Arthur, including a photograph can be found in the book "Remembered" by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff.

(Original research into the events of 16 August by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website.)

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