Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Arthur Dudley Pearce

Arthur Dudley Pearce :

Arthur Dudley Pearce : (L to R) 1914 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

(L to R) 1914 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

Arthur was born between July and September 1893 in Limerick, Ireland. His father was called George and his mother was Alice. He was one of at least 6 children, and the youngest that we know of. His siblings were Charles, James, George, William Joseph and Albert Edward.

George senior was a soldier in the 96th Regiment of Foot, which later became the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. He had transferred to the 1st Battalion by the time Arthur was born. We believe he died between 1896 and 1898. Alice remarried between January and March 1899 to John Charles Onn, a Corporal in the Royal Engineers. They had at least one child, John Charles junior, on the 7th June 1901.

Alice and John had married in Farnham, Surrey, near the Army base at Aldershot, and by 1901 they lived at 2A Winnock Road in Colchester, Essex. George and Arthur lived with them in this year. George worked as an attendant at a swimming baths. By 1911 they had moved to 48 Lisle Street in the town. John died between October and December 1914 and Alice continued living there.

Like most of his brothers Arthur followed in his father's footsteps. He joined the Manchester Regiment in around 1907 and was given the service number 1248. He was living in Colchester when he joined the Army. He was around 14 when he enlisted, and would be classed as a Boy until his 18th birthday.

We don't know anything about Arthur's career until the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914. At this time he was serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment at the Curragh Camp in County Kildare, Ireland.

The First World War began on the 4th August, and by the 15th Arthur and the rest of the 2nd Battalion had landed in France. They took heavy casualties on the 26th at the Battle of Le Cateau, and for the next few months were involved in heavy fighting as they tried to stop the German advance.

During 1915 the 2nd Battalion fought at Neuve Chapelle during March and in the 2nd Battle of Ypres in, Belgium, during April. They spent much of the rest of the year taking their turn in the front lines and the rear areas around Suzanne, near Albert on the Somme.

The 16th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment arrived in France during November 1915, and at some point Arthur was posted to it. As we don't know when this took place, we can't say for certain where he served. It was most likely after the early days of the Somme Offensive in July 1916, when the 16th Battalion took heavy casualties. Experienced soldiers such as Arthur will have been vital in reinforcing the unit.

By mid April 1917 Arthur had been promoted 3 times and held the rank of Lance Sergeant. He was a member of A Company of the battalion. He was now stationed in Heninel, to the south of Arras. The battalion would take part in an attack on the village of Cherisy on the 23rd, as part of the Second Battle of the Scarpe, which was part of the larger Battle of Arras.

The attack began at 4:45am, with the 16th Battalion supporting 2 others. The British advanced under heavy artillery and machine gun fire. They were able to capture some territory, but then had to fight off several determined German counter-attacks over the next 4 days, until they could be relieved on the 27th. The battalion lost 35 men killed and 56 missing, as well as hundreds wounded. After they left the front there were less than 100 men still fit for service with the battalion, around 1/8th of its official strength.

One of the missing was Arthur. He was last seen on the 23rd, and the Army later accepted he had died that day. His body was never found, so his name is now commemorated on the Arras Memorial, along with 34,790 other men. Arthur is in Bay 7.

Albert, Charles, James and William also followed their father into the Manchester Regiment. We believe they all enlisted as Boys, like Arthur. Arthur was the 3rd brother to die on active service. Charles died on the 24th January 1901 in South Africa during the Boer War, and William died on the 13th June 1916 in Mesopotamia, now called Iraq.

James survived both wars and Albert lived through the First World War. They both went on to have long careers with the Regiment. James died on the 7th October 1948 and Albert on the 23rd December 1958. John Charles junior died in August 1996.

The medals of all 5 brothers and their father were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment on the 16th April 1960. Arthur was also eligible for the '5th Aug.-22nd Nov. 1914' clasp for his 1914 Star.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
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Telephone: 0161 342 5480
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council