Arnold Edward Archer

Private 79044 Arnold Edward Archer

1st/7th Battalion Durham Light Infantry. Formerly 45170 Yorkshire Regiment.

Died of illness whilst a Prisoner of War on the 7th September 1918 aged 20 years

Son of Joseph Alfred and Eliza Archer, brother to Alfred, Wilfred and Maurice of the Post Office, Cross Green.

Originally buried in Grave 429 in a German Military Cemetery at Bichmont, Crecy Sur Serre, close to the German Dressing Station where he died from an intestinal illness caused by the conditions as a prisoner of war. In 1925 he was re-buried in the Chaumy Communal Cemetery, British Extension in Grave 5 E 9.

Extract from a diary kept by Madame Beck from Crecy which gives a vivid account of conditions for the prisoners at the Prisoner of War camp and hospital:

If the Germans prepared thoroughly for the movement and accommodation of their troops, they were equally thorough in planning for treatment and hospitalisation of their wounded.

From the 20th February 1917, the Hotel Dieu had been cleared of its residents and patients from Crecy and transformed into a field hospital. Throughout all the battles the hospital was never idle. They used drastic measures. Without flinching, they cut off arms and legs, the sound of military music in the background designed to cover the cries of the poor German and French wounded, piled up on the massacre site. Out of respect for the dead the invaders, as always well organised, built a cemetery in the Bichemont woods. They were so proud of it, as its importance grew, with its concrete crosses that they felt they should officially inaugurate it, inviting the good and great of Crecy led by the Mayor and Dean.

Madame Beck then writes about "poor British Prisoners made to suffer the venom of an army facing defeat":

16th September 1918:

The poor British from the camp at Dercy. There were around 800 of them not long ago, but they are dying like flies. Every day they bring at least 3 coffins. Today there were 5, one on top of another in a truck, swinging from left to right; the locals feel very sorry for those who are bringing them in. We give them a little refreshment. Thin and ragged, their eyes scan the pavement in search of cigarette ends. In the morning they are given blackish water, made with grilled rye, called 'coffee'; at midday beetroot soup or something similar. It is really only dirty water with 400g of bread, that's all. And with that they are set to work on the railway lines, threatened with a blow from a rifle butt when their strength gives out.

The two War Medals were sent to the family on the 20th December 1921 from the Record Office in York with the following letter:

Postcards from the Front were beautifully embroidered and thid was sent by Pte. Archer to his Mother and father with the following greeting on the reverse:
Mother and Father
To Wish you a Happy and Prosperous New Year

The silk front of the card lifted up and the above small card was tucked inside

Embroidered handkerchiefs were sent as gifts and this one was sent to his family

A letter was sent by Pte. Archer to his family on April 19th. The envelope shows it to be April 1918

Dear Mother, Father, Bros and Sis
Hoping this will find you all well glad to say am keeping alright. We moved yesterday hope now to get away for a rest. Weather is bitterly cold been trying to snow several times hope you are having better. After coming out of the line last weekend we came a few kilometres back & had to walk a good distance each day to dig a reserve line of trenches am not sorry we have finished, out early in the morning till late at night. Alf asks if I am shifted out of pioneers, am not but we have to go in the line at any time we are needed & think everybody who could walk has been in, Labour Corps, RE & all the bag of tricks. Primrose Day today ought to be a bit warmer, saw acres of primroses in the woods near to the line this last week, about the biggest woods I have been in came through some in the middle of the night when relieved along a horse road mud in some places a foot deep something after the style of Gipsy Lane only worse but dont mind anything when you are coming away forget tiredness. Just had our dinner stew & rice put marmalade in to sweeten it, do not see much pudding out here we got suet dumplings other week first time could do with them oftener something substantial to fill a corner, hope you are still able to get enough to eat & things are a bit better in the food line all round. Expect there is plenty of news from all parts now keep making the newspaper peoples fortune hope you can see some signs by this of an early finish. Grandfather's birthday hope he is still keeping well wrote him on the 10th but was unable to post till the 15th. Will close.
Kind regards to all
Best Love
From Loving Son & Brother

Sadly, like so many young men, Arnold died just a few weeks before peace was declared. His Father was the Post Master in Rothley and the telegram confirming the Armistice is shown below

Confirmation of death from the International Red Cross.
This is dated the 9th December 1918 when death was on the 7th September 1918

The Memorial Plaque sent to Joseph and Eliza Archer together with the package that also included the official letter from the King. It is rare to find all three items still together.

The official letter from the King

The package

The original envelope

The site of the German Military Cemetery at Bichmont

The site of the German Military Cemetery at Bichmont in 2015

The graves of German soldiers buried by the POW's at Bichmont

11 NO

Armistice Signed
Hostilities ceased this
Secretary G.P.O. London

With sincere thanks to the family of the late Arnold Edward Archer for their kind permission to reproduce these records and war medals.

Private Archer's great niece Joyce Proudman in 2015 at his grave in Chaumy Cemetery, France. In 2016 Joyce and Alan Proudman are still living in the house on Cross Green that was the Rothley Post Office and Arnold Edward Archer's family home

The land for the Chaumy Cemetery was given by the French for all time