Private Arthur Procter (1890 - 1973)

 

Name Arthur Herbert, PROCTER
Rank Private
Force 1/5th Battalion The King's (Liverpool) Regiment
VC  France, 4 June 1916
London Gazette 5 August 1916
Born 11 August 1890 Bootle, Lancashire,
Died 26 January 1973, Sheffield
Grave City Road Crematorium, Sheffield (ashes buried All Saints Chapel, Sheffield Cathedral)
Location of VC King's Regiment Museum, Liverpool
Notes Later the Reverend Proctor

 

Arthur was born in Bootle, Lancashire on 11th August 1890 and educated at Port Sunlight and Exeter. In the book Forgotten Voices Victoria Cross by Roderick Bailey which was published in 2010 the author secured the testimony of Second Lieutenant Ernest Hare who served with the 14th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment Ernest said that Arthur was an orphan and had participated in his fathers Bible Class. He was always "religiously inclined" but it was through Ernest's father that Arthur landed his first job in the Liverpool Provision Exchange Market as a a wholesale provision grocer. He seems to have been close to the Hare family as he frequently stayed with them.

He then goes on to state that Arthur contracted pneumonia in May 1914 and when he tried to enlist in August 1914 he was turned away, but did eventually enlist three months later as a stretcher bearer with the  1/5th Battalion, the King's (Liverpool) Regiment; Territorial Forces.

Ernest then goes on to recount what Arthur told him about that day when his actions led to the award of the VC

"Ernest, I walked up and down the trench and I heard the groans of the wounded from the shell holes and it was dreadful. I could not stand it any longer, I either had to hop it or go after them - and if he'd hopped it he'd have been court-martialled. So he climbed on the fire=step and he was through the wire and those that were alive he bound their wounds the best he could - and the Germans were firing at him - and at dusk he took another party and brought them in."

Arthur then recalled how he heard of the award. About a fortnight later he was summoned to the Colonels HQ, and in the presence of a staff officer was told to clean his buttons as he was going on a little journey with Captain Williams. He was driven 25 miles to a small village where he saw a parade. When the car stopped he saw General Haig. He walked across and "stiffly saluted him but Haig shook his hand and said "His Majesty is here Proctor, He would like to see you" Arthur went across to the King who put his hand out and said "I'm glad to meet you my boy, I've got something for you" He then pinned the Victoria Cross on Arthur's tunic. Haig then said to the Arthur that he realised that he had undergone a terrible experience but he asked Arthut to go back to his unit and show his VC to them. He then said that the Captain would then take him to Boulogne as he was going back home for a months leave! 

In December 2016 I received this information from a researcher who kindly sent me a copy of the 1/5th Battalion, the King's (Liverpool) Regiment; Territorial Forces. War Dairy for the period in question

"I came across the original description of Arthur Proctorís deeds of June 1916 when I was researching my grandfatherís war service in the 5th Battalion of the Kings Liverpool. William Clarke was Sergeant Major & was awarded the Military Cross, gazetted in January 1917. I havenít yet found a description of the action that led to his award".

In the supplement to the London Gazette dated 5th August 1916 (p744) the following citation appears, awarding Arthur the Victoria Cross.

The award was for his actions on 4th June, 1916 near Ficheux (south of Arras in the Pas de Calais region of France). Arthur noted some movement on the part of two wounded men who were lying in full view of the enemy about seventy five yards in front of the British trenches. On his own initiative and under heavy enemy fire, he ran and crawled to the two men, got them under cover of a small bank, dressed their wounds and promised that they would be rescued after dark. He left them warm clothing and then returned to the British lines again under heavy and sustained fire. The two wounded soldiers were rescued at dusk.

After Ficheux, Arthur fought on the Somme as well as Neuve Chapelle, Festubert, Givenchy and Arras

Arthur Procter VC. HM King George V at Amiens presented Arthur 9 August 1916. Arthur was the first British soldier to be decorated with the Victoria Cross on the battlefield

On his return to Liverpool he received a hero's welcome, being paraded through the streets and given a gold watch. Ernest was with him at the time even though Arthur was not supposed to travel with an officer but in addition to the watch he received a cheque for £600.

This is a cutting from the Rochdale Observer dated 26th August 1916

Arthur was discharged from the army on 14th October 1918. In the same year Arthur married Hilda Codd in Birkenhead and a year later they had a son also called Arthur. He returned to his old occupation of wholesale grocer but at sometime around 1925 Arthur decided to pursue a new vocation and start practice for entry into the Church. He was ordained in 1927.

A year later he was appointed curate at Prescot and in 1931 he became the vicar of St Stephens Church, Bennett Street, Hyde. In the Second World War he served as a chaplain in the Royal Air Force and after leaving the services in 1946 became Rector of St Mary's Church in Droylsden near Manchester. In 1951 he moved to St Peters Church in Claybrook, Leicester. Between 1963 - 1965 he was vicar at the parish church in Bradworthy, Devon but he finally moved to Sheffield where he died on Saturday 27th January 1973 aged eighty two. The reason for his move to Sheffield was quite simply retirement. He spent the last years of his life in a bungalow for retired clergymen - 1 Cherrytree Cottage in the Nether Edge district of Sheffield

The Times Obituary is reproduced below

 

Sheffield Cathedral houses a memorial tablet to Arthur whilst his Victoria Cross is held  at the National Museums and Galleries of Merseyside

 
Additional Sources

Borough of Tameside

London Gazette dated 5th August 1916 (p744)

Rochdale Observer dated 26th August 1916

The Times 1973

Forgotten Voices Victoria Cross by Roderick Bailey

Prescot Roll of Honour

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This page was last updated on 22/01/17 16:23