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Gunther, Archibald

Archibald (Archie) Gunther was born on 25th June, 1886 and baptised 4th July, 1886 at St Mary’s Catholic Church, Flint and was the eleventh of 16 children to Charles (Karl) Gunther and Mary Ann (Gittins). He was a brother to Donkeyman Robert Henry Gunther.

At the time of the 1891 census, Charles and Mary Ann, with nine of their children and two lodgers, were living at 31, Castle Street, Flint.

Charles Gunther was born in Basel, Switzerland and died of heart disease on 24th February, 1896, aged about 60, at his home in Castle Street, and buried in the Northop Road Cemetery. He was a Chelsea Pensioner, having served in the 4th Battalion Rifle Brigade, in Malta, Gibraltar (where he received a Good Conduct badge meriting additional pay of a penny a day) and Montreal, Canada. He was discharged on 30th March, 1869, after 10 years and 1 month service, in consequence of “Chronic rheumatism and palpitation.” He was awarded a pension of 7d per day. In Flint he was employed as a chemical labourer, eventually setting himself up in business as a greengrocer.

The 1901 census found the Gunthers, living at 25, 27 and 29 Castle Street, listed as the Common Lodging House, and 10 years later they were occupying No. 29 only, but without Archie. It is not known where he was on census night in 1911 but there is reason to believe he had been serving in the army since about 1908 so may well have been overseas.

A boxing tournament was held at the Drill Hall, Flint, the second within a fortnight, on Monday 6th April, 1913, of which there was a good attendance, and the Flintshire Observer of 10th April reported the event:

Messrs A J Mothersole and George Clews acted as masters of ceremonies, whilst Messrs A R Hughes (Swan Hotel) and W H Bennett (Shotton) were the referees in the various contests. Mr W Jones (Sydney Street) was timekeeper, and the usual seconders. Mr Ted Carroll acted as ring manager.

The opening contest was a 10-round fight between Reuben Stacey (Flint), the cup winner of the last competition, and Archie Gunther (Flint), the runner-up for the cup in the same competition. The rounds were of two minutes’ duration. Mr Bennett refereed. At the outset the contest was very keen. Gunther seemed to be heavier than his opponent, but the latter had a longer reach. In the second round Stacey rained a shower of hits on his opponent, including a severe blow on the mouth. Gunther guarded off several would-be hits by cleverly ducking.

The third round took a different course. Gunther boxed well and drove home a series of blows. In the fourth round, Stacey regained the lead, and before the expiration of the two minutes Gunther surrendered. Stacey was awarded a silver cup, which was given by Mr A R Hughes.

Archie left the army and was employed at the Hawarden Bridge Ironworks, Shotton and in 1914 married Elizabeth Foster. They set up home at 7, Castle Street and in 1914 had a son named John, who married Eileen McKeown, in 1935, and had at least three children.

He re-enlisted in Flint in 1914 and landed at Gallipoli on 8th August, 1915.

In an interview with a County Herald representative on Wednesday, 7th October, 1914 Mrs Mary Gunther proudly stated she had five sons and a son-in-law now serving under the British Colours. She said that three of her sons were serving with the Flintshire Territorials: Gunner John Gunther, who served in the South African Campaign, was a member of the Royal Field Artillery at the Front; another son was on His Majesty’s Ship Brilliant, and a son-in-law was in Kitchener’s Army. Apparently, Mrs Gunther’s family had been connected with the army for generations. She said that her grandfather “was one of Sir Watkin Wynne’s men in Ireland, about one hundred years ago”. Her father, John Gittins, had served 21 years in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and her husband was a member of the Prince Consort’s Own Rifle Brigade for 11 years. Mrs Gunther stated that another of her sons was anticipating joining the Colours, and that she had a brother who was in the RWF Regiment, and where he has been some years. He was also at the Front, she said, and another brother was believed to be invalided from the Front, and was in hospital in Southampton.

Archie was killed at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli on 14th September, 1915, and was buried in the Hill 10 Cemetery, Turkey (Plot I, Row D, Grave 19).

Flint-Archibald-Gunther-001

Archibald Gunther’s grave at Hill 10 cemetery. Thanks to Bill Rosendale 2016

A friend of Archie, who was with him when he died, related the circumstances surrounding his death to Mrs Gunther, whose granddaughter from her second marriage passed on to the author. He said that someone had to fetch water for the men and a 16-year-old soldier was nominated. Archie had said he was too young and that he would go instead; when he got there he was shot in the head by a sniper.

He is remembered on two war memorials: Flint Town and St Mary’s Catholic Church, Flint, and was awarded the 1914–15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. He is also commemorated on the North Wales Heroes’ Memorial Arch, Bangor.

In early October, 1915, an intimation reached the Borough that Archie Gunther had been seriously wounded, but the source of the information was not divulged definitely, and, therefore, further news was awaited anxiously. The offcial news from the Records Office, Shrewsbury, was delivered at the house of his mother, on Monday the 4th October stating that Private A Gunther was dead, and that his death had occurred in the field on the 14th September, followed by the words “Died of wounds.” A story transpired that Archie, together with his brothers, Ned and David, landed at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli on the 8th August, 1915. Two days later they went into action, and the battalion was cut to pieces, losing its commander and a good few officers. They made a second attack on the 14th, but didn’t succeed.

