Arthur William Ogden

Private 23130, 720th Coy, Royal Labour Corps

Cap badge of the Royal Labour Corps in WW1
Cap badge of the Royal Labour Corps in WW1
The Attestation form completed in 1915 by Arthur William Ogden of Belvoir Avenue, Bottesford. | The National Archive
The Attestation form completed in 1915 by Arthur William Ogden of Belvoir Avenue, Bottesford.
The National Archive
Arthur Ogden of Bottesford service record giving his family and honours. | The National Archive
Arthur Ogden of Bottesford service record giving his family and honours.
The National Archive
Arthur Ogden of Bottesford Protection and Identification Certificate | The National Archive
Arthur Ogden of Bottesford Protection and Identification Certificate
The National Archive
Arthur Ogden of Grantham's attestation record, 1897 | The National Archive
Arthur Ogden of Grantham's attestation record, 1897
The National Archive
Entry in overseas servicemen's register for Arthur Ogden of Grantham, 1897-1914 | The National Archive
Entry in overseas servicemen's register for Arthur Ogden of Grantham, 1897-1914
The National Archive

Arthur William Ogden was classed as an Absent Voters in 1918/19. His home address was given as Belvoir Road. His Service Number was Private 23130, 720th Company, Labour Corps.

Introduction

The records relating to Arthur William Ogden are complicated and difficult to resolve. The impression gained is that there were two men of the same name, both born in Grantham about 1879. This is improbable, but not impossible. Census records from 1881 confirm that there was a child called Arthur William Ogden, born in 1880, son of Richard and Annie Ogden at 5, Paper Mills Lane, Spittlegate area of Grantham. This is the only child of this name that has been confirmed from both the Census and the General Register (BMD). There was also a child called William Ogden, born 1878, son of William and Sarah Ogden of 33, Spring Gardens, Spittlegate. It could be that he went by the name Arthur William Ogden. Perhaps this was indeed his full name, and the ‘Arthur’ had been omitted from the 1881 Census record. Frustratingly, a search of the General Register (BMD) found no record of his birth. Therefore we are left with an inconclusive outcome.

Family background

These biographical notes relate to Arthur William Ogden, son of Richard and Annie Ogden of 5, Paper Mills Lane, Spittlegate, who was the serviceman recorded among the Bottesford Absentee Voters.

Arthur William Ogden was born about 1880 in Grantham, son of Richard Diverson Ogden, who was born in 1849 in March, Cambridgeshire, and Annie E Ogden (nee Wilson), born in 1849 in Grantham.

In 1881, they lived at 5 Paper Mill Lane, Spittlegate, Grantham. Richard Ogden was an engineer/engine driver at Belvoir Castle. There were three sons, Frederick (7), Walter (4) and Arthur (1).

Richard Ogden’s employment at Belvoir Castle was to last over thirty years. He described himself as an ‘engine driver (stationary)’ in 1891 and again in 1911. It may be that this refers to an engine used to haul wagons up the Belvoir Castle tramway.

By 1891, the family had grown. As well as Fredrick (17), Walter (14) and Arthur (11), there were Cecil (8), Annie (5), Bernard (4) and Amy (1). They now lived in Harston Road, Knipton, close to Belvoir Castle. They had evidently moved there shortly after the 1881 Census, because Cecil and all the younger children were born at Knipton. Richard Ogden was employed as an engine driver (stationary), and Frederick was working as a pupil teacher.

In 1901, the Ogdens were living in the Engine Yard at Belvoir, but Annie W, Bernard and Amy were the only children at home. Mr Ogden was now described as a mechanical engineer. The search of the Census did not reveal where Arthur William Ogden was at this time.

In 1911, Richard and Annie Ogden were still at the Engine Yard, Belvoir, now with only daughter Annie for company.

