Thursday, June 01, 2017

15429 Sergeant Arthur Samuel Reeve, 8th KOSB

15429 Sergeant Arthur Samuel Reeve of the 8th Kings Own Scottish Borderers was a patient at Hickwells in October 1915.  His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album is a watercolour of St Mary’s Church at nearby Newick which can be viewed here.  He signs it simply, Sgt A Reeve, 8th KOSB.

Arthur Reeve was born at Hull, in the East Riding of Yorkshire in July 1875.  His Medical History Sheet, retained in his surviving service records at The National Archives in Kew, gives the village of Upton as his place of birth, but every other document notes Hull.
He appears on the 1881 census living at 105 Peel Street, Spotland, Rochdale with his family.  The household comprised Robert Reeve (head, married, aged 30, working as a silk loom jobber), his wife Susannah Reeve (aged 36, her occupation noted as “house duties) and their two children: Arthur (aged five) and Mary K Reeve (aged three).  Robert Reeve was born in Norfolk, his wife in Wardle, Lancashire.  Arthur is noted as being born in Hull and his sister in Rochdale.  This suggests that the family had moved from Hull to Rochdale certainly by 1878.

On the 1891 census the family is still living in Spotland but has moved to 1 Joseph Street.  Arthur, now aged 15, is recorded as a silk finisher.  Mary is recorded as, what looks like, a “woollen mule piecer”.  There are also three other children – Robert Reeve (aged nine), Gertrude Reeve (aged seven) and Ethel Reeve (aged five). 

The majority of the Reeve family’s neighbours have occupations in the silk or cotton trade and it is possible that the accommodation they occupied was either tied to a local silk/cotton factory or situated close by to one.

Arthur does not appear on the 1901 census.  By that time he had been a soldier for close to seven years and was probably overseas.  He’d enlisted in The Royal Lancaster Regiment at Manchester on 4th July 1894.  No doubt in common with many young men of the time, he probably felt that the British Army offered an escape from the humdrum life of work in a cotton mill or factory.  When he enlisted however, he gave his occupation as labourer so it seems likely that he had already decided that life in a mill was not for him.  (His father however, is listed on the 1901 census as a silk weaver.  He was a widower by now and had moved to Reddish in Lancashire.  He was living at home with his three daughters: Mary (recorded as “:Minnie”), Gertrude and Ethel).

Arthur was given the army service number 4504 and commenced his army career. Where he did his soldiering is not clear now but we get some idea from his medical history sheet. He was vaccinated on 23rd July but was in hospital in Lancaster for nine days the following month with a severe cold and sore throat.  He was at Hilsea in October and then at Portsmouth that December.  Quinsy (a condition similar to tonsillitis) kept him in bed there for eight days and in January and February 1895 he spent nearly a month in hospital with severe “follicular tonsillitis”.  In November 1895 he appears to have been incarcerated in Gosport Military Prison (demeanour unknown) and in April 1896, apparently still in prison, he was fitted with a truss for a hernia.

His hernia appears to have plagued him throughout 1896 and into 1897.  He spent two more spells in hospital in 1896 because of it and was fitted with a second truss at Devonport in March 1897.

There is then a gap on his service record of nine years until July 1906 when he spent time in an unknown hospital due to a problem with his lymph glands – his papers are difficult to read at this point.  He was probably in India however as an entry for 26th December 1906 notes “malarial symptoms”  which caused him to be detained in hospital for 35 days. Bareilly is also mentioned in connection with what looks like convalescence.

It is not clear when Arthur Reeve left the army but by the time war was declared in 1914 he was off the Reserve but had joined the Special Reserve.  He enlisted as a Special Reserve Recruit at Ardwick on 1st September 1914 at the grand old age of 39 years and two months.  He joined the 8th Kings Own Scottish Borderers – which in due course would form part of the 15th (Scottish) Division - and was given the number 15429.  His papers show that he was five feet, four and a half inches tall and weighed 132 pounds.  Various moles are noted on his chest and arms together with a small mole between his shoulders.
Arthur was given a typhoid inoculation in October 1914 and transferred down to Bordon, Salisbury Plain in February 1915. 

The following extract is adapted from part 9 of The Hospital Way.

The 15th Division, with the exception of two battalions from the Leicestershire and Bedfordshire Regiments was entirely Scottish and was raised at Aldershot.  It was comprised of men surplus to establishment of the recently formed 9th (Scottish) Division and from drafts sent from various Scottish depots.  By 15th September it was complete.  The major problem facing this and the other K2 Divisions however, was a lack of officers and experienced NCOs.  Divisions comprised of the first 100,000 recruits had been able to call upon the services of regular officers and NCOs from the regimental depots; not so their successors.  Scarcely a battalion had more than four officers and the 7th Royal Scots Fusiliers could muster just one officer: a recently commissioned RGA Quartermaster-Sergeant, amongst the 900 men.  “At no time”, states the Divisional history, “were there more than five Regular officers in any one brigade.” There were some ex-regular NCOs and pensioners who had taken part in campaigns in Egypt and Afghanistan and they were given acting ranks but in many cases new officers were selected, so the Divisional history states, “solely on account of their smart appearance, and in nearly every instance the choice was justified.”

