Arthur Bailey, Private 53770, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment
Killed in action 24th April 1918 in the Somme, France, aged 34
Arthur Bailey was the eldest son of Frank and Emily Bailey. One of four children, he was born in Macclesfield in 1884. When the 1891 Census was taken, Arthur and his family were living at 53 Mill Lane, Macclesfield and then in 1901, at 42 Water Street.
Arthur was employed as a silk weaver and married Annie Marshall in 1908. By 1911, the couple were residing at 141 High Street, Macclesfield.
Arthur originally enlisted with the Cheshire Regiment (service no. 54492), but did not serve overseas prior to his transfer to the 2nd Battalion, the Devonshire Regiment, which occurred around February 1917 (probably as a reinforcement draft).
When the Germans launched their Spring Offensive (the Kaiserchlacht) on 21st March 1918, his battalion (part of 8th Division), was in the rear behind the St Quentin sector that was at the centre of the German attack line. By the time 8th Division became involved on the 23rd March the enemy had reached Peronne.
The Devons were rushed up to St Christ (to the east of Amiens), in order to hold back the German advance whilst the Royal Engineers detonated the bridge over the Somme river. The fighting was particularly brutal as wave after wave of German soldiers tried to dislodge the Devon’s and take the partially destroyed bridge. Forced to make a fighting withdrawal, the Division retired towards Rosieres where the Devons, together with the 22nd (Pioneer) Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry and a mixture of engineers of the 151st Brigade, made a gallant and successful counter-attack to retake the commune of Proyart, thus stemming the southward move by the enemy and encirclement of the Allied force.
Arthur Bailey was killed in action during the The Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux (24-25 April 1918). His battalion, as part of 8th Division, was positioned to the north of the village of Villers-Bretonneux, recovering and reorganising, following its gallant exploits during the aforementioned fighting withdrawal a few weeks previously.
On the 24th April four German Divisions made an attack on the British line stretching some six miles to the south of the river. At 6.30 am, following a three hour long bombardment of high explosive shells and mustard gas, the enemy advanced under cover of fog, with their recently introduced tanks. The tanks broke through and opened a three mile wide gap for their infantry to follow through. 8th Division was overwhelmed and after heavy fighting, Villers Brettoneux was lost. The enemy was eventually held just to the west of the village. Then occurred the first ever tank versus tank battle as some of the British tanks came into action south of the village and drove the enemy back. North of the village the enemy had been repulsed completely and to the south they were being held.
Private Arthur Bailey has no known grave and is commemorated on Panel Ref. 24 and 25 of the Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private Arthur Bailey, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.