Census searches did not indicate where Arthur William Ogden was in 1901 or 1911. However, information in his Military Service Records (see below) indicates that he married Florence Brooks on the 17th May, 1905, at Loughborough, and they had five children: Kenneth Udall (5/3/1906), Irene Mary (4/03/08), Edna (27/07/09), Keith William (11/09/12) and Lawrence Arthur (17/06/16). All the children were born in Buxton, Derbyshire, except Lawrence, who was born in Bottesford, indicating that the family moved to Bottesford between 1912 and 1916. They lived at Belvoir Avenue, Bottesford.

Service records

The confusion of identity becomes apparent when the military service records are considered. If they all relate to a single individual, then he must have lead an extraordinarily complicated life moving repeatedly between ‘far flung’ parts of the Empire and England, even being in both places at once, living a double life yet using the same name in both. This is not believable. It has to be concluded that we are dealing with two men. Accordingly, the records for the Arthur William Ogden of the Bottesford Absentee Voters are given first, and then records for the second man.

Arthur Ogden 1 – Information in his Service Records indicates that he married Florence Brooks on the 17th May, 1905, at Loughborough, and they had five children: Kenneth Udall (5/3/1906), Irene Mary (4/03/08), Edna (27/07/09), Keith William (11/09/12) and Lawrence Arthur (17/06/16). All the children were born in Buxton, Derbyshire, except Lawrence, who was born in Bottesford, indicating that the family moved to Bottesford between 1912 and 1916. After moving to Bottesford, they lived on Belvoir Avenue.

Arthur William Ogden joined the army on the 11th December, 1915, aged 33, describing himself as a draper’s manager whose address was 5 Belvoir Avenue, Bottesford. He enlisted initially as Private 67562, Durham Light Infantry (DLI) at Cannock.

His Service Number was changed to 23130, and he was posted to army reserve on the 12th December, 1915, but he remained in England until the 18th March, 1917. He was finally mobilised on the 28th February, 1917, and transferred to the 39th Labour Corps, arriving in France on the 19th March, 1917. He received another posting on the 15th August, 1917, though we do not have details save that his Protection and Identification Certificate records that he was part of the 797 A.E.Coy, Labour Corps. He was appointed an unpaid a/Cpl (acting Corporal) on the 17th March, 1919, but reverted to Private on the 13th June, 1919, before being discharged from the forces. His Pension included 30% disablement money reckoned from the 5th August, 1919 and a further 15s for 33 weeks (subject to review).

Arthur William Ogden was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal in 1921.

A summary of the Labour Corps is provided by the Royal Pioneer Corps website:

THE LABOUR CORPS Formed in February 1917, is generally regarded as a predecessor of the Royal Pioneer Corps. In WW1 the British had no organised Labour system at the start of the war, depending on civilians supplied by the French Government. As the war progressed demands for Labour increased as armies grew in size and at the same time less Frenchmen available to assist. The British started to send labourers to France in 1915-1916 to work in docks etc. In April 1917 they were formed into a Labour Corps which was to reach 325,000 British soldiers, 98,000 Chinese, 10,000 Africans, 6 Battalions British West Indies Regt, 300,000 PWs and contingents from Egypt and Fiji all serving in France in Nov 1918. They also included non-combatant Coys and Alien Coys. Among its ranks were a number of labour units, originally formed as Battalions of Infantry Regiments. These were of two types, Works Battalions and Labour Battalions. When these were transferred from the infantry to the Labour Corps in the middle of 1917, the Works Battalions were (rather confusingly) re-designated Labour Battalions, while the original Labour Battalions were broken up and reformed as Independent Labour Companies.

The initial need for labour units during WW1 had been achieved with some 38 Labour Battalions established in 18 different infantry regiments, and a large number of Labour Companies from other infantry regiments. In addition there were a good number of Labour Companies in the Royal Engineers and the Army Service Corps. All these became Labour Corps companies in the spring and summer of 1917. The Labour Battalions and later the Labour Companies of the Labour Corps carried out a whole range of defence works duties in the UK and in overseas theatres, especially in France and Flanders. These included road and railway building/repair, moving ammunition and stores, load and unloading ships and trains, burial duties and at home agriculture and forestry.

