In my previous post I had remarked on the inclusion of two members of the Greg family on the war memorial plaque in St Bartholemew Church, Wilmslow.
A further search revealed a marble plaque to the members of the family killed in the war in a seperate chapel.
Quarry Bank Mill is one of the premier National Trust sites in the country. I have taken several school parties there to investigate working conditions in cotton factories in the Industrial Revolution. The story of the family at that time has been told in the Channel 4 series The Mill. (http://www.channel4.com/programmes/the-mill) However a recent project has brought to light letters written by Captain Arthur Greg and allowed researchers to bring his story to a wider audience.
Arthur and Robert were the sons of Ernest William Greg and it was their other brother Alexander Carlton Greg who donated Quarry Bank Mill to the National Trust.
He wrote: “Eighteen days in a fire trench with heavy engagements only a few hundred yards to our right, and more critical fighting a mile or so on our left, was not calculated to act as nerve tonic.”
Arthur began his military career at the age of 20 in 1914, when he was commissioned as Second Lieutenant of the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion Cheshire Regiment, serving as a bombing officer. In May 1915 he was attached to the First Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment, 15th Brigade, 5th Division, and was stationed in Ypres, Belgium.
Arthur led several reconnaissance missions, searching for enemy spies, often under heavy shell fire.
During a German attack on the trenches, Arthur was severely wounded after a shell dropped nearby.
He wrote: “I went down like a log and was next aware of a loose, horrid and disconnected feeling about the lower part of my face… At one time I thought I should not live as I was bleeding so furiously. I thought it a pity that one more so young should have to go.”
In November of 1915 Arthur became a captain and in 1917 he was graded as a flying officer and posted to the British Expeditionary Force, 55 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps.
On April 23, 1917, flying the DH4 bomber A7408, Arthur performed his final sacrifice.
He was involved in an air battle with German pilots – including, it is believed, Herman Goering – and was shot at 18,000ft. Although he managed to land the plane, he later died of his wounds.
His death was reported in the Cheshire Observer on 5th May 1917
Captain A.T. Greg
This story again leads me to reflect on the sense of duty that led the sons of even the most wealthy and prominent families to do what was seen as their duty. Prime Minister Herbert Asquith had a son killed. Wealth and position was no insurance against the ultimate sacrifice. Why was it this generation of all those who had enjoyed the wealth and privilige of being the proprietors of Quarry Bank Mill who had to lay down their lives alongside the men of their parish?
John Broom is the author of Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the First World War, an examination of the different ways in which the Christian faith was experienced during the war. It features a foreword by respected MP Dan Jarvis, Labour’s spokesman on war commemoration and an ex-army officer.
John has also produced a similar book on the Second World War, Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the Second World War