Remembering the men from the Kingsdown and Creekside Cluster
who gave their lives in the First World War
On the centenary of their death, we remember
Arthur Richard MEDGETT (Newnham)
chr. 19th January 1890;
d. 20th October 1914. Aged 24 years, 9 months
1st Battalion, "B" Company, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment)
Ploegsteert Memorial at Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium &
Goodneston Village War Memorial
Killed In Action
Arthur Medgett's name appears on the Newnham and Doddington Memorial as "Midgett". Newnham church records adopted this spelling too. This misspelling may arise from Arthur Medgett not being a 'local' man, in the sense of any local family ties. His given death date is recorded 'on or since' - a common formula that should be checked against War Diaries. It is usually accurate. Arthur's father was the sole legatee of Arthur's effects.
Arthur was born into a large agricultural labouring family of 12 children to parents, William and Mary Ann (nee Harlow). Seven brothers (William T, James Robert, Walter H, Robert,Sydney, Albert and Charles) and five sisters (Fanny Elizabeth, Grace Mary, Edith and Kathleen). The family is most closely associated with farming around Arthur's birthplace, Goodnestone, east of Canterbury. So, we are left to speculate that Arthur was following a work opportunity in Newnham or a member of his family?
Arthur first joined the Buffs around 16th October 1906 when he was first examined and was in Dublin on 20th March 1912 according to his Medical Sheet. He then appears as re-enlisted on 7th September 1914. Regimental Number L/8362.
His medical sheet describes Arthur as (examined on 16th March 1906) 18½ years; labourer; height 5 feet 7½ inches; 193½ lbs (unclear); physical development "good"; chest measurements - 32½" min, 35" max.
We can be sure that five brothers from this same family served overseas. This sacrifice was recorded through a newspaper report of 27th November 1914 (Dover Express):
"GOODNESTONE. FIVE SONS IN THE FORCES.- Mr. W. [William] Medgett, of Claypits, Goodnestone, who has five sons serving the King, has received the following letter:- "Privy Purse Office, Buckingham Palace, 7th November, 1914. Sir – I have the honour to inform you that the King has heard with much interest that you have at the present moment five sons serving in His Majesty’s Forces. I am commanded to express to you the King’s Congratulations, and to assure you that His Majesty much appreciates the spirit of patriotism which prompted this example in one family of loyalty and devotion to their Sovereign and Empire.- I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient Servant, Keeper of the Privy Purse."
His younger brother, Albert, also enlisted in the East Kent Regiment (The Buffs) on 1st June 1915 at Canterbury. So, it looks as though six brothers may have joined up from this one family, even when they had already lost one of their number. Albert achieved the rank of Sergeant and was briefly hospitalised (reported 22nd April 1916) and after returning to the Front, awarded the Military Medal (Gazetted 14th January, reported 19th January 1918 in the Kent Messenger).
His War Gratuity of £5 confirms his re-enlistment at the outbreak of the war. His total "Personal Effects amounted to £10 14s. 3d. and his father, William, was his sole beneficiary.
He was postumously awarded the 1914 Star, the British War and Victory medals.
Without any surviving military records for this man (apart from his Medal Card) the public record doesn't help explain the Newnham connection. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records [Archive Reference: WO372/13] tell us that Arthur served in the 1st Battalion East Kent Regiment (The Buffs) in "B" Company. So, we have to turn to the Battalion War Diary to learn a bit about his short experience on the Western Front at a critical time for the Allies. The War Diaries help us understan the circumstances of his death.
Arthur Medgett was killed during a day when the Buffs were barely holding onto their front-line position near the town of RADINGHEM, Belgium [Radinghem is mentioned in Despatches]. The 1st Battalion found itself taking part in the frantic and fluid "Race to the Sea" as both the Germans and the Allies rushed to avoid being outflanked to the north of the front established (with the British and French Armies) to the south where the German Army had pushed towards Paris only to find the French Army were a hard nut to crack and the Belgians put up a considerable fight on their own territory.
On 19th October, The Buffs relieved the York and Lancaster Regiment. Their task was to hold the line astride the RADINGHEM-BEAUCHAMPS road about CHATEAU DE FLANDRES-BAS CHAMPS railway (M29). Arthur's "B" Company was positioned on the left side of the road, while "D" Company took the right side, with "C" Company thrown back of "B" Company's left.
