Date of Death:02/04/1917
Panel Ref:Bay 7
Arnold Wood was born in Royton on September 26th 1894, his parents being James and Mary Ellen. James was a cotton spinner and the family lived at 14 Queen Street. Arnold was their second child of six with his siblings being Fred, Alice, Jack, Annie and Edith. At the time of the 1911 census Arnold, then sixteen, was working as a piecer at one of the local mills. By the time he joined the army he was a minder at the Delta Mill. He was reported after his death to have been prominently connected to the Royal Wesleyan Church Sunday School and Institute and to have been well known and respected in the town.
Arnold joined the army in February 1916 and then went for training with the 4th Battalion Manchester Regiment who were then based at Riby in Lincolnshire as part of the Humber defences. He was sent out to France for active service in December of that year and joined the Regiment's 17th Battalion as a signaller. The 17th had suffered terrible casualties on three separate occasions in the latter half of the year and bore no resemblance to the unit which had been raised in August 1914 as one of Manchester's Pals Battalions. One of those killed was Royton man James Heywood who fell on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on July 1st.
After it's latest mauling in October 1916 at Flers, the Battalion was then out of the line for a while before spending time in the Bellacourt sector which was, thankfully for the survivors of the latest fighting and the new men such as Arnold Wood, a very quiet one. The men were in and out of the line there until January 6th 1917 when they marched to Bavincourt and from there to Sus St.Leger. Here the 17th Manchesters carried out training until February 4th when they moved into billets at Pommern. There the men were involved in work helping with the construction of a railway that was to be used in part of the preparation for the coming Battle of Arras. On March 20th they relieved the 2nd Bedfords in the line in front of Agny. At this time the Germans were gradually falling back from the Somme to new positions at Arras and the 17th Manchesters moved forward each night attempting to keep in touch with the enemy. This continued until the men were relieved by the 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers on March 23rd. They were then stationed at the Madeleine Redoubt and whilst there were shelled heavily, suffering many casualties. Arnold Wood and his comrades were here put to work digging communication trenches at night up to the front line.
From March 27th until April 2nd the Battalion was billeted in caves not far from the frontline at Blairville and there provided working parties for the Royal Engineers. In the afternoon of the 2nd they moved up for a stint at the front line, relieving the 18th Battalion King's Liverpool Regiment. Arnold Wood was killed that same day along with Albert Whittle (46911) who hailed from Manchester. There is no mention in the unit war diary as to any losses or significant actions. Whittle has a known grave but Arnold Wood is commemorated on the Arras Memorial to the missing, it seems most likely that he was hit by a shell.
A couple of weeks after his death, Arnold's parents back at 14 Queen Street received the news that he had been killed. The following year in April 1918 they faced the horror of fearing the loss of a second son - Jack, serving with the Welsh Regiment, had gone missing on March 23rd, during the giant German Spring Offensive which had smashed through the British lines two days previously. He is not listed as being killed in action so it would seem he was probably one of the many British captured by the Germans during this period.
The following notices in memory of Arnold appeared in the Oldham Chronicle on March 29th 1918 with similar ones appearing in subsequent years:
In loving memory of a dear son and brother,
Signaller Arnold Wood, Manchester Regiment,
killed at Arras April 2nd 1917
Always remembered by
Father, Mother, Sisters,Brothers and Annie
14 Queen Street, Royton
In loving memory of Signaller Arnold Wood,Manchester Regiment
Auntie - 277 Birchencroft Terrace
There were also notices from friends, perhaps comrades, in 1918 & 1919:
In loving memory of our dear chum
Signller Arnold Wood, Manchester Regiment,
killed in France April 2nd 1917
From Jim, Eric, Wilmer and John
Arnold's parents later moved to 20 Spring Garden Street and were living there at the time of their deaths. Mary Ellen died in 1932 aged 62 and James in 1955,aged 86. They are buried together in Royton Cemetery.