Sunday, October 19, 2014

49461 Sgt Arthur Still, Machine Gun Corps

Arthur Still was born in Chailey about January 1892.  The 1901 Census of England & Wales records the family living at North Common, Chailey.  Albert Still (37), headed the family and gave his trade as an ordinary agricultural labourer.  The rest of the family comprised Albert’s 37 year old wife Fanny and their eight children: Alice (aged 15 and working as a laundry maid), Albert (aged 13, working as a telegraph boy), Alfred (12), Arthur (nine), Daisy Maud (seven), Edward (seven), Ernest (four) and George Henry (nine months). 

Fortunately, Arthur has surviving service papers in WO 363 which can be accessed on Ancestry. He joined the 4th Royal Sussex (Territorial Force) at East Grinstead on 14th January 1913 giving his age as 21 years and his place of residence as Hindleap Cottage, Forest Row, Sussex.  His occupation was noted as Carter and his employer as Mr Inslefield (or Inglefield) of Forest Row.  His height was recorded as five feet seven and a half inches. The 4th Royal Sussex had been formed on 1st April 1908 and recruited locally by companies.  Men from East Grinstead and Crawley were assigned to C Company so it is likely that Arthur was a C Company man. 

On 5th August 1914, Arthur was embodied in the 4th Royal Sussex and posted to the 2/4th Battalion on 14th December.  The eight companies were also reorganised into four companies, the old C and E companies becoming C Company. 

On 27th January 1915 he was posted to the 1/4th Battalion which was then attached to the Home Counties Division.  On 24th April 1915, the 1/4th Royal Sussex was assigned to the 160th Brigade in the 53rd (Welsh) Division and on 7th July 1915 the battalion embarked at Devonport on HMT Ulysses to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF). On 28th July it arrived at Alexandria, before leaving for Port Said on the 30th. It arrived there the next day, and left for Gallipoli on 4th August 1915, arriving off Mudros Bay on 7th August.  It disembarked at Suvla Bay on 9th August. 

The 53rd Division was a pre-war division which contained two brigades from Wales and one from Cheshire but it was severely depleted in the opening months of the war when six of its battalions were sent to reinforce the BEF in France.  These six battalions never re-joined the division and were replaced with other battalions, amongst these, the 1/4th Royal Sussex. 

The division remained at Gallipoli for four months but by the end of November 1915, worn down by battle casualties and sickness, it was reduced to about a quarter of its strength and withdrawn to Egypt.  Arthur  was appointed lance-corporal on 22nd November and promoted to full corporal ten days later.  On 9th May 1916 he was promoted to acting sergeant and, two months later on 11th July, transferred to the 160th Company of The Machine Gun Corps.  The following day he was promoted to sergeant. 

On December  2nd 1916 he was at the Egypt Depot but was back in England later that month to marry his fiancee, Catherine Matilda Banks, in Luton on 27th December.  Under the heading, “Home on Leave”, The East Sussex News reported simply on Friday January 5th 1917 that, “Sergt A Still of The Machine Gun Corps, whose home is at Chailey, is on leave from Egypt.” 

On 8th June 1917 he was bitten on the left leg by a mule while assisting in shoeing it and was admitted to the 2nd Australian Stationary Hospital two days later.  On 8th December 1917 he was posted to the 53rd Divisional Machine Gun Battalion and was finally disembodied on 4th May 1919, giving his next of kin as his wife, Catherine Matilda Still, and his address as Number 2, K Block, 64 Glamorgan Street, Pimlico, London SW1.  It was noted that Arthur had been an “…efficient and trustworthy NCO with a thorough experience of transport work and horsemanship.  He is a most successful NCO and gets the best out of his men.” 

Given Arthur 's experience with horses, it was somewhat ironic therefore that his service was blighted by a mule biting his leg.  From his surviving service record, it is evident that he was in and out of various hospitals after the bite (as well as being admitted to the 2nd Australian Stationary Hospital he spent time at the 12th and 31st General Hospitals) and in May 1919 he was awarded a final pension of six shillings and sixpence for 26 weeks, being accorded a 10 per cent disability.  Despite this however, Arthur's Army Protection Certificate, dated 6th April 1919, still classified him as A1.  

Arthur's regimental number whilst with The Royal Sussex Regiment was 1560.  When he transferred to the Machine Gun Corps he was given the army number 49461.  At the time of his transfer in July 1916, he was living at Alvestone House, North Common, Chailey. 

Four of Arthur’s five brothers: Albert Still, Edward Still, Ernest Still and George Henry Still, also served their King and Country during the First World War.
Medal index card courtesy of Ancestry.

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