Arrowsmith, James Cliffe

According to the 1891 census James Cliffe  Arrowsmith (9) was born in Swettenham, Cheshire. He was the son of Samuel (55) & Rachael Arrowsmith (49) (nee Cliffe) of Eaton, Congleton, Cheshire, England and he had a brother called John William (8) . His father was a Farm Labourer and at the time of this census James was 9 years old and the family was living at 4, New Road, Eaton. According to a Medical History form in his attestation papers dated 8.8.16 his declared age at that date was 35 yrs 1 m, making his birth date July 1881.

According to the 1901 census James (19) was no longer living with his parents. It appears that his father had died as he was no longer listed at the address 20, Eaton Village. His brother John W (18), who was at that time a Coal man, still lived there with his mother who was listed as a Laundress. Also living there was Lewis Jones (24), a Gardener. James was found in a different 1901 census living at Attingham Grove and working as a Domestic Gardner. From this census it can be clearly deduced that he was working on the Attingham Hall Estate in Shropshire.

Historical Note: Attingham Hall Estate – A magnificent 18th century country house in classical style, Attingham Park is set in a wonderful parkland landscaped by Humphrey Repton. The house was built by George Steuart in 1785 for Lord Berwick, and the property remained in the Berwick family for 8 generations. It is now owned by the National Trust.

According to the 1911 census James’ mother was still doing laundry work at the age of 69 and together with his brother (now a labourer in a bleach works) were still living in Eaton. James (now 29) was married to Muriel (27) who was born in St Asaph, Flintshire. They were married on 15 Feb 1909 in St Asaph and at the time of this census he was working as a Domestic Gardner but they were living at Heathfield, Middle Hill, Neston.

According to information given on a form called a Descriptive Report on Enlistment dated 4.8.17, James and Muriel had a son also called James Cliffe who was born on 10th May 1912 at Hethfields Neston, Cheshire.

Attestation papers for Private 50232, James Cliffe Arrowsmith from

James joined the Cheshire Yeomanry (Earl of Chesters) (Regimental Number 2212) on 16.5.16 at the age of 35 and at the time of his enlistment was living at 3 Weatherstones Cottages, Willaston Nr Chester.

Historical Note (from The Long Long Trail): The Cheshire Yeomanry

The Cheshire Yeomanry of the Great War was a descendant of a volunteer tradition that dates back to 1797, when six independent mounted troops were raised in the county during the crisis of the Napoleonic era. In 1803 they were formed into the Western Cheshire Yeomanry Cavalry and by 1908, were the Earl of Chester’s Regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry. In common with all such units, they were absorbed into the Territorial Force, when it was established in 1908 as part of wide-ranging reforms of the British Army in the light of experience of the South African war, and the growing international tension in Europe. The newly-named “Cheshire Yeomanry (Earl of Chester’s) (Hussars)” was composed of part-time soldiers. It was headquartered in the Old Bank Buildings in Chester, with squadron drill stations at Knutsford, Eaton, Northwich and Macclesfield.

The sequence of events leading up to his arrival in France according to his attestation papers was:

Mobilised 8.8.16; Posted 10.8.16; Transferred to 4th Reserves Battalion Cheshire Regiment 21.11.16; Embarked Southampton 7.12.16; Disembarked Rouen 8.12.16; Posted to 9th Cheshire Regiment 21.12.16

Historical Note: 9th (Service) Battalion Cheshire Regiment (From the Wartime Memories Project – The Great War)
The 9th (Service) Battalion, Cheshire Regiment was raised in Chester on the 13th of September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s Second New Army and joined 58th Brigade, 19th (Western) Division.

