Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1917, Lance Sergeant Arthur Belcher, 2nd/4th Battalion, the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, died of wounds received seventeen days earlier during the fighting at Passchendaele.
The eldest of three sons of a postman, he was educated at the Boys Central School in Oxford, and the City Technical School in St Ebbe's. He then took up employment as a clerk at Elliston & Cavell, a popular department store, and played cricket and football for the YMCA.
Lance Sergeant Belcher joined the army shortly after the outbreak of the Great War. His battalion was formed at Oxford in September of 1914 as a second line unit of territorials. Its members had not signed up to serve overseas and so remained at home until after conscription was introduced, when single men of fighting age could be sent overseas whether they had agreed or not. Fourteen of their number had been trained in the use of machine guns in December of 1915, using ground beside a pub, which was referred to in the regimental diary as the “Camp Field and Resting Field”. They were sent to France in May of 1916 and fought during the Third Battle of Ypres.
On the 22nd of August the fighting was particularly fierce – three officers and sixty-six men of other ranks from Lance Sergeant Belcher’s battalion were killed. He was grievously injured and sent to the base hospital in Rouen, where one of his arms had to be amputated, but his condition worsened and he could not be saved. His parents had asked to visit him, but permission was refused. He is buried in the St Sever Cemetery Extension in Rouen; his father ensured that his gravestone was carved with the inscription: “A dearly beloved son”.
Arthur, from Oxford, was 21 years old.