Major Arthur Montague King

Regiment: 4th Battalion Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort’s Own)
Date and place of birth: 21 October 1869 Chithurst, Sussex
Date and place of death: 15 March 1915 (aged 45) at St Eloi, Flanders

Arthur Montague King was born in 1869 the son of a retired naval captain. After graduating from Cambridge, he joined the regular army and served in India, South Africa and Egypt before being killed in action in the Ypres Salient in March 1915.

Family background

Arthur Montague King was born on 21 October 1869 and his birth was registered in the Midhurst district. His father was Henry King (1820 – 1891), a retired Captain in the Royal Navy who lived at Chithurst House, Chithurst. His father had originally married Isabella Louisa Maitland in 1850 but she had died tragically early in 1853 at the age of 24. The only memorial in the tiny church at Chithurst commemorates her death. He subsequently married Charlotte (1831 – 1890), the daughter of the rector of Sullington and Arthur was the product of this marriage.

The 1871 census shows the family living at Chithurst House with five servants. By the next census in 1881, Arthur was attending Temple Grove Grammar School in Mortlake at the age of 11 and from there he was sent to Haileybury School. He then progressed to Trinity College, Cambridge and gained his BA in 1891, which was converted to an MA in 1897.

Meanwhile, he had joined the regular army initially as a second lieutenant in the Suffolk Regiment but very shortly transferred in 1893 to the Rifle Brigade where he spent the rest of his military career.

In early 1897 he married Dorothy Lee Congreve (1874 – 1953) in the Wirral in Cheshire and they had at least one child, a daughter named Diana Charlotte.

Military career

According to the short biography published by Trinity College, Arthur King was promoted to Lieutenant in 1895, to Captain in 1900 and later to Major. The Haileybury School Roll of Honour states that he served on the Indian frontier in 1897–98 and gained a medal with a clasp relating to the Tochi Valley Expedition of 1897. He also gained the Queens Medal with clasp in respect his service in South Africa 1901–02. He then served as an Adjutant of the Militia from 1902–1907. The notice of his death in The Times states that he was a well known rifle shot and that he shot with the Army eight in 1896.

At the 1911 Census, the 4th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade was stationed in Egypt and Major Arthur Montague King is listed there along with his wife Dorothy. She is stated to have been married for 14 years with one child of the marriage. Diana Charlotte King’s place of birth is Umballa in India and she is then 13 years old.

At the outbreak of war the 4th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade was stationed in India. It was brought back to the UK and landed at Devonport in November 1914. It was sent to France arriving in December 1914 where it came under the command of the 80th Brigade 27th Division.

Death and commemoration

In early March 1915, the 27th Division was holding trenches east of St Eloi in the Ypres Salient when on the late afternoon of 14 March the Germans launched a surprise attack with a heavy artillery bombardment and the explosion of two mines. In the confusion, the first line of British trenches was overrun in places and the troops accordingly were forced to retire and re-group. The Germans captured the village. At 2am, the first counter-attack was launched and part of the village was recaptured by the 82nd Brigade. At 3am, the 80th Brigade (in which Arthur King served) in support took more trenches to the east and west of the village. As a result all lost ground of material importance was recaptured according to the Seventh Despatch of Sir John French. He notes that ”it is satisfactory to be able to record that, though the troops occupying the first line of trenches were at first overwhelmed, they afterwards behaved very gallantly in the counterattack for the recovery of the lost ground; and the following units earned and received the special commendation of the Army Commander (inter alia)… the 4th Rifle Brigade…”. It was during this fighting that Major Arthur King was killed.

Major Arthur Montague King remembered on the Menin Gate memorial, Ypres
Major Arthur Montague King remembered on the Menin Gate memorial, Ypres

No body was recovered but Major King’s name is listed at Ypres on the southern exterior face of the Menin Gate Memorial.  His name heads the list on the Memorial in Iping Church. A short notice of his life and death was published in The Times of 20 March 1915.

Subsequent family history

Probate to his estate was granted on 16 April 1915 to his widow with an estate valued at £11,854/19/11d. She in turn died in 1953 and probate of her estate was then granted to her daughter Diana Charlotte Roper. The death of Diana Charlotte Roper was noted in The Times on 15 December 1988.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project