2nd Lieutenant Arthur Chernocke DOWNES – Attd. 3rd Bn
Personal: Captain Arthur (Archer) Chernocke Downes was the fourth child and the youngest and last surviving son of the late Lieutenant-Colonel Villers Somerville Downes (died in 1909) of Aspley House, Aspley Guise, Bedfordshire. (East Lancashire (59th) Regiment).
His mother was Catherine Elizabeth Anne, daughter of Frederick Thompson, of Wimbledon Park.
Arthur was born at Aspley House (left) on 5th August 1892 and educated The Knoll, Woburn Sands, Winchester College and Trinity College Oxford.
He had two older brothers, Edward Chernocke and Villers Chernocke, and two older sisters, Dorothy and Marjorie. (see Footnotes below)
The 1901 Census shows the older brothers both at boarding schools, Edward at Chernocke House, Winchester, and brother, Villers Chernocke, a boarder at The Knoll School, Aspley Heath.
In 1911 Arthur (misnamed ‘Archer’) was also at Winchester. (Census RG 14/6122) He was ninth man for Wimbledon VIII, coxed School IV for two years and was appointed a House Prefect in 1910. In 1911 he followed his brother to Trinity College, Oxford where he served three years in the University OTC. [Source: Winchester College, Roll of Honour.] He was also the Captain of the Hockey Club at Trinity College.
The other surviving children of the family were at Aspley House, with the servants (1911 Census RG 14/8942), but their mother, Catherine, was not. The Census (RG 14/14730) shows her visiting the home of Mariam Archer Thompson (her sister?) at ‘Montrose’, Weston Park, Bath, Somerset. Their father, Villers, had died in 1909. Catherine lived until 20th February 1938, when she died in Dorset, aged 74.
Arthur was unmarried and was buried in Poperinghe Communal Cemetery, Grave I.B.5. The inscription reads “He shall receive the crown of life”
His mother was informed by telegram and she replied to the War Office on 27th November 1914 asking for details, the name of the surgeon who looked after him, and asking for all particulars as soon as possible. It is not known whether anyone replied.
On 16th December 1914 the staff in France sent all his personal effects to the War Office and, without being told what they were, Arthur’s mother was asked what she wanted done with his belongings, to which she responded: “I am much obliged for your letter, and shall be glad if the effects of my son, the late Lieutenant A.C. Downes, Cheshire Regiment, can be sent to the above address, all large packages; but should there be a wrist-watch, signet ring, or any small books, will you kindly send them to me, to the address where I am at present staying, viz.: 72 Senegal Road, S. Bermondsey, SE. Also please write to me here“. In December the War Office informed her that her son’s belongings were on their way to her, and were received on New Year’s Day 1915.
On 2nd September 1919 Catherine also received a War Gratuity of £35 – equivalent to about £1,600 today (2020).
Military Service: Arthur obtained his commission in the Cheshire Regiment on 2nd September 1913 and at the outbreak of war he was attached to the 3rd Battalion. Arthur’s Medal Index Card shows that he was posted to the 1st Battalion, arriving in France on 9th October 1914.
On 16th October 1914 the War Diary recorded: “CAPTAIN MAHONY took over command of Battalion and brought up 2/Lieuts Napier, May, Woodhead, Carr, Anderson and 248 reinforcements.” It is possible that this was when Arthur joined the Battalion, but for some reason his name was not entered in the Diary. [Capt. F.H. Mahony was wounded 5 days later and died of his wounds the next day, 22nd October 1914]
Archer died at Poperinghe on 20th November 1914 of wounds received in action at Neuve Église, near Bailleul, probably on 28th October. Contemporary reports state he: “had left his trench to help a wounded man of his Regiment when he was shot.” (Source: ‘The Roll of Honour‘)
The War Diary states that the Battalion was in reserve dugouts on the 20th and experienced “Some shelling“! Nevertheless, since entering the trenches it had experienced “killed 35, wounded 99” + many missing.
Archer and his brother, Villers, (see below) are both commemorated on the Aspley Guise War Memorial, situated in St Botolph’s Parish Church and Churchyard, Aspley Guise, Bedfordshire.
Arthur’s brother Lieutenant Villers Chernocke Downes, 1st Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, was killed in action 18th October 1914.
He was the third son of the family and was also born Aspley House on 5th March 1891 and also educated at The Knoll, Woburn Sands, Winchester College and Trinity College Oxford.
Villers was gazetted to the 3rd Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment (TF) from the Oxford University OTC on 6th September 1911. (London Gazette – 5 September 1911).
On the outbreak of war he was posted to the 1st Battalion and went to France with the First Expeditionary Force. He served through the retreat from Mons and the Battle of the Marne and was instrumental in saving three guns.
Villers was attached to the 1st Battalion when wounded during the Battle of La Bassée.
He died at St Omer on 18th October 1914 of wounds received in action and was buried in Longuenesse (St. Omer) Souvenir Cemetery. Lieutenant Downes had passed as a musketry instructor, and was nearly due for his Captaincy.
In 1922 a War Memorial was unveiled in the grounds containing the names of both brothers – pictured right.
(Photos courtesy of Bedfordshire County Council)
Another brother, Edward Chernocke Downes, died in the Winchester College Sanatorium in March 1902 and is commemorated by a plaque in the College Cloister.
In the December quarter 1914, at Aspley Guise, Bedfordshire, Arthur’s sister, Dorothy, married Lieutenant Christopher Hartley, “C” Battery, 210 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, son of William Harry and Gertrude Hartley, of Fencegate, Burnley.
He was Killed in Action on 1st September 1917, aged 31, and is buried in Plot I. D. 62, Ypres Reservoir Cemetery.
In March 1915 Arthur’s other sister, Marjorie Chernocke Downes, joined the British Committee, French Red Cross, as a Nurse, and served in France until the Armistice in November 1918.
At some time after that she married as, when she died on 28th February 1984, aged 95, at 17 Downham Road, Woburn Sands, Buckinghamshire, her name was Marjorie Chernocke Russell. [A record of the marriage has not been found.]