Arthur Matthias TOMLINSON
Rank: Private
Number: 46602
Unit: 1/5th Battalion YORK & LANCASTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 13 October 1918
Age: 19
Cemetery: Vis-en-Artois Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

Arthur was born in New Mills in 1899, the youngest of the five children of John and Alice Tomlinson. The family moved to Hawk Green, near Marple in about 1911. He worked locally as a piecer at Goyt Mill.

When Arthur joined the army, he was assigned to the North Lancashire Regiment for training purposes but never served abroad with the Regiment. When he went overseas it was with the York and Lancasters, but it can be deduced from his service number that it was not with the 1/5th Battalion. The 1/5th was a Territorial Battalion and, throughout the war, its soldiers only had four or six digit numbers. A number of the Regiment's other Battalions were disbanded in the spring of 1918 and this was probably when Arthur was transferred.

Arthur would be killed less than a month before the War ended. By early October, the British army was making almost daily advances although the Germans continued to resist strongly. By the 12th, solid intelligence reports indicated that the Germans had retreated to the far side of the River Selle and orders were issued for the British to follow them the next day.

The Battalion formed up one mile north of the French village of Rieux and advanced at zero hour of 9am. Going down the sloping ground, it became apparent that they were now in full view of the enemy on high ground to thre east of Haspres. The Germans opened fire with machine guns and artillery shelling. At first the fire was comparatively light but it increased in intensity as the troops reached the floor of the valley. They advanced uphill to the top of the next ridge and here again came under heavy machine gun fire. The official report of the attack records that "D" Company "continued the attack with great vigour down to the village of Haspres suffering very severe casualties and in a short time losing 70% of its strength."

The other three Companies saw this and halted their attack on the top of the ridge where they dug-in at about 9.30. Haspres was strongly held by the Germans with several machine gun posts in action. One gun was located in the church spire and, with the extra height, was able to fire down on any attempt to advance towards the village and was also able to fire on the men on top of the ridge. It was impossible to make any further progress until British artillery could be brought forward to shell Haspres and re-enforcements arrived. This would not be until the following day. However, the Battalion was relieved from the front line during the evening. It would be their last action of the War, but it had been a costly one. Arthur was one of 65 men who had been killed. His body was never recovered and identified. It would not be until the 20th that troops managed to cross the River Selle.

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

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