Arthur Eaves' story has taken some amateur detective work and, at the time of writing in May 2008, it remains incomplete.
As with all those researched for this project, Arthur's story started with an inscription on a War Memorial. Or, in his case, two War Memorials as his name appears on both the Bredbury and Romiley ones. In the former case, the inscription records his service as being with the 8th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment. For a number of years, there was no progress in the research. There was no-one of this name commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. There was no wartime obituary for him in the local press and all other enquiries drew a blank.
However, returning to his story in the autumn of 2007 was to prove a success. New information had become available online - information about military service; information about local births, marriages and, importantly, deaths. A search of the latter records revealed the local death of 48 year old Arthur Eaves. It was likely to be the right man but would there be anything to connect this death to military service over two years after the War ended? The answer would lie in his death certificate.
It showed that he had died at 7 Compstall Road, Romiley and that present at his death had been his brother, John Eaves, who lived next door at No. 5. It showed that Arthur had died of Bronchitis and cardiac failure after being gassed in the War. Interestingly, it gave Arthur's home address as 13 Grismont Avenue, Sparkbrook, Birmingham and his occupation as insurance agent.
The 1914 edition of Kelly's Directory recorded John Eaves living at No. 5 and working as a painter. No. 7 was the home of milliner, Bridget Eaves - almost certainly their mother. This was confirmed when an examination was made of the 1901 Census. This showed the family had originated from Preston and, at the time, the family were living in Compstall. Arthur appears to have already left home and was living in Birmingham.
The records of soldiers' entitlement to medals are also now available online and these confirmed that only one man called Arthur Eaves had served with the Worcestershire Regiment. He must be the same person as the Romiley man. This man had later transferred to the Labour Corps.
Arthur's service file escaped a fire at the National Archives in the 1940s and it enables the reader to gain even more information about his military service. He enlisted at Worcester on 25 May 1915. His medical examination confirms he was very fit with perfect vision. He was a tall man, particularly for those times, standing just under 6'.
The record shows that he was gassed on 19/20 July 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. Records of the Battle show that on the 19th, 8th Worcesteshires were digging a new communication trench forward from La Boiselle. They came under attack from new type of gas shell and here were only 18 men unaffected. The whole Battalion had to be moved away for treatment and, over a month later, 400 were pronounced still unfit for duty. After finally recovering from the worst effects of the gas, he was transferred to the Labour Corps on 15 July 1917. His time in the trenches was over. He was assigned to 5th Prisoner of War Company and he would spend the rest of military service as a camp guard, transferring to 342nd PoW Company on 26 October 1918.
Arthur was discharged from the Army on 22 February 1919 and returned to Birmingham. However, no doubt with seriously failing health, he returned to Romiley to die at the family home the following year. Reporting his death, the local newspaper said that his body was carried to his grave by his four brothers - Oswald, Peter, John and Cuthbert. Arthur's death was directly related to his military service and, as such, he is entitled to be commemorated in the nation's Debt of Honour Register and for his grave to be maintained as a war grave by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. All the evidence collected through this project was sent to the Commission in January 2008 and a decision is now awaited from the Ministry of Defence.
UPDATE: August 2008. Ministry of Defence accepts that Arthur's death was related to his War service and his name will now be included in the Debt of Honour Register. His grave at St Mary's will be maintained by the War Graves Commission as an official war grave.