Able Seaman
Arthur Derbyshire


About Arthur

  • Name
  • Initials
  • Surname
  • Date of Birth
    14 January 1897
  • Birth town
    Runcorn, Cheshire
  • Resided town
  • Commemorated
  • Nationality
  • Place of death
    Cheadle, Cheshire
  • Date of death
    13 October 1958
  • Married
  • Occupation

Service Information

  • Royal Navy

  • Service Number
  • Rank
    Able Seaman


Arthur Derbyshire was born in Runcorn, Cheshire on 14 January 1987, to parents Joseph Henry, a flatman/waterman and Eva (nee Ellis).  A flatman used a flat bottomed boat for transport in shallow waters on rivers and canals.  In 1901 Arthur, aged 4, was living at 22 Grosvenor Street, Runcorn with his mother Eva (24) and his sister Alice (2).  By 1911, Arthur (14) a baker’s errand boy, was living at 97 Old Bidston Road, Birkenhead with Joseph Henry (37), Eva (34), Alice (12) and Annie (9), both at school.

Arthur joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve on 28 July 1913.   He was 5ft 7” tall with a fresh complexion, light brown hair and grey eyes and was employed as a baker.  He served as an Ordinary Seaman with the Nelson Battalion on 22 August 1914, and was promoted to Able Seaman on 15 September 1914.

At the outbreak of war on 4 August 1914, there was a surplus of some 20-30,000 men of the Royal Navy Reserves and they were formed into two Naval Brigades and a Brigade of Marines for operations on land.  These Brigades were sent to support Belgium but were inadequately trained, lightly armed and quickly forced to retreat.  Approximately 1500 men marched into neutral Holland and were interned at Groningen, Northern Holland where they remained until the end of the war.

On 8 October 1914 it became obvious that Antwerp could no longer be defended against the Germans, so the Belgian and British troops retreated by way of the river Schelde.  However, the orders to retreat were not received in time and they missed the train, but were unable to turn back due to the German advance.  Over 1,500 British men were interned in Groningen, Netherlands ‘for the duration of the hostilities’ where they lived in wooden barracks in the ‘English Camp’, known as ‘Timbertown’.

A number of  clubs were set up to occupy the men, which included music, crafts, drama and sports.  The Dutch and British governments agreed that the British should be allowed to visit the centre of Groningen, and later this was extended to going ‘on leave’ to England for between four and eight weeks.

Arthur passed through Peterborough East Station and signed the visitors’ book on 9 November 1916, whilst ‘on leave’ from internment camp in Holland.  He was allowed home leave to the UK from 8 November 1916 to 6 December 1916, and again from 19 July 1918 to 15 August 1918.  He was eventually repatriated on 19 November 1918 and demobilised on 28 January 1919.

Arthur married Annie Turner at St Anne, Birkenhead on 24 September 1925.  They had one child, Frederick, born in 1926.  In 1939, they were living at 337 Wilmslow Road, Cheadle, Cheshire.  Arthur was an aircraft labourer and Annie was a domestic helper.  There is one officially closed record in the 1939 Register which is probably Frederick.  Arthur died in Cheadle on 13 October 1958, aged 61.

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