Arthur’s parents, Alfred and Sarah, spent the early years of their marriage in Sydney, Australia and their first two children were born there. They returned to the Manchester area in about 1889 and another five children would be born and were recorded on the 1901 Census. They were then living at 84 Albert Grove, Longsight where Alfred was a successful manager with a company of wheelwrights. His income allowed the family to employ a live-in servant – Emma Leighton.
By 1914, Mr & Mrs Townsend were known to be living at “Craigmair”, Hossop Road, Reddish but Arthur was living at Parsonage Farm, Mottram. He worked in Manchester as a clerk for Peel, Watson & Co, 6 Parker Street. He enlisted into the army on 27 August 1914 and arrived at Winchester to start his training two days later. His enlistment papers still exist at the National Archives and these show him to have been just under 5’ 7” tall and weighing 122 pounds. Arthur was described as having a sallow complexion with blue eyes and brown hair. He did not indicate any religious denomination on his papers.
Whilst still in training he was formally admonished on 25 January 1915 for being absent between midnight and 9.30am the previous night. The newly formed 7th Battalion left Britain to go on active service on 19 May.
On 23 July, Arthur and his comrades started another tour of duty in the trenches at Hooge – on the outskirts of the Belgian town of Ypres (now Ieper). They were relieved by the 8th Battalion around midnight on the 29/30th and marched away to rest camp at Vlamertinghe. They arrived there at 3.45am. Within the hour, news came that the positions at Hooge were under attack by the Germans and the Battalion was ordered to return. They hurriedly collected rations and ammunition and filled their water bottles and moved off at about 7am.
As they approached the battle area, orders were received to form up in support of the 8th Battalion and prepare to counter-attack. The communication trench was very muddy and the men had to move in single file to the assembly positions at Zouave Wood. They were in place by 2pm, with “B” and “C” Companies in front and “D” and “A” behind them. The Battalion’s War Diary notes that “All the time, the Germans poured a terrific fire of heavy high explosive into the north portion of the Wood, making our preparations very difficult and causing many casualties.”
At 2.45, the 8th Battalion started its attack and the leading companies of the 7th also advanced. “Their exit from the Wood was impeded by our own barbed wire and owing to the machine gun fire of the enemy, very few got beyond the edge of the wood.” The attack was clearly a failure and the remaining men of the 7th were now ordered to dig in and consolidate their position. They held this until relieved at midnight. Like many of his comrades who had attacked, Arthur’s body was never found and identified.