Arthur was born in the Broughton area of Salford and was living there, at 20 Edith Street, with his parents, William and Ada, when the census was taken in 1901. He was the youngest of the three children recorded. Shortly afterwards, the family moved to Cheadle Heath (possibly to 11 Cheltenham Road where Mrs Wilkes is known to have been living in the early 1920s). He was educated at Cheadle Heath School and then to work for the London & North Western Railway Company. He was employed as a booking clerk, first at Heaton Chapel station and then at Manchester Exchange station.
Conscripted into the army in March 1917, when he was 18, he went overseas on active service in the following January. In the early hours of 11 March, the German army launched a number of large scale raids across No Man's Land. One of them was delivered against the Borderers positions at Goudberg - to the north west of the Belgian village of Passchendaele. The Commanding Officer's report records "At 6.5am, the enemy opened up a barrage on front line - Virile Farm - Track 6 - Goudberg Line. Almost immediately the attack started; enemy advancing in two waves against the whole Battn. front, except for the extreme left posts. The advance was checked by rifle and Lewis Gun fire though enemy made two subsequent attempts to advance. "
About 15 minutes after the first assault, German reinforcements could be seen coming forward over the skyline but they did not advance beyond the German front line. A considerable number of Germans had taken cover in No man's Land and were taking every opportunity to fire on the British. In return the British light Lewis machine guns were raking No Man's Land. This was pinning the Germans down and they could neither attack nor retreat. By the end of the day, Colonel Rackes (?) estimated that they had accounted for over 100 German casualties. The battalion had suffered 17 - dead, wounded or missing. Arthur was one of the few to be killed.
The raids were, no doubt, practice attacks to test out British defensive tactics. On 21 March, the Germans would launch overwhelmingly successful attacks along a wide front driving the British back many miles and nearly winning the War.