Census returns suggest that Arthur, the son of Richard Henry and Rose, had been born in Congleton, however, his service records state his place of birth in 1891 as Biddulph. His early years were certainly spent in Congleton. His father died in the autumn of 1895 and in 1901 he and his widowed mother were living at 4, Mill Green, Congleton. By 1911 he had moved to Biddulph, found employment in the ironworks and was living with his sister and brother-in-law at 8, South View.
On September 1st 1914, Arthur Lacey enlisted at Biddulph into the 8th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment. Arthur’s service records inform us that he had previously served in the 7th Cheshire Regiment. He gave his address as 12, South View and stated that he was employed as a miner.
Initially the battalion had difficulties over barracks and equipment at Bristol before moving to Weston-super-Mare and then Tidworth on Salisbury Plain for their intensive training. It was while on leave from Perham Down camp that Arthur may have made the decision to ask his sweetheart to become his wife as on October 21st 1914, Arthur and Alice Ann married. The occasion was an important one for Biddulph with local papers carrying the following report:
First ‘Khaki Wedding’
Weekly Sentinel: October 24th 1914: A Khaki Wedding at Biddulph
“The first khaki wedding celebrated in Biddulph for many years took place at the Parish Church on Wednesday morning, when Lance-Corporal Arthur Lacey, who is with the 8th North Staffords at Perham Down Camp, was married to Alice Ann, the third daughter of James Wilshaw, Station Road, Biddulph. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Rowland Bateman, Vicar of Biddulph. Lacey, who left Biddulph with the first batch of recruits for Lord Kitchener’s Army, was granted four days leave for the happy event, and returned to camp on Thursday. He looked very smart in his khaki uniform, and has also proved very smart in his duties at camp. The many friends of the soldier bridegroom and his bride in Biddulph wish them every happiness.”
Arthur became a father with the birth of Leonard Arthur. As he had not yet left for France, we can only hope that he got to meet his son.
June 20th 1915 brought the King to Tidworth to inspect the 19th Western Division. Arthur served in ‘C’ company and his battalion were now attached to this new division. Soon after, orders were issued to prepare for embarkation, and the division crossed the channel on July 17th. The lads were to see the French coast the next day, moving inland to St. Omer, their assembly point.
Final preparations for war were made and late September to early October found the troops engaged in a diversionary action in the Battle of Loos. Christmas came and went and in the early spring of 1916 the 8th Staffords were in the Laventre-La Bassee district, fighting in the usual abysmal conditions. The battalions’ pals from Biddulph, Jonathan, Harry, Joe, Jack and Harold would soon be preparing for the forthcoming Battle of the Somme.
The battle opened on July 1st and the 19th Division were to see action at La Boisselle with a successful attack against the enemy on the 4th. They continued their hard slow slog throughout the summer. This battle came at a terrible cost to the men and saw them still fighting in November with the pals south of Grandcourt. The winter brought deteriorating conditions. Living in the trenches was dreadful and on November 18th and 19th, over the open Somme landscape, a heavy snow blizzard swept in. The deteriorating weather conditions combined with the already frozen ground was where the battalion made its attack on enemy lines. This was at very close quarters and fighting was hand to hand.
Although they fought bravely many men fell on the battlefield over those two days. On November 19th 1916 Private Arthur Lacey was killed in this action along with pals Harold Simpson and Harry Bailey. Private Lacey now rests in the nearby Grandcourt Road Cemetery. He is also commemorated on the Biddulph memorials.
Right: At Grandcourt Road Cemetery.
Mike Turnock & Elaine Heathcote.