Benjamin Arnold, Private 7307, 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment
Killed in action 13th November 1914 in Belgium, aged 33
Benjamin Arnold was born in 1881 in Macclesfield, the son of Jane and Thomas Arnold, a road paver working for the Council. He was baptised at St Michael’s Church on November 25th 1882. The 1891 census shows that Benjamin was living with his parents and siblings Peter, Thomas and Jane at 14 Princess Street, Macclesfield. By 1901 the family had moved to 8 Pool Street and Benjamin, then 20 years of age, was employed as a builder’s labourer.
Benjamin’s service papers show that he enlisted into the Army in December 1903, joining the 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment. His medical records describe him as being 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighing 141 pounds and having a chest measurement of 35½ inches, with a fresh complexion, brown eyes and brown hair. His brother Peter was also serving with the Cheshire Regiment.
Benjamin served for 7 years, most of it in India, completing his engagement in January 1911. The 1911 census records him living with his widower father at 9 Turnock Street, Macclesfield, and employed as a labourer. Benjamin married Elizabeth Billington in June 1911 at St George’s Church in Macclesfield, and the couple set up home at 25 Allen Street. In January 1912 Benjamin gained employment as a postman in Macclesfield.
Private Benjamin Arnold was mobilised on the outbreak of war in August 1914, having a reserve liability, and posted back to the 1st Cheshires. The Battalion deployed from Londonderry to France in August 1914 as part of the British Expeditionary Force. It was decimated by German attacks in the retreat from Mons and the Regimental war history records that by the end of October “the Battalion practically ceased to exist”. According to his medal index card, Benjamin arrived in France on 10th August, so survived this bitter fighting. The Battalion then moved to reinforce defences against the Germans around Ypres and the Battalion war diary records them in defensive trenches near Nonne Bosschen wood by 13th November. Four men, including Benjamin, are recorded as being killed in action on this date, most probably by enemy shellfire. His death was reported in The Macclesfield Times & East Cheshire Observer of 15th January 1915.
Private Benjamin Arnold has no known grave and he is commemorated on Panel 19-22 of the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private Benjamin Arnold, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.