Arthur BROWN
Rank: Lance Corporal
Number: 28096
Date of Death: 21 October 1916
Age: 28
Cemetery: Grandcourt Road Cemetery, Grandcourt, Somme, France

He was married to Edith and lived at 156 Stockport Road, Cheadle. His parents, Joseph & Sarah, lived at 11 London Place, Stockport.

Arthur joined the army in Stockport. The 2nd South Lancashires was a regular army battalion, but Arthur's service number shows that he joined some time after the war had started, probably in early 1916, and will not have been a permanent member of the armed forces.

After a period in reserve, the Battalion went back into the front line on 15 October, north of the village of Courcellette on the Somme. The British Army had advanced very slowly since the start of the battle on 1 July and there had been many thousands of casualties. The day was spent cleaning and improving the trenches. It was reported that they found many German dead in these captured positions - most wearing gas masks. On the 17th, they were withdrawn to the support trenches.

On Thursday, 19 October, they again moved forward to a position known as Stuff Redoubt ready for an attack the following day. On arrival in the front line, they were told the attack had been cancelled due to the heavy rain. The day was spent again clearing trenches but also digging graves in expectation of the coming casualties. The War Diary notes that everyone was very wet and covered in mud. The condition of the tracks and trenches leading to the front line meant it was very difficult to bring up the evening's rations. The next day, the operation was again postponed due to the vile weather.

Just after midday on Saturday, 21st October, the British artillery opened a barrage and this was answered by the German guns a few minutes later. Orders were given for Arthur and his mates to attack immediately. They rushed the 400 yards to the enemy trench. The War Diary reports that the "spirit of all ranks was wonderful and men went over the parapet in very fine style arriving in the enemy's trench about 12.15." There had been few casualties in the attack and most of these had been caused by men becoming intermingled with the British artillery shelling.

A few Germans were found in the trench with many other coming up from "dug-outs". About 50 were killed in the further fighting with others being forced back into their communication trenches where about 400 surrendered. The Battalion started to consolidate its position almost immediately but, throughout the day, a considerable number of casualties were suffered from shell and sniper fire. During the afternoon, groups of the Lancashires pushed forward into the German trench system, capturing one machine gun and destroying several others.

The attack had been a success, with the units either side also capturing their objectives. During the night the new front line was quiet, but their starting position at Stuff Redoubt was obliterated by German shelling. Arthur had been one of 45 soldiers killed during the day's fighting.

Grandcourt Road Cemetery was started in the spring of 1917 when the British advance had made it safe enough for the bodies to be recovered from the original No Man's Land. By then it was impossible to identify many of the bodies and many others had disappeared in the five months of artillery shelling. Also buried in the Cemetery is another local man, Edward Mycock, who was killed the same day.

(Note: Original research by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website)

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