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Herdman, A.W., Lieut., 1914

© Corpus Christi Oxford Roll of Honour

Painting by Eugenie Huysmans 1915

© Shropshire Regimental Museum

Roll of Honour Janet Graves 2004.

Sussex War Memorial Janet Graves 2004

War Memorial Ewhurst Sussex

Medal Index Card

On the Ploegsteert Memorial, is the name of 1837 Lieutenant Arthur Widdrington Herdman, serving with 'B' Company, 1st Battalion Shropshire Light Infantry, who died 25/10/1914.

Arthur Widdrington Herdman was born on the 31st January 1886, at the Holy Trinity Vicarage at North Shields, the only son of the late Reverend Robert Morrison Herdman, Vicar of the Holy Trinity Church, and his wife Mary (nee Wearmouth), [Married 1885 Mary daughter of Thomas Wearmouth of Gainford, Co Durham], of 'Sunneyholme', Crescent Parade, Ripon, Yorkshire. He was baptised on the 17th April 1886. They had 4 children, Mabel Eleanor, Gladys Ethel and Ivy Maude Herdman.

Arthur was educated at the Trent College and at Corpus Christie College Oxford from 1905. He obtained a B.A., He lived at Ewhurst Place in East Sussex and was an underwriter member of Lloyds.

Arthur was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment (Militia) on the 2nd of January 1907. He however, decided to change to the regular army and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Shropshire Light Infantry on the 18th September 1909.

In 1911, he was a patient in a Nursing House in Dorset House, 24/25 Dorset Square, Regent's Park, London, suffering from some kind of unknown infection.

Arthur saw service in Ireland in 1912 and was promoted to a Lieutenant on the 30th of October 1913.

After the outbreak of War, he was sent with his battalion to Queenstown in August 1914, eventually embarking to France on the 10th September at Southampton and disembarking at St Nazaire. The battalion was sent by train to Paris and then marched on to Crecy. Arthur's battalion was at the Battle of Aisne, in the trenches.

Just before dawn on the 20th October 1914, the 1st Battalion King's Shropshire Light Infantry were relieving the York and Lancaster regiment overlooking Le Quesne near Lille. Through the mist on the 23rd the Germans were digging a new trench only 100 yards from the British lines, 7 men volunteered to creep through a ditch and remove them. But they were spotted and forced to retire. The Germans attacked but were repulsed with heavy casualties about 200 left on the battlefield. However the Germans continued to dig sometimes within 50 yards from the British front line.

Due to the increased enemy pressure it was decided to build a new support line about a half mile to the rear, with orders to hold the existing line at all costs.

At 4pm, 24th October, the Shropshires came under very heavy artillery fire, especially on the flank where their neighbours 1st Battalion Leicestershire Regiment where located. There was a small gap between the Shropshires and the Leicestershires, which the Shropshires had covered by moving some men to cover this gap.

Dawn, 25th October a very heavy artillery bombardment hit the Shropshires including their Headquarters which came in for extra treatment. At the level crossing near La Houssoye, the German infantry attacked the Leicester's, the Shropshires machine guns did cause a lot of casualties to the Germans.

The battalion was relieved around 9 pm, but had suffered 18 Killed (2 officers, 16 men) and 26 others (1 officer and 25 men) wounded.

Captain Herdman was one of these killed.

A telegram dated 28th October 1914 was sent to his mother which read:-

Deeply regret to inform you that Lt. A W Herdman was killed in action Oct 25th. Lord Kitchener expresses his sympathy.

Newcastle Journal Tuesday 03/11/1914 reports:-

Lieutenant Arthur Widdrington Herdman, of the 1st King's Own Shropshire Light Infantry, who was killed in action in France on October 28th, was the only son of Mrs Herdman of Sunnyholme, Ripon, and the late Rev Robert M. Herdman, vicar of Holy Trinity Church, North Shields. He was 28 years of age, and joined the army in 1908.

Shields Daily News 30/10/1914 reports:-

Lieut. Herdman Killed in Action. Son of a Former Shields Vicar. The death is announced of Lieut. Arthur Widdrington Herdman, of the 1st King's Own Shropshire Light Infantry, who was Killed in action in France last Sunday. Deceased who was 28 years of age, and a native of North Shields, was the only son of the Late Rev Robt. M. Herdman, vicar of Holy Trinity, North Shields, and of Mrs Herdman, now of Sunny Holme, Ripon. He was educated at Tynemouth before going to one of the universities. Lieut. Herdman succeeded to the estate of his uncle, the late Edward Herdman, of Ewhurst, Sussex, a native of North Shields, who emigrated early in life to South America, becoming a railway and banking magnate in Brazil.

Shields Daily News 04/11/1914 reports:-

The Late Lieut. Herdman. Lieut. Arthur Widdrington Herdman, of 1st Battalion King’s Own Shropshire Regiment, and the only son of the late Rev R. M. Herdman, vicar of Holy Trinity, North Shields, who was killed in action in France on October 25th.

Shields Daily News 28/10/1914

Deaths. Herdman. Killed in action in France on Oct. 25th. Lieutenant Arthur Widdrington Herdman, 1st King’s Own Shropshire Light Infantry, only son of the late Rev. R. M. Herdman of Holy Trinity Vicarage, North Shields and Mrs Herdman, Sunny Holme, Ripon, aged 28.

