Arthur Moss ( 1898 - 1917)
Brother of Herbert Moss. The second youngest of the East Bergholt men to die in the Great War. Arthur was killed when the ship on which he was being transported, was sunk whilst entering the harbour at Alexandria, Egypt.
- Died in the Great War
- 51.971239, 1.010989
|Arthur Alan Moss
|Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry)
|Date of Death:
|18th December 1917
|Row F, Grave 19, Alexandria (Hadra) War Memorial Cemetery, Alexandria, Egypt
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old”: So wrote Laurence Binyon in his 1914 poem entitled “For the Fallen”. Of the 65 men commemorated on East Bergholt’s Memorial to the Fallen of the Great War, 7 died before they reached their twentieth birthday. Arthur Moss was one of them.
Family Background and Early Life
Arthur Alan Moss was born at the Livery Stables which were located at the top of Cemetery Lane, on 28th October 1898 – the youngest child of William and Lucy Moss. William Moss was a native of East Bergholt, and the proprietor of the village’s Cab business. He had married Lucy Pinkney from Stutton, following the death of his first wife Alice in April 1893.
William Moss’ first marriage had produced 9 children, at least 1 of whom – Herbert – still lived with his father and step-mother for a time after Arthur’s birth. 1 Herbert Moss served in the Royal Garrison Artillery during the Great War, joining as a Private he was later commissioned as an Officer. He was killed in action on 31st August 1918, near Rancourt, and is buried in Hem Farm Military Cemetery, overlooking the River Somme at Hem-Monacu. For most of his childhood however, Arthur’s closest companions would probably have been his older sister Dorothy, and brother Edward.
Arthur started at the village school at Burnt Oak Corner in May 1902, and remained a pupil there until 6 days after his 13th birthday. By the time he was 12, Arthur was nearing the end of his formal education and was also a part-time errand boy.
Not surprisingly given that his father was a Cab proprietor, and that the cabs would still have been drawn by horses at that time, Arthur seems to have developed an affinity for horses. The next we know of him he was working as a Groom at Little Acton near Wrexham, in Wales.
It was at Wrexham that Arthur received his call-up papers, and Attested for the British Army on 13th October 1916, 2 weeks before his eighteenth birthday. Attestation was the formal swearing of the Oath of Allegiance to the King, which along with the completion of certain documents marked the first stage in joining the British Army.
Following Arthur’s Attestation he was officially deemed to have joined the Army Reserve, though he wasn’t actually formally mobilised until 27th April 1917. In the meantime Arthur had to attend his Army Medical, which noted that he was 5 foot 8 inches tall, weighed 157 pounds and has good physical development.
After his mobilisation at the end of April, Arthur left all semblance of civilian life and was posted to the Cavalry Depot at Aldershot, where he would undergo his basic training. At the end of September, following the conclusion of basic training, Arthur was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry).
Machine Gun Corps
The Machine Gun Corps had been formed in October 1915, as the fighting during the first year of the War had shown that machine guns needed to be used in larger units, and crewed by specially trained men, in order to be truly effective. At the time that Arthur was posted to the Machine Gun Corps, it was made up of three main branches: The Infantry Branch, the Cavalry Branch and the Motor Branch.
The weapon of the Corps was the water-cooled Vickers Machine Gun. It could fire between 450 and 550 rounds (bullets) per minute, and had an effective range of over a mile. The Vickers was manned by a team of 6 or 8, 1 man carried the gun, 1 the tripod upon which the gun rested, whilst the remainder carried the water (needed to cool the gun) and ammunition.
In action, such was the devastating firepower of a machine gun, that it – and its crew – became a prime target. So high was the casualty rate in the Machine Gun Corps that it was nicknamed “the suicide club”: Over 36% of the 170,000 men who served in the Corps became casualties, of whom 13,791 lost their lives.
Posted to join the Egyptian Expeditionary Force
At this stage of the conflict, the earliest age a British soldier could be sent abroad to a theatre of war was 19. The need for manpower was such that just over a month past his nineteenth birthday, Arthur – by now a qualified Machine Gunner – was posted to join the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (E.E.F.).
The E.E.F. had initially been formed in 1915, to safeguard the British protectorate of Egypt (including the Suez Canal, which was vital to British trade), against the German led Ottoman (Turkish) invasion of the Sinai peninsular. The Allies eventually gained the upper hand, and in early 1917 had entered Ottoman territory in Palestine (modern day Israel).
There followed a number of costly battles, including defeats for the E.E.F. at the First and Second Battles of Gaza. The British offensive resumed in October 1917 and a series of victories followed, including the capture of Jerusalem just a week before Arthur was posted to join the E.E.F.
Sets sail for Egypt
Arthur embarked on the ship HT Osmanieh at Southampton on 17th December 1917. The HT (standing for Hired Transport) Osmanieh was a 4,041 ton Passenger/Cargo ship, which in May 1916 had been contracted by the Royal Navy to act as a Fleet Messenger. On this particular voyage she was to carry troops and medical staff to Alexandria in Egypt.
The HT Osmanieh did not sail directly to Alexandria, but stopped en route at Taranto in Italy, leaving there on 28th December. Three days later, whilst entering the harbour at Alexandria, the HT Osmanieh struck a mine – she had unknowingly entered a minefield, which had previously been laid by a German U-boat.
The ship sank quickly taking with her 3 ship’s officers, 21 crew, 167 soldiers and 8 nurses. Arthur was one of those who were drowned. He was just 19 and had never reached a combat unit.
Arthur’s body was recovered from the harbour and he was buried in the Alexandria (Hadra) War Memorial Cemetery, in Egypt.
William Moss died in 1921 at the age of 77, and Lucy died in 1930 at the age of 71. Both are buried in East Bergholt Cemetery.
Copyright © Mark Ashmore, 2024
- Died in the Great War
- 51.971239, 1.010989
- 1Herbert Moss served in the Royal Garrison Artillery during the Great War, joining as a Private he was later commissioned as an Officer. He was killed in action on 31st August 1918, near Rancourt, and is buried in Hem Farm Military Cemetery, overlooking the River Somme at Hem-Monacu.