Archie’s brother Edward, who was with the Flintshire Territorials at the Dardanelles, had forwarded a letter to his mother, having a remarkable reference to his brother. He wrote under date of September 19th, just five days later than the intimation of his brother’s death from the Military Authorities:

“I am sorry that I have got some bad news for you, and the news is that Archie has been wounded. He was wounded last Tuesday, September 14th. I am glad to say that he is going on very nicely, and I expect he will be well on his way to England by the time you get this letter from me. David also got hurt, but it was an accident. He fell in what we call the dug out, and he is in hospital.”

Mrs Gunther received an anonymous letter of condolence from a ‘friend’ in Holywell, regarding the loss she had sustained by the death of Archie. The letter stated that the deceased was a generous young man and made many friends in Holywell when he used to go to that town. The writer felt sure that he was greatly missed by all his friends in Flint, and he asked to be allowed to express his deepest sympathy with Mrs Gunther in her saddest hour, for she had lost a noble son in this Great War. He was liked by all who knew him; and they all who knew him in Holywell keenly regretted the loss.

‘Archie Gunther,’ as he was familiarly termed amongst his friends in Flint, was very popular. When the 1/5th Battalion left Flint and proceeded to Northampton, Royston and Higham Ferrers, he earned the esteem of the people where he was billeted. Those people were made acquainted of Archie’s death, and did not lose any time in communicating with his widow.

Mr and Mrs Croxford, of 2, Abington Place, York Road, Northampton, expressed their sorrow at the sad news. they received a letter from him when he landed at the Dardanelles. they saw him before he left England, and were hoping to see him again had he been spared to return.

Mrs Emily M Abbott, of 40, York Road, Northampton, writing to Mrs Gunther, said she was grieved at hearing that her husband had been killed in action. She could imagine what a shock it must have been to her. It seemed sad that brave men should lose their lives; but she would have the satisfaction of knowing he died for his King and Country.

“It was indeed hard for wives and children . . . and just now I am sure everything seems very dark for you; but I pray that our Heavenly Father may comfort you and give you strength to bear this heavy trial, and I trust that your future may be blessed in some way; and also that your little child will grow up to be a comfort to you. I shall always be glad to have known your husband, and that he was in our home. Some day later on you will feel proud that he did his duty so bravely. There must be many sorrowful hearts and homes in Flint, and many men we have known here will never return. We can only hope that this dreadful war may soon come to an end. My sister joins me in kind remembrance.”

Mrs Goodbody, of Moreton Street, Royston, Herts, wrote:

“I am so sorry to hear the sad news of poor Archie. You have our deepest sympathy. I am sure it is a dreadful blow to you all, and I hope God will give you health and strength to bear your terrible loss of one who was so dear to you and your dear little son. I hope he will grow up and be a little comforter to you, as his poor dada was so good and kind.”

Writing from 68, High Street, Higham Ferrers, Mrs Willmott expressed her surprise at the sad news, and her sympathy with Mrs Gunther. She said it seemed such a short time since he was there full of life and strength, because he was so lively. Everyone knew him – soldiers and civilians, and all the neighbours. He was a good soldier and a good friend to them all; and they were very pleased that they knew him, if only for such a short time.

Mrs J H Williams, of St Mary’s Mount, Church Street, interested herself in the fine family record of military and naval careers which the Gunther’s possessed. She communicated with the Government Authorities on the subject, believing that the record was worthy of some recognition.

Mrs Williams, on Tuesday 19th October, 1915, was the recipient of an offcial letter from the Keeper of the Privy Purse, Buckingham Palace, in acknowledgement of her letter, and at the same time informing her that Mrs Gunther had been favoured by a letter as follows:

Privy Purse Office,
Buckingham Palace

15th October, 1915

MADAM,– I am commanded by the King to convey to you an expression of His Majesty’s appreciation of the patriotic spirit which has prompted your six sons to give their services to His Majesty’s Forces. The King was much gratified to hear the manner in which they have so readily responded to the call of their Sovereign and their Country; and I am to express to you and to them His Majesty’s congratulations on having contributed in so full a measure to the great cause for which all the people of the British Empire are so bravely fighting.

I have the honour to be, Madam,
Your obedient servant,

F M Ponsonby,
Keeper of the Privy Purse.

The following are the names, etc., of the six sons: Private John Gunther, of the Royal Field Artillery; Private Idwal Gunther, 2/5th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers; Private Archie Gunther, 1/5th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers; Private Edward Gunther, and Private David Gunther, 1/5th Battalion of the RWF; and Seaman Robert Henry Gunther, in the Royal Navy. Note: Private William Samuel Gunther, who enlisted after the above letter from Buckingham Palace, became the seventh son in the armed forces. He served with the 14th Mobile Veterinary Detachment.

Archie’s widow, Elizabeth, re-married in 1919 to Thomas Campbell, and they resided at 17, Maesydre Avenue, Flint. She died on 3rd June, 1975, aged 79, and was buried with her husband, Thomas, in Pantasaph Cemetery.

Mary Ann Gunther was born at Henllan Street, Denbigh and died of a stroke at 29, Castle Street on 23rd September, 1923, aged 71, and was buried with her husband. After her husband’s death she had carried on the greengrocer’s shop in Castle Street.


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