Captain (Major) Arthur James Leslie DYER, M.C. – (Commanding ‘A’ Company)
Wounded and Captured: 24 August 1914 Repatriated: 18 November 1918
Personal: Arthur born on 21st April 1875 at Grove Villa, Weston Super Mare, Somerset. (Baptised on 20th May at St John’s Church, Weston Super Mare.)
He was the son of Arthur Edwin (Professor of Music, Organist and Musical Director Cheltenham College) and Jessie Louisa (née Coles) Dyer and had 2 older sisters, Kate Georgina and Ada Frances May, and 4 younger siblings, Francis Gilbert (see Footnote below), Herbert Arthur (see Footnote below), Dorothy Jessie and Winifred M. B.
In 1881 (Census RG 11/2576) the family was living at ‘Malcolm Ghur North’, 11 Bath Road, Cheltenham, one of the many boarding house of Cheltenham College (left). Ten years later (1891 Census RG 12/2048) the family was at the same address, with a Cook and 2 domestic servants.
By 1901 (Census RG 12/2464) whilst at the same address, all but the 2 eldest and the youngest daughters had moved on, including Arthur, who had gained a Commission in the Cheshire Regiment in 1895.
Arthur’s father, Arthur Edwin, died a year later and was buried in Cheltenham Cemetery on 14th April 1902. Jessie remained at the family home, with her daughters (1911 Census RG 14/15558). She died on 31st March 1917, at the same family address, whilst Arthur was a prisoner of war in Germany.
Arthur returned in November 1918 from captivity after 4 years as a prisoner of war. Pension Records show that in 1920 (i.e. aged 45) Arthur had returned to the Cheltenham parental address and was diagnosed as suffering from “neurasthenia“.
In the March quarter 1928 Arthur married Joyce Anderton. He died 2 years later, aged 55, on 7th July 1930, in Broadstone, Dorset, and buried in St John’s Churchyard there. There is no record of any children of the marriage.
Probate records show that his estate was valued at £2522 14s 9d (£2522.73 – equivalent to about £210,000 today – 2023) was left to his widow, Joyce, and his brother, Francis Gilbert Dyer (organist).
Military Service: Arthur was Commissioned 2nd/Lieutenant in the Cheshire Regiment on 28th September 1895 and promoted to Lieutenant on 6th April 1898. Further promotion, to Captain, came on 15th November 1901.
He was appointed Temporary Major on 25th August 1914 – the day after he was badly wounded and captured at Audregnies.
In the photo of Officers of the 1st Battalion, taken just before they left for France on 14th August 1914, Arthur is in the front row (left of the two in the photo).
Seated next to Arthur is ‘D’ Company Commander, Capt. Ernest Rae-Jones, who was killed in action at Audregnies on 24th August 1914.
The War Diary tells us that the Battalion disembarked at Le Havre on 16th August and the next day moved by train and march to meet the oncoming enemy, near to Mons, Belgium.
Arthur was the C.O. of ‘A’ Company and was ordered to take up position to the east of the line facing the oncoming German Divisions, covering the Wiheries-Audregnies and Élouges-Audregnies road junction.
His 2nd i/c was Captain B.E. Massy, also severely wounded, as was Lieutenant W. G. R. Elliot, D.S.O. The other two Officers of the Company were 2/Lt. I. Fairweather and 2/Lt. G. S. Jacobs (Special List), who were both taken prisoner.
The painting shown on the left, by David Rowlands, was commissioned for the 1st Battalion.
It shows probably ‘A’ Company in position east of the HQ building. If so, the Officer is possibly Captain Dyer.
“2.30 pm Captain Dyer then called out, “Advance and Enfilade the Enemy”. I [Matterson] jumped up and left the road and led the attack. I was alone some 20 yards in front of the gallant little firing line of about 6 men who followed me.
I had drawn my sword with scabbard on, the latter, I remember pulling off, and throwing away. There was a hail of bullets, and how I escaped I don’t know. I made up my mind it was certain death.
I was soon joined by Dyer and together we headed the little counter attack. We were followed by Jolliffe and Massy, and a few more men. We made two advances, and we raised a cheer when we heard the enemy were retiring, a thing I never saw and do not believe happened.
