Arthur WRAGG
Rank: Private
Number: 41378
Unit: 1/7th Battalion WORCESTERSHIRE REGIMENT
Date of Death: 9 October 1917
Age: 30
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium

The Wraggs originated from the Ardwick district of Manchester and Arthur, like his three older siblings, had been born there. The family had moved to Reddish around 1890 and Thomas and Emily Wragg had another two daughters after that. When the Census was taken in 1901, the family was living at 24 Booth Street (and, later, at 8 Brooklands Road).

Arthur was a skilled man, working as a painter and paperhanger for a Mr J Leicester of Reddish and a Mr G Drury of Openshaw. He lived at 1 Ashbrook Lane, Reddish with his wife Minnie and their only child until he enlisted into the army on 29 May 1916.

When he joined up, he was assigned to the Norfolk Regiment (service number 29263). It is not known when, or under what circumstances, he was transferred to the Worcesters. It is known, from his medal entitlement records, that he served abroad with the Norfolks so he may have been wounded at some point. When he was fit enough to return to duty the Worcesters may have been in greater need of replacement troops.

Arthur was to be killed on the day that was later designated as the Battle of Poelcapelle - one of the most significant British attacks in the on-going Third Battle of Ypres (often known as Passchendaele). They moved into positions, east of a large stream known as the Steenbeck, during the evening of the 8th and were all set by 2am on the 9th. Zero hour was set for 5.20am. The Battalion's War Diary, at the National Archives, includes an extensive report on the attack from which the following account has been constructed.

Their objectives were the German strongpoints known as Adler and Varlet Farms and a small ridge at Wallemolen. It had been raining for days and the battlefield was thick with mud. The attack was going to be far from easy. "The rain ceased about 4am and a high wind sprang up which was bitterly cold; zero was at 5.20am which on account of the weather seemed too early as it was almost quite dark the moon being very clouded."

The British artillery barrage opened up only 90 seconds before zero hour, giving the Germans no warning that an attack was imminent but, even so, their artillery retaliated within a couple of minutes. The shells fell heavily on "A" and "D" Companies forming the rear wave of the attack. As soon as the Worcesters advanced they came under heavy rifle and machine gun fire from their front and flanks. "It was at once apparent that the Germans were holding their front line in great strength with many MGs [machine guns]". No Man's Land was extremely muddy and churned up with shell holes. It meant the men could not quickly get across and they lost the protection of the artillery barrage that was intended to roll across in front of them as a curtain of protection. The Battalion only managed to advance some 300 yards before the attack stalled with 8 of the 12 officers becoming casualties as well as many of the men.

On the left, there had been more success and several Germans were captured. At 6am, "A" Company was ordered to push on and renew the attack even though all of its officers had become casualties. Captain Harris, of "B" Company, took command and led the men on to within 50 yards of the German positions. "About this time rifle and Lewis Gun targets began to present themselves and the killing of Germans commenced." Units on the left and right of the Worcesters had also made successful advances and the pressure of British firepower now forced the Germans to fall back, with others surrendering. As they did, it was possible for parties of British troops to start to get into the German front line trench. Once they had secured this, they were able to push on and were able to report the capture of Adler Farm by 11.16am.

More or less, this was the end of the day's fighting for the Battalion and it is probable that Arthur was already dead. They were, however, subjected to intermittent shelling throughout the rest of the day. They were relieved from the front line during the evening of the 10th. 59 men were known to be dead and 140 wounded. Another 22 were missing and unaccounted for. They had spent the day burying any bodies they could find but, if Arthur's was amongst them, the location of his grave was lost in the later fighting and he now has no known grave.

Reporting his death, the local newspaper, stated that Ashbrook Lane, where he lived, had only five houses but each had lost a loved one. Herbert Bower lived at No. 3 and Frederick Taylor at No. 5.

   
           
   
     
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