As the son of a policeman, Arthur’s early life was spent moving around from one area of North Staffordshire to another. His father, James, had been born at Maer and the early years of his time in the police force had been spent in the south of the county which is probably how he came to meet Arthur’s mother, Charlotte Barnsley. His older siblings had been born at Brown Hills and Perry Barr. Arthur had been born at Brindley Ford and it was at the police house there that the family resided in 1891. They seemed to do a stint at Fenton before living at Chesterton in 1901. By 1911 Arthur was living with his brother and sister-in-law at Burslem where he was employed as a salesman and collector.
He must have moved to Biddulph by 1913 as in this year, on September 15th, he married Ethel Green at St. Lawrence. In the register his age was given as 22 and he was described as a painter of 43, Newpool Terrace. His bride was the daughter of John Green, a painter and plumber of High Street, Biddulph. Their daughter, Lottie Ethel, was born in 1914.
Arthur enlisted into the Biddulph Company, a battalion in the North Staffordshire Regiment, in September 1914, giving his address as 18, Lower John Street. His regimental number was 47283. The battalion he served with could have been the 1st/5th although his medal card shows no entry date into a theatre of war and no 1915 Star was awarded.
If Arthur did serve with this battalion he would have entered France in July 1915 and seen action in the Battle of Loos later that year. The following year the 1st/5th served at Gommercourt in the Battle of the Somme. 1917 saw them in action on the Hindenburg Line.
Arthur was later transferred to the 1st battalion Lincolnshire Regiment however without service records no date can be given or a reason for the move. This change happened in the field, as the 1st Lincolns had been on the Western Front since August 1914. This new battalion had a very similar military service to that of the North Staffords. They saw action in 1915 at Loos and in 1916 served on the Somme. In 1917 they were on the Hindenburg Line, Arras Offensive and Third Battle of Ypres.
The 1st Lincolnshire, who were attached to the 62nd Brigade, 21st Division, in 1918 fought in a bitter struggle in the Battles of St. Quentin and Bapaume during the enemy’s big advance and it could well have been in these actions that Arthur was taken prisoner. He was transferred to a prison camp in Germany and here he may have become ill or had previously received wounds. At the age of 26 he sadly died on November 14th 1918. Arthur Henry Clay died after the Armistice, most probably in a nearby POW camp. The British army did not enter Cologne until December 1918, a month after Arthur had died.
He is now at rest in the Cologne Southern Cemetery. Arthur is remembered on the Biddulph and Brown Lees memorials.
Michael Turnock and Elaine Heathcote.