RFA West Lancs Bdes
681796 DVR. A. A. CRAIG. R.F.A.
This is a particularly distressing story, even by the standards of the time.
Arthur Andrew Craig was born in Montrose, Forfar, Scotland, on 17 April 1893. He was born into a military family. His grandfather, Andrew Craig (b. 1831 in Ontario, Canada, d. 1890 in Clonmel, Ireland), had fought in the Crimean War. His father, Thomas Craig (b. 1861 in Woolwich), joined the Artillery at the age of 16 and was posted to India. In 1888, Tom married Agnes Louisa Nickless, the daughter of another serving soldier. Agnes was born in 1874 in Clonmel, Ireland. When she and Tom were married, she was only 13 years old (he was 27). She was also two months pregnant. Their first son, Thomas Edward, was born seven months after they married, but he lived for only four months. The couple had a second child in India – Agnes Louisa (b. 1890) – before returning to England. They had another daughter – Sarah Catherine (b. 1891, in Alverstoke), but she died later the same year when the family was moved to Montrose. They were still based in Montrose when Arthur was born in 1893, but the following year they moved to Egremont in Cheshire. While living on the Whirral, the couple had five more children: Ethel (b. 1894), Amy (b. 1896), Ada (b. 1897), Mabel (b. 1899), and Albert (b. 1900). In 1900, they moved to Chester. Tom is described in the 1901 Census as a Sergeant Major in the Royal Artillery (volunteer instructor). The couple had four more children in Chester: Doris (b. 1902), Daisy (b. 1903), Violet (b. 1904) and Ivy (b. 1907). In 1910, the family moved to Liverpool, where their last 3 children were born: Phyllis (b. 1910), Reginald (b. 1911) and Iris (b. 1914). In Liverpool, Tom worked as a commissionaire in a hotel, and the family lived at 165 Harrowby Street, Princes Park, Liverpool. Arthur was working as a bar attendant, possibly in the same hotel as his father. When Tom completed the census form he correctly entered his wife’s age as 36, but someone, possibly the enumerator, has amended Agnes’ age to 46.
Tom had served 29 years in the Artillery, and was 53 years old when War broke out, but he nevertheless re-enlisted, in September 1914, and he was immediately posted to Ireland, as a Battery Quartermaster Sergeant (service number 36156, 232 Battery). His military record then states that he died at Cahir, Tipperary, on 2 January 1915; the cause of death being noted as “wound, throat, self-inflicted”. There then followed a lengthy period when the Army authorities sought to confirm the details of Tom’s death, and also sought marriage and birth certificates. By this time, the family had moved to 3 Pine Street, off Myrtle Street, Liverpool. Agnes now had nine dependent children (under the age of 16) and no source of family income. It’s impossible to tell from the bare details of certificates and censuses what sort of life Agnes led, but it came to an end the following year. At the age of 42, Agnes died following an epileptic seizure on 14 September 1916.
Arthur had followed in the family tradition and had joined the Royal Field Artillery shortly after War broke out. He had probably served some time in the Territorials and was initially assigned service number 938, which later became 681796. He was first posted to “D” Battery of 276 Brigade and landed with 55th Division in France on 29 September 1915. It seems that Arthur was allowed home leave following his mother’s death, as shortly after this he married Florence Dawson (b. 1892 in Liverpool). At some point, Arthur was transferred to 43rd Battery of 24th Brigade. 43Bty was a howitzer battery (like “D” Battery), and 24Bde came under orders of 6th Division. In 1918, 6th Division was engaged in the final advance in Flanders, particularly the capture of Cambrai and the advance to the River Selle. After the Armistice, 6th Division was engaged in the occupation of Germany, but Arthur was not with them. He died at Belmont Road Auxiliary Hospital in Liverpool of pneumonia (probably influenza-related) on 5 December 1918. He was 25 years old.
Service No: 681796
Date of Death: 05/12/1918
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, 43rd Bty, 24th Bde. Cemetery/memorial reference: XVII. C.E. 2304.
Cemetery/Memorial: LIVERPOOL (ANFIELD) CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of the late Thomas and Louisa Craig; husband of Florence Craig (née Dawson), of 7 Nuttall Street, Edge Hill, Liverpool. Served 4½ years in France.