Regiment: 2/6th Battalion Royal Warwickshire
Service no: 5519
Date and place of birth: 3rd qtr 1896 in Midhurst, Sussex
Date and place of death: 22 July 1916 in France
Arthur Robert Peat was baptised on 9 August 1896 in Midhurst Parish Church, the only son of Arthur and Ellen Peat who lived in ‘Kirk Ella’, Station Road, Midhurst. Arthur was a butcher, born in Chichester in 1864, who had a shop in Rumbolds Hill, Midhurst. At Hastings in 1894 he married Ellen Addison, born in Kirk Ella, Hull, Yorkshire in 1861. She had recently been a housemaid for the Earl of March at Molecombe House, Charlton, Sussex at the same time in 1891 when Arthur was living in the neighbouring village of Boxgrove at the Village Club.
Midhurst Grammar School Pupil Admissions 1903 – 1916 records Arthur Peat, being admitted on 1 January 1907 and leaving 26 July 1911 to join his father as a butcher.
Arthur Robert Peat enlisted in Horsham and first served in the Royal Sussex Regiment, no.2929, before moving to the 2nd /6th Battalion Royal Warwickshire (Territorial Force). The Regiment was formed in Coventry in October 1914 and then moved to Chelmsford. In August 1915 it formed part of the 18th Brigade of the 61st Division on Salisbury Plain. On 21 May 1916 it mobilised for war, went to France and took part in the attack on Fromelles (19 to 20 July) alongside the 5th (Australian) Division. The two divisions attacked the German position but after seven hours of shelling by the allied forces the 61st was badly hit and had to withdraw on the first day without achieving their targets. The Australians joined them in retreat the following day hit by the German retaliation which had, in part, been helped by incorrect intelligence which left the allies unaware that the German front line had moved to newly constructed reinforced concrete bunkers, housing machine gun placements. The Allied casualty rate was very high, with 5,000 Australian losses which left barely 10% of their force intact. There were 1,547 British troops killed, wounded or missing, 50% of their total.
Arthur Peat was awarded Victory and British medals.
Death and commemoration
He died of wounds on 22 July 1916 and is buried in Merville Communal Cemetery, grave XI.A.28. He is commemorated on Midhurst War Memorial, Memorial Panels in Midhurst Parish Church and on the board in Midhurst Rother College. He is also remembered on the gravestone of his parents in Midhurst Cemetery.
In 2008 a mass grave of 400 Allied soldiers, believed to have been from the Fromelles attack was discovered in Pheasant Wood and CWGC supervised a full re-burial which was dedicated on 19 July 2010.
Subsequent family history
His father, Arthur, died on 20 January 1941, aged 77 and his mother, Ellen, died on 24 May 1945, aged 83, both in Midhurst.
At Molecombe House in 1891, Ellen Addison was one of eighteen servants working for the Earl of March and his seven children. He was a 45 year old widower and Lieutenant Colonel of the Royal Sussex Regiment. Ten years earlier in Sculcoates, Yorkshire, Ellen (19) had been a housemaid for Henry Smith JP, a seed crusher and ship owner, his wife and their seven children.