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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 71803
11th Battn/Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby) Regiment
Who was Killed in Action on Thursday, 7th June 1917
Age 37

No Known Grave - Panel 39 & 41
Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial

Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium1

Arthur Matthew Smedley Arthur Matthew Smedley was born in Beeston, Notts in 18802, the eldest surviving son of four surviving children of William and Emma (née Lowe) Smedley. William was a hairdresser who lived in Brown Lane (now Station Road), Beeston. By 1900. William worked as a postman while continuing as a hairdresser, Arthur, then aged 20, was working as a lace threader and two of his sisters were working as lace curtain menders and another sister was working as a bookbinder. 3.

In 1906, Arthur Matthew married Mary Ann Twiggs4, the daughter of William and Mary Ann (née Bywater) Twiggs. William Twiggs was well known in Beeston in his various jobs working for the Local Council, first as lamplighter, then as sexton at the cemetery and also a park keeper. By 1911, Arthur and Mary were living at 17 Imperial Road, Beeston, their daughter Lily had been born in 1908 and Arthur was working as a lace curtain maker5. Their son, William Arthur Smedley, was born in 19166.

Although his Army Service Record has not survived, it appears that Arthur Matthew enlisted towards the end of 1916 with the Sherwood Foresters, becoming part of the 11th (Service) Battalion 6. The 11th had been raised at Derby in September 1914 as part of Kitchener's New Army and had landed in France in August 1915 as part of 70th Brigade in 23rd Division and saw action on the Somme during 1916. Private Smedley is likely to have joined the battalion, after initial training. when it was preparing for action south of Ypres in Belgium in the spring or early summer of 1917. In the first few days of June it prepared to take part in the Battle of Messines, an offensive designed to take the Messines Ridge, a natural stronghold, southeast of Ypres that had been held by the enemy since the early months of the war. The attack had been meticulously planned for over a year and was to turn out to be a considerable success - some say, the most successful local operation of the war. In preparation, 22 mine shafts had been dug under the German lines, along the length of the ridge and heavy preliminary bombardment - involving some 2300 guns and 300 heavy mortars - had begun towards the end of May. Zero-hour was 3.10am on 7th June 1917, when, after the bombardment had been silent for twenty minutes, 19 of the 21 undiscovered mines were detonated - a total of 600 tons of explosive, still one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever, which was heard in London and in Dublin. The effect on the enemy was devastating. The explosion alone killed 10,000 men and the infantry advances that followed, protected by a creeping artillery barrage, tanks and gas attacks achieved their objectives within three hours.

Private Smedley was among those killed in this action on the 7th June 1917. With no known grave, his name is listed on Panel 39 & 41 at Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Belgium He was posthumously awarded the British War and Victory medals10. In addition to his entry on the memorial in Beeston Parish Church, his name appears on the the war memorial in Chilwell Road Methodist Church in Beeston.

Arthur Matthew's Army financial effects of 2 16s 3d were paid to his widow, as his sole legatee, on 10 September 1917 and she received his War Gratuity of 3 on 28 September 191911. She remained a widow, living for much of the time at 8 Hampden Grove, Beeston with her daughter, widowed mother and unmarried sister; she died in 1958, aged 7312. Their daughter Lily never married and died on September 2009, aged 10113. Their son, William Arthur Smedley became a member of Beeston Boys Brigade and Lads' Club and joined Beeston Foundry (later known as Beeston Boiler Company) as a 14 year old office boy in 1930, being the type of promising and deserving young men whom the Pearson family tended to employ. He went on to become the company's Sales Director, served the company well until its final closure in 1985 and, in addition, was an active and popular figure within the wider Beeston community14. He died in March 199414.

1The photograph of the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered, in Basford Registration District 31901 Census, Piece 3153 Folio 100. Arthur's then surviving siblings were Mary Ellen (then recorded as 'Nellie', 1879-1974), Sarah Ann (then recorded as 'Kate', b. 1883) and Lily (1887-1964). A younger Sarah-Ann (1874-1875) and William (1876-1878) had died as infants.
4Their marriage was registered, in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q3/1906 (Ref 7b 194). Mary Ann's birth was registered there in Q2/1884 (Ref 7b 194).
51911 Census, Piece 20428 RD429 SD3 ED3 Sched 59. Lily Smedley was born on 8 April 1908
6William Arthur Smedley was born on 17 July 1916.
7His service is calculated as not more than 12 months based on the amount of his War Gratuity. His service number was allocated consecutively, by the same regiment, to another Beeston lace maker, John Francis Scott who died on the same day, alongside Arthur Matthew Smedley.
8Details of 11th Battalion's formation and deployment is from the Wartime Memories Project website : www.wartimememoriesproject.com/greatwar/allied/alliedarmy-view.php?pid=7070 and from its war diaries.
9This account of the Battle of Messines is summarised from a more complete account on the firstworldwar.com website at www.firstworldwar.com/battles/messines.htm .
10Arthur Matthew's medal awards are recorded on his Medal Card, available on ancestry.com.
11Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929, available on ancestry.com.
12Her death was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q2/1958 (Ref 3c 28).
13She died on 21 September 2009 (Probate Calendar). She was then living at 11 Hampden Grove, Beeston, Notts
14See the story of Beeston Foundry/Boiler Company on the 'Flowers to Foundry' page at www.beeston-notts.co.uk/pearson.shtml.

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