The picture of this little counter attack I shall never forget. Men were falling all around us and their cries were dreadful. Dyer then said it was hopeless and we must get back. The retreat was almost worse, and the ground was covered with killed and wounded. One bullet hit the ground under my stomach as I raised myself on my elbows. My life, as someone said, “was charmed”. I don’t think anyone could have had such near escapes. Dyer was hit twice on the way back, and I stayed with him, and persuaded him to make another effort to get behind the cottage. We went together and I got him back untouched. I found that Major Stapylton had ordered “enough”, having discovered that we were completely surrounded, the men who tried to retire being shot down from the left rear. I bound up Dyers wounds, and then the Germans poured up and took us.”
.…. a .pdf file giving Lt. Matterson’s full account of the Battle, supplied by his daughter. [Source: “Prison in Paradise” unpublished memoir of Major Eric Archer Jackson, 2 i/c ‘C’ Company]
The Prisoner of War records show that on 24th August 1914 Arthur was “Severely wounded in foot and thigh and captured“. From the 25th August to 2nd September Captain Dyer remained at the Hospital in Audregnies (right) along with fellow officers Jackson, Jolliffe and Elliot of the Cheshires and Gallagher of the 4th Dragoon Guards. (During this time at 9.00 a.m. on 30th August 1914 Pte. 8019 W. Jones, of ‘D’ Company was the second death at the Hospital.)
From 3rd September to 24th November Arthur was imprisoned at Torgau Camp. The Chester Chronicle of 18th September 1915 published quite a chatty letter from Arthur (dated 29th August 1915), predominantly about Lieutenant W.G.R. Elliot, which read:
“Torgau. Dear Miss Brown, – Very many thanks for the parcel of literature, etc., which you so kindly sent, and which was much appreciated. Mr. (Lieut.) Elliot made an unsuccessful attempt to escape the other day; he is in prison for a bit. We have had a lot of rain lately, which is a nuisance. With kind regards. – Yours faithfully, A.L. Dyer, Major, Cheshire Regiment.” (Source: ‘FindmyPast‘ – newspapers)
On 18th November 1917 p-o-w Records have Arthur at Holzminden (right) where he may have met Captain E.A. Jackson, and the following month, 11th December 1917, he had been transferred to Augustabad with Captain B.E. Massy.
“The PoWs called the Holzminden Camp ‘Hellzminden’. The camp Commandant, Karl Niemeyer, had an appalling reputation for cruelty. He was a really vindictive character who made life particularly difficult for the soldiers. The camp was described by the Daily Sketch in January 1919 as “the worst camp in Germany” due to the harsh regime of Hauptmann Karl Niemeyer.
It was a tough place to be incarcerated. It was a spartan grim existence – they slept on small mattresses, and the blankets were almost never changed. There was no heating either. Torture and summary execution were not unknown at the camp.”
A POW record R51058 records the arrival of several in Holland on 29th December 1917 – they were Lt. Colonel D. C. Boger, Major B. H. Chetwynd Stapylton, Major A. J. L. Dyer, Captain H. C .Randall, Captain W. G. R. Elliot and Captain W. Dugmore. Lieutenant G. S. Jacobs, Captain B. E. Massey and Captain C. A. K. Matterson arrived on 5th January 1918. (Source: ‘Oak Tree’ magazine)
On 13th -14th June 1918 the above group were ‘At home’ at Sheveningham in Holland with other Cheshire officers and wives at ‘The Blighty Hut’. No exact date for when Arthur returned to England has been found, but most of the above Officers had returned home, via Hull, by 18th November 1918.
In January 1920 Arthur was awarded the Military Cross (London Gazette, 30th January 1920, page 1219) The general citation for this award was : “Rewards for Officers and Soldiers for services in the field and for services rendered in captivity or in attempting to escape or escaping therefrom.”
As stated above, when Arthur returned from captivity Pension Records show that in 1920 (i.e. aged 45) he was diagnosed as suffering from “neurasthenia“.
Arthur was only aged 55 when he died on 7th July 1930, in Broadstone, Dorset, and is buried in St John’s Churchyard there.
Arthur’s brother, 2/Lt. Herbert Arthur Dyer, served 65th Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. He was killed in action on 7th December 1917. Herbert has no known grave and is Commemorated on the Arras Flying Services Memorial.
Arthur’s brother, Lt. Francis Gilbert Dyer, served in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve on board Motor Launch 158, between 1915-18.
He was commissioned 13th September 1915 (LG 21st September 1915) and promoted to Lieutenant on 13 September 1916.