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
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