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Arnold Windle

Arnold WindlePrivate Arnold Windle, 47978, Northumberland Fusiliers, 25th (Tyneside Irish) Battalion

Arnold Windle was born in 1890 in the Dewsbury Registration District, son of Fred Windle and his wife Ellen Hartley Gothard, who had married at Ossett Holy Trinity Church on the 29th January 1888. The couple had six children, but only four, all born on Ossett Streetside, survived to 1911. In that year Fred, a waggoner for a mungo manufacturer and his wife Ellen are living at 50, Dewsbury Road, Ossett with their children, two boys and two girls, aged between 13 and 22. Arnold is aged 20 and was working as a painter.

In 1913, Fred Windle became the landlord of the Hammer & Stithy public house on Dewsbury Road, Ossett, which he ran until his death in 1936. Alice Windle, Fred’s second wife, was then the licensee for two more years.

Ellen Windle. Arnold's mother died in late 1923, aged 58, and on the 7th of May 1924, at Gawthorpe and Chickenley Heath Parish Church, Fred Windle, a 54 year old widower, married Alice Gothard (formerly Kilburn), aged 43. Alice was the widow of William Skelton Gothard, the brother of Fred's first wife Ellen Hartley Gothard, who had also died in late 1923. Both gave The Hammer & Stithy as their address.

Arnold Windle married 24 year-old Annie Brettoner on the 5th December 1914 at Gawthorpe and Chickenley Heath Parish Church and they went to have two children: Fred Windle, born in 1915 and Mary Windle, born in 1916.

Arnold Windle's army service record has not survived. He was awarded the Victory and British medals, but not the 1914-15 Star, indicating he didn’t serve abroad until after the 31st December 1915.

The 25th (Service) Battalion (2nd Tyneside Irish) of the Northumberland Fusiliers was originally formed at Newcastle on the 9th November 1914, by the Lord Mayor and City. The 24th, 25th, 26th and 27th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers were all Pals battalions and in June 1915 came under orders of 103rd Brigade, 34th Division. The Battalion landed in France in January 1916.

On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916, the 25th Battalion suffered very heavy losses and was almost wiped out. Since Private Windle was called up in June 1916, it is most likely that he was transferred into the 25th Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers as one of the replacement men after their terrible losses at the Somme.

The "Ossett Observer" 1 had this obituary for Arnold Windle:

"A fortnight ago we announced that a letter had been received in Ossett from a soldier at the front, stating that he had come across Private Arnold Windle of the Northumberland Fusiliers, an Ossett Street-side man, in a dying condition on the battlefield, and that the soldier expired before he left him. On Wednesday morning this week, official confirmation of the soldier's death in action, in France, on the 28th April, was received by Mrs. Windle, the widow, who, with her two children, now reside with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. A. Brettoner, at the top of Chickenley-lane. Private Windle, who was 26 years of age, was in business on his own account as a painter, etc. in Dewsbury-road, before being called up for military service in June last year, and resided in Chancery-lane. He was well-known in the district, and for some years had been a member of the choir of St. Mary's Church, Gawthorpe.

A comrade of the deceased soldier, a Lancashire man named Cecil E. Whalley, in the course of a letter to Mrs. Windle says 'It was at 4:30 in the morning of April 28th that we mounted the parapet of our trench to make an attack on the Germans. When twenty yards from the German lines the machine-gun and rifle fire was so strong that we were compelled to lie down in the open. We were then about 200 yards from our own lines. Enemy snipers were shooting at our men, and also the wounded. Being unable to lie in the open all day, and unable to return to our lines, I crawled to the nearest shell-hole, and there, to my sorrow, I found Private Windle. He was alive, but wounded. At once I began to look where he was wounded, and found that he had been hit by a bullet in the stomach. He passed away after a few minutes. After he had died, I covered him over with my ground sheet. There I had to stay until dark before I could return to our own lines. When I found him I called him by his name, but he was nearly too far gone to speak. I told him I was going to send his pocket wallet to you and he answered 'Yes, do.' The writer adds that Private Windle was wearing a chest shield at the time, but having been hit at such a short distance the bullet went right through the shield."

