Sergeant Arthur George Illston

7760 1st Battalion Leicestershire Regiment who died on 20 September 1915

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Family History

Arthur George Illston was born in 1889 to Arthur Illston, a white hose scourer in the hosiery trade and his wife Ada, a shoe hand. He had three younger siblings Job Alfred, Ada and Amelia. In 1901 the family were living in a backs yard off Upper Brunswick Street, Leicester. This area, known as St Margaret’s Ward was one of the poorest parishes in the city with much deprivation and slum housing.

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Upper Brunswick St. before clearance and redevelopment

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Slum housing in St Margaret’s Ward, Leicester

 

Military Service

On 31 August 1905 Arthur enlisted in the Leicestershire Regiment, for nine years in the regular army and three years in the Reserves. He had previously served in the part time 3rd Battalion (Militia) and although only sixteen years old he gave his age as eighteen, declaring his profession as labourer. His army medical record describes Arthur as 5’7” tall and weighing 126lbs with good physical development but with five decaying teeth which clearly caused him problems as he required five extractions in June 1911.

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Arthur’s joined the 1st Battalion and was stationed at Shorncliffe Barracks, Folkestone where he was noted as a keen rugby and water polo player. In the 1911 census he is listed at Talavera Barracks, Aldershot along with Oadby soldier and fellow rugby player George Willcocks who was killed in October 1914. In 1912 Arthur married George Willcock’s older sister Mary Anne. Their son George was born in 1913**. Arthur was within one month of completing his regular service when war was declared. He was promoted to Sergeant on 5 August 1914 and left with the British Expeditionary Force on 8 September 1914 for St Nazaire, France.

** Arthur and Mary Anne’s son George Arthur Illston was born in 1913 and later joined the Navy. He was killed on 20 March 1945 when his ship HMS Lapwing was sunk.

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On 10 January 1915 Arthur wrote to Rev Isaac Raine from Armentieres describing the 1914 Christmas Truce and reporting on the conditions and spirits of the men from Oadby serving at the Front.

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Bethune Bombs

On 16 September 1915 the 1st Battalion A Company moved forward to Canal Bank near Ypres to relieve the 2nd Yorks and Lancaster Regiment. Arthur’s platoon were undertaking bomb (grenade) practice when a Bethune Bomb exploded whilst being put together. Seven men were wounded and Arthur Illston was one of two men killed. He was 26 years old.

 

Memorials

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Sergeant Arthur Illston is buried with Honour at La Brique Military Cemetery No.1, St Jean-les-Ypres, Belgium

 

Arthur’s Widow

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Report of Oadby Urban District Council meeting (Leicester Daily Mail 30 September 1915)

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Unusually Arthur has two Medal Index Cards. One in the name of Arthur awarding him the Victory and British War Medal and another in the name of George awarding him the 1914 Star as a member of the British Expeditionary Force.

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In April 1916 Mary Anne Illston was awarded a war widows’ pension of 16 shillings per week for herself and baby George and on July 30 1919 a War Gratuity of £9. However this would have ceased from 6 September 1919 when she was remarried to Albert Findley at St Peter’s Parish Church.

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Arthur’s widow signed for his medals and memorial scroll in her new married name of Findley.