At 7.40am, 20th October, all hell broke loose. As the Battalion War Diary records (I have square-bracketed unclear entries):
"7.40 am: Enemy's artillery opened very heavy fire on our trenches, their guns keeping it up most of the day. About 11.00am Colonel Harter [?Marten?Harler?] commanding front line was wounded, about 2pm the enemy attacked very vigorously on our front, right and left.
2.35pm: 12 F.A. Brigade reported enemy advancing on our right.
3.30pm: Send message to Major Medrak[?Medran?] (commanding front line) to guard his left flank as C Company was being heavily attacked.
3.35pm: Maj McDonah reported "situation very serious - am holding on. No officers left but RICE - Machine Guns knocked out."
4.00pm:Major McDonah reported "great difficulty in holding on - enemy captured French on our left held by "C" Company - am in tight corner."
3.45pm: Received verbal message that C. Company was being cut off.
Orders sent to Major McDonah [McDonell? McDonall?] to retire Company by Company.
4.10pm: Major McDonall replied "very difficult but will do the best we can."
Reported to 16 IB [Infantry Brigade] - 18th I.B. [Infantry Brigade] - 12th F.A. Brigade that Buffs were retiring slowly.
4.50pm: Received order from 16 I.B. to hold on at any cost promising support of 2 Company Y&L [York and Lancaster]. - reported to 16 I.B. that we were holding south perimeter of town. 5pm and 5.30pm same report sent.
6.25pm: received order from 16 I.B. to retake and hold line - RADINGHEM-BEAUCHAMP-RAILWAY Crossing. West M29.
7pm: Major CLEMSON with 2 Corps York and Lancaster Regiment arrived to our support.
7.30pm: Brigadier General arrived - started digging in again with 2 Corps Y&L.
10pm (about): received orders to retire Company by company on GRANDE FLAMENGRIE FARM.
4.15am: Arrived Farm. 12 Brigade RFA supported us exceedingly well during the whole day.
Killed: Lt. Phillips - McDougall - North and Glyn
Wounded: Col Haslen [?Harler?], Lt. Hamilton, Stanfield, Orwin.
Rank + File
Killed: 17 - wounded 57 - missing 62.
Horses Killed: 8 & bicycles damaged beyond repair 3
8am: C.O. and Adjutant went round line of trenches to be held by Battalion. Reported to Br. Gen. - who told C.O. that the Divisional General was very pleased with the stand the Buffs had made at RADINGHEM. Battalion dug itself in - in support of Battle.
The phrase "presumed killed on 20th September" suggests he was initially counted amongst the 62 "missing".
Arthur's name is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial at Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium. There is a small difference between his biological and his official age - such inaccuracies are not uncommon. His name appears on Panel 2 - no known grave.
The Memorial commemorates more than 11,000 servicemen of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in this sector and who have no known grave. Most of these were deaths in the trenches that followed on from the "Race to the Sea" and the very rapid descent into the grind of prolonged trench warfare.
At home, he is remembered on the Goodnestone War Memorial from which it appears none of Arthur's brothers died during the First World War.
Reported in the Dover Express, 9th September 1921 -
"MEMORIAL TABLET DEDICATED AT GOODNESTONE. - On Sunday evening last week a memorial tablet of marble and alabaster, recording the names of the sixteen men of Goodnestone who fell in the war, was unveiled and dedicated in Goodnestone Parish Church. It is placed on the south wall of the Church, near the pulpit. Lieut. Colonel R. T. J. Friend, D.S.O. (The Buffs) unveiled the tablet. An address followed, given by the archdeacon of Dudley, the Venerable S. R. James, C.B.E., V.D., Canon of Worcester Cathedral. The wreaths placed before the memorial tablet included on "In memory of our comrades, from the ex-Servicemen of Goodnestone," and another "In grateful remembrance, from the members of the Parochial Church Council." - the full list of men, their rank and the Service they served in, is followed by the inscription: "'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.' - St. John xv., 13."
Click on small image (below) to view the larger image.