war memorial at dusk, photographed by Michelle Cooper




Arthur Ackehurst

A W Ackehurst, courtesy Colin AckehurstDEAR OLD PAL" by Marilyn Stephenson-Knight

 “To dear old pal, Arthur Ackehurst - from George”. This was the note on a wreath laid when the Town War Memorial was unveiled in 1924.

Private Arthur William Ackehurst had been killed in action over six years before. He was just 19. Serving with the Royal West Surrey Regiment, he had marched sixteen miles with the 8th battalion to relieve the Front Line at Hargicourt, France.

Huddled in their trenches, the soldiers shivered as the damp mist covered the full moon. At least the loss of visibility brought a welcome respite from the shelling and the enemy planes flying overhead. 

It wasn’t to last. On 2nd February 1918, the battalion’s fourth day in the trenches and just before they stepped down, the shelling began again. Several men were wounded. One was killed – Arthur Ackehurst. In a corner of a foreign field, the former undertaker’s assistant for Caspall’s, Folkestone Road, was himself buried.

He was dearly loved. “Only the mother knows the sorrow,” said Mrs Mary Ackehurst, formerly Bonnage, from her home at Edgar Road.  Every year the family marked the anniversary of Arthur’s death; each Armistice Day they laid a wreath at the Town Memorial. A new baby was given the middle name “Jeancourt” - after the place where Arthur lay.

Mrs Ackehurst’s sorrow is ended, for she has joined her son. But Arthur’s family still remembers. Colin Ackehurst, his nephew, living in Australia, contacted the Dover War Memorial Project.  “There may still be some living relatives of soldiers from his Company, or who knew him before the war,” he said. “Any contact or information would be welcome.”

If you can help Colin, contact the Dover War Memorial Project.  Perhaps you even know – who was George, the writer of the note?

This article first appeared in the Dover Express, p10, 15th March 2007,
under the title "Antipodean relative reveals fate of tragic uncle Arthur"

Copyright 2006 © Marilyn Stephenson-Knight. All Rights Reserved