Attack on Roeux 28th April 1917Arnold Windle died during the action to capture the small French village of Rouex. The attacks on the village of Roeux were part of the Battle of Arras (9 April - 17 May 1917) carried out by Third Army under the command of General Allenby. Arras was to be the British contribution to the Allied Spring Offensive. Twelve divisions, with a further five in reserve, attacked on a 14-mile front between Vimy in the north and Croisilles in the south. The attack was intended to act as a diversion to prevent the Germans from feeding reinforcements further south where the French Army (commanded by General Nivelle) planned a major offensive on the Aisne. However, the latter was delayed by the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg line, and it was decided that the British attack should go ahead as planned.

Roeux is 4.5 miles east of Arras (in the Scarpe Valley) and was one of the fortified villages that formed part of the German defences behind the German front line. The ground before Roeux posed many difficulties for the British, two of which were: the Arras - Douai railway line, which ran north-east to south-west in cutting and on embankment; and the River Scarpe with its surrounding marshland.

On 28 April 1917, a fourth attack was made on Roeux, this time by the 34th and 37th Divisions. The attack on the village itself being made by the 101 Brigade, with the 103 Brigade attacking north of the railway. A heavy bombardment preceded the advance, but as the 101 Brigade moved forward behind their creeping barrage they encountered blockhouses, bunkers and tunnels and again faced strong counter attacks, which drove them back, with few gains.

The assault was delivered at 4:25 A.M. and to quote the Divisional commander, General Nicholson "It began badly, continued badly, and ended worse." The barrage was inaccurate and at the time of the assault the enemy machine guns were highly active.2

Private Arnold Windle died on the 28th April 1917, aged 26 years, the son of Mr. Fred Windle, "Hammer and Stithy", Street Side, Ossett and the husband of Annie Windle, 28, Chickenley Lane, Dewsbury, Yorks. He is remembered on Bays 2 and 3 of the Arras Memorial, 2 Pas de Calais, France. The Arras Memorial is in the Faubourg-d'Amiens Cemetery, which is in the Boulevard du General de Gaulle in the western part of the town of Arras.

The Arras Memorial commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918, the eve of the Advance to Victory, and have no known grave. The most conspicuous events of this period were the Arras offensive of April-May 1917, and the German attack in the spring of 1918. Canadian and Australian servicemen killed in these operations are commemorated by memorials at Vimy and Villers-Bretonneux. A separate memorial remembers those killed in the Battle of Cambrai in 1917.

During the Second World War, Arras was occupied by United Kingdom forces headquarters until the town was evacuated on 23 May 1940. Arras then remained in German hands until retaken by Commonwealth and Free French forces on 1 September 1944. The 1939-1945 War burials number 8 and comprise 3 soldiers and 4 airmen from the United Kingdom and 1 entirely unidentified casualty. Located between the 2 special memorials of the 1914-1918 War is the special memorial commemorating an officer of the United States Army Air Force, who died during the 1939-1945 War. This special memorial, is inscribed with the words "Believed to be buried in this cemetery". In addition, there are 30 war graves of other nationalities, most of them German.

There was a memorial service for Private Arnold Windle at St. Mary's Church, Gawthorpe shortly after his death had been reported in May 1917. The "Ossett Observer" had a short account:

"The Late Private Windle Memorial Service - A service, in memory of Private Arnold Windle (26) of the Northumberland Fusiliers whose death at the front was recently reported took place at St. Mary's Church, Gawthorpe on Sunday evening. The service, which was well attended, was of an impressive character. The Rev. A. Middleton, vicar, preached appropriately, and referred to the deceased's long association with the church, and to his able services as a chorister, from boyhood onwards. Suitably selected hymns were sung, the choir rendering the anthem 'He that shall endure' by Mendelssohn and at the close of the service the 'Dead March' by Saul was played by the organist, Mr. D. Spedding."

References:

1. "Ossett Observer", 12th May 1917

2. The Defence and Capture of Roeux: April - May 1917

3. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site