Captain Arthur Norman Cousin

Arthur Norman Cousin was born in London on 8 May 1891. Although his parents, Smith and Hannah Cousin, were living in Brixton Hill, he was baptised in Keighley, Yorkshire where his father had been born and where his grandfather Mitchell had risen to “Power Loom Overlooker”. Mitchell’s father and grandfather had worked as weavers there since at least 1841.

In 1901 the family were living in Arundel Road and both Arthur’s mother and father were school teachers. He attended Powell Corderoy School. In 1904 he was awarded a Junior County Scholarship to attend the Dorking High School.

In June 1908 he was awarded a County Major Scholarship to University College, London where he remained for four years and obtained a First Class Honours BSc in Applied Maths and several prizes. He was also a member of the Officers Training Corps. In 1911 the family was living at Nower View, Falkland Grove. His father was Head Master at Powell Corderoy, where his mother also taught. In November Arthur applied for membership of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, saying that he was a student demonstrator in the University of London and that the was applying to Vickers. He was elected as a graduate member in January 1912.

He then went to Sheffield to work as an engineer with Vickers. The Mayor and Town raised the 12th Service Battalion (Sheffield City Battalion) of the York and Lancaster regiment in early September 1914 and on 18th September Arthur was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. Officers for the battalion at this time were initially selected by the battalion commander and then chosen by the Mayor and University Pro-Chancellor, before their names were submitted to the War Office for approval. (His OTC experience would have been sufficient for a commission at this stage.) Early instruction in drill took place at Bramhall Lane, the famous home of Sheffield United Cricket and Football Club. With six weeks of service as an officer, Norman was promoted to Lieutenant on 1st November 1914.

Members were initially billeted at home until on Saturday 5th December the battalion of 1,131 officers and men left Sheffield for Redmires Camp, a windswept camping ground a few miles west of the city. In May 1915 they moved to Penkridge Camp on Cannock Chase, and they then went to Ripon in July. He was promoted to Captain on 1st October 1915 and the battalion moved to Salisbury Plain that month.

Arthur went to France briefly in November, with the advance parties for the division. However these parties were soon recalled as the division was instead going to Egypt to defend the Suez Canal.

He left with the battalion for Alexandria on 20th December 1915. They had only received their proper rifles a week before embarking. On 10th March 1916 they embarked for France.

In April he became the Brigade Intelligence Officer and so was not actually with the battalion when it took part in its first major battle. On 1st July 1916 the Battalion led one of the attacks with the Accrington Pals, (11th East Lancashire Regiment) at Serre, on the first day Battle of Somme. Of 720 Accrington Pals who took part in the attack, 584 were killed, wounded or missing. Arthur’s battalion suffered nearly as badly and lost half its strength killed wounded or missing that day. 248 are listed as killed, and over 300 wounded. Almost all the infantry battalions of the Division were pals battalions from Yorkshire and Lancashire and all suffered badly, in a failed attack which lasted only forty minutes.

Although the battalions were gradually returned to strength by replacements, the “Pals” character was lost to units whose men had joined together from the same towns and trained together. During the harsh winter months of 1916-17, 887 officers and men of the 12th battalion were evacuated to hospital.

Arthur was invalided home with trench fever in early 1917 and did not rejoin the battalion in France until October. On 1st December he was appointed adjutant. On 7 December he was visiting the front line outposts accompanied by an artillery officer and an orderly. When between two positions he was caught and instantly killed by machine gun fire, near Oppy Wood (NE of Arras). He was buried in Roclincourt Cemetery.

He was commemorated also on the Vickers memorial and in Trinity Methodist Church, Firvale, Sheffield, as well as at St Paul’s Church and Powell Corderoy School.

Son of                     Mr and Mrs Samuel Cousin of “Nower View” Falkland Grove, Dorking

School                     Dorking British School (Powell Corderoy School)

Regiment                 12th Yorks and Lancaster Regiment

Date of Death           7th December 1917
Place of Death          Oppy Wood, France
Cause of Death        Killed in Action

Age                           26

Cemetery                 Rolincourt Military Cemetery, Somme, France

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