Arthur Reeve a former NCO in the Regular army, and with just the kind of soldiering experience that the 15th Scottish Division so desperately lacked, must have been welcomed with opened arms. He was appointed sergeant and posted to D Company.

A shortage of trained officers and NCOs was not the only problem that faced the division.  Rifles did not appear until October, and when they did arrive they were found to be obsolete and fit only for drill purposes.  Army uniform too was non-existent, the stores having been plundered by the First Hundred Thousand.  Ordinary civilian clothes not being suited to the rigours of army life, new recruits were encouraged to obtain good suits, boots and greatcoats from home and promised an allowance of ten shillings per man. This though, reports the divisional history, “… did not help matters greatly.  In these early days it was quite a common occurrence for men to be excused parade either because the state of their boots would not allow them to march or because their garments were not sufficiently decent to warrant their leaving camp or barracks.”  When clothing did arrive towards the end of September 1914, it took everybody by surprise.  “The garments consisted of English-pattern trousers and red serge jackets of every sort and description, some of which had been manufactured as far back as 1893.  There were a few pairs of tartan trews but these were nearly all snapped up by NCOs and the men had to content themselves with what was left.  One man was heard to remark that he had come down to be a Gordon Highlander and not a ****** postman.”

But slowly the men of the 44th, 45th and 46th Infantry Brigades, which comprised the 15th Division, settled into their new routine.  “By the end of March 1915”, the divisional history reports, “weaklings had been weeded out” or rather, those men unable to withstand the 72 hour weeks which were the rule on Salisbury Plain.  Although the men may have been ready, the division was still desperately short of the wherewithal to wage a war.  Lewis gunners learnt their drill with the help of wooden models whilst signallers used imaginary telephone and telegraphic equipment. The divisional artillery was no better placed.  Men improvised with a dummy gun made from a pine log mounted on a funeral gun-carriage and an old victoria carriage discovered in a stable was cut into two to represent a carriage and limber.  When working artillery pieces did arrive they were found to date back to the Boer War with a number of French cannon dating back to 1890.  Nevertheless, for the few months that they were in service, the 2000 men of the newly formed divisional artillery, read their manuals, practised their drill and waited for the day when they could fire real shells at a real enemy.

On July 4th the division received the order to mobilise and three days later the first advance parties left for France. By nightfall, on the 10th July 1915, the entire 15th Division was on French soil.

The war diary of the 8th KOSB lists all the NCOs who arrived in France with the original contingent and Arthur Reeve is there, recorded as a sergeant with D Company.  The strength of the batallion on departure for France was as follows:

30 Officers
6 Warrant Officers
43 Sergeants
40 Corporals
901 Other Ranks                             
+1 Interpreter           

Total 1021

The following information is taken from the battalion war diary:

10th July 1915
Headquarters Staff and C and D Companies land at Boulogne at 8:40pm (A and B landed at 9:20am) and march to large rest camp at OSTROHOVE.

14th July 1915
Smoke helmets issued.
[Over the following days, various minor promotions and demotions are announced including “Sergeant A R Fraser who had been struck off strength in England for employment with Divisional Head Quarters, was today returned to duty for misconduct and posted to B Company for duty.”  Also, “Sergeant Burns ‘B’ Company reverted to Corporal at his own request and was placed first in the list of his rank.”]

22nd July 1915
We received today the news of the regrettable death by shell fire of Major Forbes DSO of the 7th battalion who was at the front for instruction in trench warfare.  Our sympathy goes out to the 7th Battalion on the loss of an esteemed and valuable officer.

26th July 1915
Private J Golding D Coy was accidentally shot in a dug-out in Sector X2 about 10:30am by No 15445 Pte H Guest.

2nd August 1915
[Field General Court Martial assembled for trial of Private Guest] “Neglect to the prejudice of good order and military discipline”, Sergeant Pike, “Drunkenness when warned for duty”, Corporal McKinnon, “drunkenness on parade”.  Private Guest sentenced to one year’s imprisonment with Hard Labour and suspension of punishment applied for.  Sergeant Pike and Corporal McInnon sentenced to be reduced to the ranks.

4th August 1915
[Both men reduced to the ranks]

15th August 1915
Bathing of men and washing of clothes in mine condensers.

16th August 1915
Relieved 10th SCOTTISH RIFLES in Sector W3, relief completed 4:30pm.  D on right, A on left, C in support trench, B in reserve billets NORTH MAROC with Head Quarters.

18th - 21st August 1915
[Minor promotions and incidents continue]:
Sergeant Ward of D Company accidentally wounded by bayonet in leg when returning over parapet from wire patrol.  To Hospital.