De Ruvigny Roll of Honour

Herdman, Arthur Widdrington. Lieut., 1st Battn. King's Own Shropshire L.I., only son of the late Rev. Robert Morrison Herdman, Vicar of Holy Trinity, North Shields, and his wife, Mary (Sunnyholme, Ripon), daughter of Thomas Wearmouth, of Gainford; born Holy Trinity Vicarage, North Shields, 31 Jan. 1886; educated Trent College, and Corpus Christi College, Oxford; gazetted 2nd Lieut. 1st Shropshire L.I., 18 Sept. 1909, and promoted Lieut., 30 Oct. 1913; went to France with the 6th Division, Sept. 1914, and was killed in action near Lille, 25 October. The Commanding Officer and Major of his regiment, in their letters to his mother, spoke of his popularity with his men, and his orderly, who when he was missing, went out to look for him and found him dead, and was himself wounded while looking for him, wrote:

When I told his men that he was dead they all took it very hard, because he was the best friend we ever had.

In his will Lieut. Herdman left £1,000 to the Council of Trent College, £500 to the K.S.L.I. Regimental Aid Society, a recreation ground for Ewhurst and other bequests.

Corpus Christi College Memorial

A.W. Herdman was a Commoner of the College, and was in residence for the academic years 1905-9. He read Modern History, and was placed in the 3rd Class in the Final School. After going down, he became connected with Lloyd’s as a marine underwriter, but soon joined the Army, obtaining a commission in the Shropshire Regiment. During the year before the war he was stationed at Curragh, but on the outbreak of war he was sent to the front with his regiment, and was killed in action on October 25, 1914. Mr. Herdman was a man of great size and powerful physique. He had a keen intelligence and a boundless energy. He was a most capable officer, and was making a mark in his profession. His friends will remember him for his unvarying good temper and kindliness. He was a most attractive personality; there was a delightful contrast between his great, loose-limbed figure and his gentle and modest manners. He was an unselfish comrade and a loyal friend. Corpus has had no more worthy or honourable sons than Arthur Widdrington Herdman.

Major Luard, of his battalion, wrote:-

He is indeed a great loss to the regiment, and was very popular. The men of his platoon would do anything he asked of them.

His orderly, Private Griffiths, on hearing that he had been wounded, went out to look for him and was himself wounded in the arm in so doing. He found the body which is believed to have been buried at Ration Farm Cemetery but his grave was subsequently lost. Griffiths wrote When I told his men that he was dead they all took it very hard because he was the best friend we ever had.

In his will he left three acres of ground to the village of Ewhurst to be used for by the villagers for recreation. He also left a sum of £300 in trust for its upkeep and included a provision that excess funds be distributed at Christmas to the children of Ewhurst Green School. The children received this money every year from 1915 until the school closed in 1962.

The Herdman Association was formed at Ewhurst in his memory and the Arthur Herdman Pavilion in the village was officially opened on the 27th of July 2013.

Edward Herdman, Arthur’s uncle, owned land in Ewhurst Green, East Sussex known as Hoglands Field on which he built Ewhurst Place (which Arthur subsequently inherited) and the Reading Room (now The Old Library).

Educated at Trent College and Corpus Christi College, Oxford, Arthur was in his early 20s when he joined the Royal Sussex Regiment in September 1909 and later commissioned in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI), serving in Ireland in 1912. In his absence from Ewhurst Place, he let the property to the founder of the Boy Scout Movement, Sir Robert and Lady Baden-Powell until his estate was settled in 1917, and the Field was let to Mr Pears of Court Lodge.

In 1913 he was promoted to Lieutenant and in 1914 became part of 16th Infantry Brigade serving with the British Expeditionary Force in Flanders. He arrived in France on the 10th September 1914 but only six weeks later on the 25th October he died, one of three officers among 55 soldiers killed at Le Quense Farm, Bois Grenier near Armentieres whilst serving with 'B' Company, 1st Battalion KSLI. He is believed to be buried at Ration Farm Military Cemetery but is listed on the Ploegsteert Memorial to the missing.

Before embarking for France, Arthur made a will indicating his intention to leave to:-

the Parish Council of Ewhurst, Sussex, the top three acres of Hoglands Field, Court Lodge Farm Ewhurst, at this time occupied by Mr Pears of Court Lodge, to be used as a village recreation ground. Also 300 pounds which after deduction of the cost of fencing etc. to be invested and used for the upkeep of the said field and for the provision of Christmas presents for, or otherwise for, the benefit of the children attending Ewhurst Green village school.

From 1915 until the school closed in 1962, every child attending the school received a Christmas present bought by The Herdman Trust.

Sources: Roll of Honour, Corpus Christie Oxford ROH, Shropshire Regimental Museum, Herdman Association, Lloyds Underwriters.

Arthur Widdrington Herdman is remembered in Tynemouth on T36.14

Corpus Christi Oxford Roll of Honour
Herdman Association
War Memorial Ewhurst Sussex
Lloyds WW1 Memorial History
The CWGC entry for Lieutenant Herdman

If you know more about this person, please send the details to janet@newmp.org.uk