Historical Note: The 19th (Western) Division in 1914-1918 (From the Long, Long Trail)

This Division was established by the Western Command in September 1914, as part of the Army Orders authorising Kitchener’s Second New Army, K2. Early days were somewhat chaotic, the new volunteers having very few trained officers and NCOs to command them, no organised billets or equipment. The Division was inspected by King George V on 23 June 1915. Advanced parties left for France on 11 July and the main body crossed the English Channel 16-21 July. Units initially moved to the point of assembly near St Omer.  The Division served on the Western Front for the remainder of the war, taking part in many of the significant actions:

The following is a précis from chapters X11 and X111 of A Short History of the 19th Western Division 1914-1918 covering the period from January 1917 to August 1917 when James Arrowsmith was in France and therefore likely to have been present during some or all of the actions reported.

The Winter of 1916-17

When James arrived in France in Jan 1917 severe frost set in, accompanied by frequent and heavy falls of snow and it was stated that the ground was frozen to a depth of 20 to 24 inches.

Until the end of February there was just the usual routine of trench warfare, then after the breaking of the frost, the enemy began to retreat to the Hindenburg Line leaving the trenches unoccupied. However advancing wasn’t without its difficulties as some machine guns had been left behind with the object of slowing the advance, and it was not without some stubborn fighting that patrols of the 19th Division found themselves in what had once been the streets or Serre and Pulsieux-Au-Mont. By the early days of March the German retirement was continuing and it was decided that the 19th Battalion needed some rest rather than let them advance further. It was withdrawn to the Bus-En-Artois area until orders were received to march northwards on March 9th where they finally came to rest around Fletre on March 20th, 1917.

Trench Warfare on the Ypres Front, April and May 1917

From this time onward preparation work was carried out the coming Flanders battle.

On May 1st the Division moved to the north, taking over the Hill 60 and Hooge Sectors to the south-east of Ypres. Nothing of special interest occurred until two days before that fixed for the opening of the Flanders battle, when a company including the 58th Infantry Brigade, respectively, executed an extremely successful daylight raid on the German line in the Bois Quarante, bringing back over seventy prisoners, including three officers, with very slight casualties to themselves.

THE Battle of Messines, June 1917

Well over a year before the British had started mining operations some 80-100 ft below ground and with the help of aerial photography built tunnels to under where the Germans were located. At 3.10 a.m. on June 7th ex[plosives which had been placed in nineteen of these deep mines were set off and this marked the beginning of the battle and in the midst of the debris falling from these explosions the troops would have been already on their way to the German line. The explosions were so large that Scherpenberg Hill, some three miles behind the line, rocked as if by an earthquake.

The 58th Brigade was on the right, the 56th Brigade on the left, and the 57th Brigade in reserve. All the first objectives were reached without difficulty, and by noon the troops had done so well that the 51th Infantry Brigade, passing through the 56th and 58th Infantry Brigades in the new front line, captured their final objective. By 5 pm, the battle died down and no action on the British front since the beginning of the war had got such good results in so short a time and at so small cost. The19th Division alone had ‘only’ 1,250 casualties It took 1,800 prisoners, including a high percentage of officers, along with a considerable number of field-guns, trench mortars and machine guns. This was the first occasion on which use was made by the Division of an organised machine gun overhead barrage. This new form of covering fire played a great part in the success of the operation.

Continuing small encounters occurred daily until on June 21st the Division was withdrawn from the line to rest in the area about St. Jan’s Cappel, remaining there until July 3rd It then returned in a new sector created by the capture of Oosttaverne. During this tour small but fierce engagements occurred beginning with the capture of Junction Buildings near Oosttaverne by the 9th Cheshire Regiment on July 17th, time after time they changed hands.

The Third Battle of Ypres, July-September 1917

The Division remained in the line until the opening phase of the Third Battle of Ypres, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele commenced on July 31st and continued through to November.

James Arrowsmith died of wounds 4th August 1917 and it is presumed that it was during skirmishes in the lead up to the main battle that he received fatal injuries.

He is buried in Outtersteene Communal Cemetery Extension which is 2½  miles South West of Bailleul, Nord, France.

At the time of his death his wife and son were living at 1 May Terrace St Asaph.

James is also commemorated on the Eaton War Memorial

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