Arthur George Wareham was born in Perth, Scotland in 1874 and had four brothers and a sister. Quite a lot is known about his siblings but, strangely, little was known about him. What we did know was that by the time of the 1881 and up until the end of the 1891 census he was living with various members of the family in Edinburgh. At the age of nine he was enrolled at the George Watson School in Edinburgh (later attended by sportsmen Gavin Hastings and Sir Chris Hoy).
A breakthrough came with his obituary printed in The Hertford Mercury and Informer on 20th January 1939 which said that he was with the Cheshire Regiment and a prisoner of war in The Great War.
The Red Cross have now made available their records of ALL prisoners they had contact with throughout WW1 and from this we found his service number 315739 and attached was a list of repatriated servicemen arriving in Dover on 1st December 1944. Unfortunately, apart from his name, the fact he was with the 2nd Cheshire's and his service number, there was no indication as to which camp he had been in or even which country.
His service and pension records don't survive and must have been destroyed by the bombing raid on the War Office in September 1940.
I have been chatting on a WW1 forum and it seems the service number 315739 was allocated to the 23rd Cheshire Battalion in early 2017, so Arthur must have been transferred to them then or shortly afterwards.
The 23rd's were mainly looking after our coastal defences prior to leaving for France in 1918. The transcribed medal card on Ancestry refers to the Infantry Base Depot, a sort of holding camp for soldiers awaiting allocation to units, so it would be logical to assume he was transferred to the 2nd Cheshire's from the IBD. The medal card only shows he was with the 2nd Cheshire Regiment and, because there is no other number on the medal card, it means they were the only regiment he served with overseas.
I decided to have a look at all the servicemen from the 2nd Cheshire's who were repatriated with Arthur to see if their service or pension records had survived and, if they had, whether I could extrapolate any of their information to Arthur.
We know that somewhere around 40% of ALL records were partially rescued and that the rest were lost. Of the 35 names on the list, 11 have surviving service or pension records - 31.4%. Slightly less than average but statistically acceptible.
Knowing that, I looked at the 11 service men with surviving records to see if there was a pattern which we might extrapolate to the missing files. It turned out that EVERY ONE on the list was reported missing on 15th April 1918 and almost all were POWs on the Maritz River near Philippopolis in Bulgaria which was the largest camp in Bulgaria ..... the individual who wasn't had been hospitalised which probably explains why he was an exception. I concluded that Arthur was probably also captured by the Bulgarians on 15th April 1918 and became a POW at Philippopolis.
I then looked at the CWGC website to see if there were any Cheshire Regiment deaths on the 15th April - there were 22 including that of Corporal Arthur Smith (see below).
I thought at least one of those on my list of repatriated POWs would have been researched by a living relative or have had a write up in a local newspaper. Couldn't find anything. As a last resort I looked to see if the leading officer, Corporal Smith, might have been researched and found a comprehensive article which must have been written using the Regiment's War Diaries (which aren't, for this period, online). It included the following :
After a short stay on the Western Front, the Battalion moved to the Salonika theatre of the war, in Greece, in October 1915. For almost the remainder of the War, there was little fighting on this front, except for the occasional raid and the Battalion was mainly engaged on construction work in reserve areas. Sickness and disease were the great killers here, not the attacks by the Bulgarian Army.
However, there was the occasional major attack. During the evening of 14 April 1918, the Battalion, part of the British 28th Division, advanced on the village of Kumli, reached the village just after midnight and dug-in. As it became light, the Cheshires sent out two large patrols - one towards Kjupri, the other towards Barakli.
At about 8am, the patrols and the troops still at Kumli came under sniper and artillery fire. By 8.20, the fire on the party near Kjupri increased and about 500 Bulgarian soldiers advanced on them. The Cheshires opened rapid fire, but their forward posts were rushed. The patrol had to withdraw when all its officers and about 70 other ranks became casualties.
At 9am, the other patrol came under increasing sniper and artillery attack and, after about two hours, it received orders to withdraw back to Kumli. As it was preparing to move back, the Bulgarians attacked; rushing and surrounding the advanced posts. The main patrol managed to withdraw, but one platoon, ordered to give covering fire, was captured.
The remaining troops, now all at Kumli were shelled intermittently throughout the afternoon and early evening.
Plagiarised from article about Corporal Arthur Smith of “A” Company, 2nd Battalion Cheshire Regiment : http://www.stockport1914-1918.co.uk/soldier.php?name_id=2343
These seem to suggest Arthur was probably captured along with the rest of the platoon, after staying to face the enemy while giving covering fire to their retreating comrades.
QED (Quod Erat Demonstrandum) !