Arthur Ogden 2 – The ‘other’ Arthur William Ogden first attested on the 28th September, 1897, in London. He stated that he was born in Grantham, was 18 years old (therefore born in 1879), was living at Belvoir Castle, employed as a stationer whose master was a Mr Clark of 20, High St. He enlisted as 3741 Gunner, Kent Artillery, but on 13th November, 1897 joined the 12th Lancers.

In 1911 it seems that he was serving in the British Army in Burma and the Andaman Islands. His Military Unit was ‘Supply Hounafort Cop’, in which capacity he appears to have been a Staff Sergeant within the Supply and Transport Corps, 9th Division. He was also recorded in the 1911 Census as a Staff Sergeant, single, living in barracks (frustratingly, the record does not indicate which barracks, but it was probably in Bengal or Burma).

A later record is from the register of overseas soldiers, which bears an entry for Ogden Arthur William, Service No. 6450, 7th Dr Gds (Dragoon Guards), who attested on 13th November 1897 at Dover, aged 18yrs 2months, a stationer from Grantham. He had served in South Africa, 1899-1900, and received the Queen’s & King’s South African Medal. It gives his next of kin as Sarah Ann Morris (s). It records that he married in Rangoon on the 22nd February, 1912, but does not name his wife (Sarah Morris seems to have been his sister). He had been “Promoted Sub-Conductor J.U. List (S & T Corps), Hdqrs, 9th Div”. He was discharged, on becoming non-effective, on the 27th December, 1915, in India.

He was awarded the 1914-Star, the Victory Medal and the British War Medal by the Government of India.

After the end of the war

Arthur William and Florence Ogden – The Electoral Rolls for Bottesford record that Arthur William and Florence Ogden lived on Belvoir Road in the 1920s, at least until 1926. Interestingly, the Grantham Journal of the 6th October, 1923, carried a report from the Belvoir Petty Court Session: “Ejection Application. – Joseph R. Cutforth, Albert Street, Bottesford, applied for an ejectment warrant against Arthur W. Ogden, in respect of a house occupied by him on Belvoir Road, Bottesford. Applicant said Ogden was a weekly tenant at 4s 6d per week, but it was paid monthly. He gave Ogden a month’s notice to quit in August. Witness became the owner of the house in June 1920, and required it for his own occupation, there being insufficient accommodation in the house where he was living. He was a married man, but had no children at home. An order for possession after expiration of 28 days was granted.

As yet, we have no further information about their later years.

The ‘other’ Arthur William Ogden – He is recorded in the 1939 Register, which indicates that he was a former India Government official (retired on medical Grounds), born on the 13th September, 1879, who lived at 74 De Villiers Avenue, Crosby, Lancashire, with his wife Sarah A Ogden, born 19th May, 1877, and daughter Ruth, born 27th December, 1912.

This Arthur William Ogden died on the 24th May, 1955, aged 76, his address being 23 Brompton Avenue, Great Crosby. He left £4295 8s 11d in his will.

Discussion

These records seem quite clear. There were two men who went by the name Arthur William Ogden. One was genuinely the son of Richard and Annie Ogden, served in the Labour Corps in WW1, and lived with his wife Florence on Belvoir Road in the 1920s.

The other is more problematic, in that we have no record of him from the BMD Register or from the Censuses. Some of the information he gave in his attestation in September 1915 might be deliberately misleading. It may be that he was really a William Ogden, b.1879 in Grantham, whose family lived close to the other Ogdens in Spittlegate, a separate parish in the southern part of Grantham. In any case, he joined the army in 1897 and served in South Africa before joining the army in India and Burma, discharged in 1914. He then seems to have had a post in the Government of India, and then retired to live on Merseyside until he died in 1955, aged 76.

 

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