The Life and Death Arthur James Walkden (1896-1948) 

In September 2015 I was contacted by a reader of this site who asked me if I could furnish her with any details surrounding the life and death of a Arthur James Walkden. Fortunately she kindly supplied me with the information that she had. This is a copy of Arthur's birth certificate

1911 Census

Arthur enlisted on 14th August 1914 in Birmingham and was passed fit to serve in The Corps of Hussars of the Line which was in effect a regular cavalry regiment. A curious choice for someone who was just over 19 years of age, under 5ft 5" in height, under 8 stone in weight and with a chest size of 34". These are more the dimensions of a current day jockey than a Hussar in the British Army.  

After enlisting Arthur remained "at home" for 56 days until 8th October 1914 (Military History) sheet. He was posted to the 10th Hussars at Scarborough on 14th August 1914 but was discharged on 8th October 1914 after a total of 56 days. The reason for his discharge - discharged under Kings Regulations 12 paragraph 392 (iii). This section states that he discharged for "Not being likely to become an efficient soldier"   

Obviously he was undeterred by his earlier experiences with The Hussars. Arthur enlisted as a driver in the Army Service Corps on 12th November 1914 in his home town of Stockport Lancashire From there he went to Aldershot (14th  - 16th November 1914 Army Service Corps) He was discharged under Kings Regulations 12 paragraph 392 (iii). This section states that he discharged for "Not being likely to become an efficient soldier". It took just 5 days this time for the Army to decide that Arthur not likely to become an efficient soldier.

So Arthur's WW1 service lasted a total of 61 days all of which were at home.

First name(s) Arthur James
Last name Walkden
Service number T/3/028694
Regiment Army Service Corps Unit / Battalion -
Event year 1914 Age 19
Birth year 1895 Birth town Swadlincote Birth county Derbyshire Birth country England
Residence town Stockport
Residence county Cheshire
Series WO 363 Record set British Army Service Records 1914-1920
Category Military, armed forces & conflict Subcategory First World War collections from Great Britain

And so it is somewhat surprising that the next time I find Arthur is in Mesopotamia as a police inspector. He was based in Amarah  a city in what is now South-Eastern Iraq. He married an Iraqi woman, Mathilda Hannah on 4 September 1921 at the Roman Catholic Latin Church in Amarah. 

  

As far as I can ascertain the couple had two sons, one born in 1924 and another in 1926. At some time after the birth of the second son Arthur wanted to return to the UK. His wife would not come with him, and so Arthur so returned to the UK alone. This decision of his wife to remain in Iraq meant that life for the family was difficult - being a Christian minority in a Muslim country posed dilemmas for the family then as it does now. It also means that most if not all the records of Arthur's time in Iraq were destroyed.

And so the next time I find Arthur is back in the UK. He is working as a colliery surface worker at Sheffield's Nunnery Colliery. The Colliery was at the time one of the closest to Sheffield's city centre, occupying land which is now near the Parkway.   

Nunnery Colliery Sheffield

I do not know how long Arthur worked at the Colliery but it was at his place of work that he died. On Monday 6 December 1948, Arthur hung himself. The cause of death was "asphyxiation due to hanging" and "suicidal". The death certificate issued by the Registrar noted that a "certificate was received from Alan P Lockwood, coroner for the city of Sheffield. Inquest held 9th December 1948" It is also strange that both on the death certificate and burial record Arthur's age is given as 55 when in fact he was 52 (born May 1896)

And this is where it gets interesting. In October 2015 I went to Sheffield's Local Studies Library and looked to see if there was any mention of Arthur's death and inquest in the local press. I checked both the morning and evening papers and found absolutely nothing. This is puzzling to say the least - the death certificate states that the inquest was held on Thursday 9th December 1948 and the Coroner was A P Lockwood. I found another report of another inquest that day but not Arthur's

This coupled with the fact that there was no report of his suicide on Monday 6th December 1948 leads me to think that it may have been suppressed for some reason or another. 

There is always the possibility I may have missed it on the microfiche reader but the papers at the time were only small due to rationing, and I should have found any report.  

I also checked the BMD's in the Sheffield Telegraph but again found nothing.

Arthur was buried 8 days after his death in Sheffield's Burngreave Cemetery

WALKDEN, Arthur J (Labourer, age 55).
Died at Nunnery Colliery; Buried on December 14, 1948 in General ground; Grave Number 108, Section KK of Burngreave Cemetery, Sheffield.
Parent or Next of Kin if Available: . Remarks: Officiating Minister, F A Gartside: Removed from Sheffield Parish.

He is buried with 6 others in what appears to be a public grave.

I would dearly like to find out more about any aspect of Arthur's life and death. There are many unanswered questions not least how Arthur managed to end up as a police inspector in Iraq at the end of WW1 when he had twice been rejected by the Army as not likely to be an efficient soldier. And there is also a mystery over his death at the age of 55. The term "suicidal" really does not serve a purpose as a cause of death and why was there no reports in the local press about his death and the inquest. Normally such incidents receive quite some attention but in this case, there was none as far as I can ascertain  

Sources

Sheffield Indexers

1901 - 1911 UK Census

This page was last updated on 14/11/15 17:34

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