Private Saint ‘C’ Company.  Gun shot wound in great toe of right foot, self-inflicted through negligence and disobedience of orders.  To Hospital.

22nd August 1915
[Pte Ormerod is killed on a working party by a shell fragment striking him on the temple.  Diarist records his burial]: “Buried in ground around MAROC CHURCH by Father Gillen.  Exact position of grave.  Corner of church grounds.  WEST SIDE of ruined church.  4 feet from WEST WALL and 101/2 feet from NORTH WALL.  Next grave to that of No 1213 Lance Corporal A P BIRD 23rd Battn London Regmt.  Grave marked with Regimental Wooden Cross.”

The 8th KOSB was relieved by the 7th Battalion the same day. Five days later at Fouquereuil it was reported that Lieutenant [William Gray] Herbertson and Sergeant Reeve as instructors, and eight NCOs and men per company were to attend a bomb-throwing course at Noeux les Mines.  Meanwhile, Lieutenant Douglas and eight NCOs and men were to attend a machine gun course (Vickers Maxim) at the same village.  Lieutenant Herbertson would be the brigade instructor and Sergeant Reeve would be his assistant.
On 31st August the battalion war diarist reported:

The 6th Battalion KOSB marched through on their way to VERQUIN where they are to be billeted for the night.  Work was stopped in the Battalion and the 6th halted for a few minutes to allow of the men talking to each other.  The 6th looked very fit.

The diary continues:

1st September 1915
[Heavy rain - company inspections and Drill]

2nd September 1915
Battalion moved to MAZINGARBE marching by companies to NOEUX LES MINES and from there by Half platoon to Bivouac near SAULCHOY FARM.  Heavy rain all night.  Men most comfortable.

3rd September 1915
Rained continuously all day.  Working parties in X Sector and at QUALITY STREET improving communications, making advanced ammunition stores, cutting gun emplacements, improving water supply, and laying a trolly [?] line from RE store MAZINGARBE to QUALITY STREET.

4th September 1915
[Working parties continue]

5th September 1915
Usual church parades arranged for but no men available for church as all are required for day working parties except the 200 returned at 4:30am.

7th September 1915
[Battn continues providing working parties for 73rd and 91st Companies RE - 300 men per day and 300 per night.  Casualties occur from shell fire on billets - 1 killed, 16 wounded.]
8th September 1915

All the battalion in trenches with exception of Head Quarter Company which remained in QUALITY STREET.

9th - 15th September 1915
[Various duties and casualties reported]

16th September 1915
Lieut Herbertson rejoined from Brigade Bombing School and resumed duty as Bombing Instructor to Battalion, assisted by Sergeant Reeve

17th - 22nd September 1915
[In and around NOEUX LES MINES, MAZINGARBE area]

23rd September 1915                           
Bombers paraded for inspection by The Brigade Bombing Officer and Battalion supply of bombs drawn.  It was now generally understood that an attack on the German Position was intended for Saturday morning 25th and the day was spent in General preparation.

24th September 1915
The MAIRIE was set aside for storing of kits and packs of Officers, NCOs and men, this storing was effected by 10am...

On 25th September, The British Army launched its attack against the German positions around Loos.  You can read more about the preparations for the battle and the role played in it by the 15th Scottish Division in parts 9 and 10 of The Hospital Way.

Arthur Reeve was a casualty on the opening day, shot through the right thigh.  Lieutenant Herbertson and five other 8th KOSB officers were killed.  Battalion losses for the day were close to 400.  In all probability, Arthur would have made his way back form the front via a Field Ambulance, Casualty Clearing Station and possibly hospital before being transferred by hospital ship to England.  His service record is remarkably undetailed about his time in the army after his wounding at Loos, presumably because there was not much detail to include.  His recovery appears to have been long and slow and there is nothing in his record to suggest that he returned to his battalion.  His pensioner’s record card notes that his invaliding disability was the wound to his right thigh received on 25th September 1915.
On 10th May 1918 he was supplied with a part support denture and on 4th January 1919 a medical examination noted, “GSW right thigh, attributable to war service – 20% disability
[unclear] [unclear] small scar of entry on outer side of right thigh about 2 ½ inches above [unclear] of fibula – a 1 ½ inch scar on front of thigh 2 ½ inches above patella [unclear].
Arthur was discharged from the army on 17th February 1919 and rated Grade III.  

A pension’s board held at Manchester on 2nd February 1920 notes his rank Acting Company Quarter Master Sergeant and he would attend further pensions’ boards over the coming months.  On 9th December 1920, a board held in Manchester noted that his condition was improving and that there was less than 20 per cent disability.  Six weeks later, another board found that the disability had reduced to between one and five per cent.  He was awarded nine shillings and six pence a week for the next 35 weeks and at this point, his service record yields no more.

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