Private 86 Arthur Frederick Woodman

Woodman Arthur 96 400x600

Killed in Action on Saturday, 31st August 1918, age 23.
Buried in Grave V. A. 12. at Peronne Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France.

2nd Bn., Australian Machine Gun Corps.

Son of Frederick Joseph and Alice Maud Woodman, of 25, Clarinda St., Caulfield, Victoria, Australia. Born at Tipton, Staffs, England.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Melbourne, Australia, Resident: St. Kilda, Victoria, Australia.

First landed Balkans, 30th August 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on Commonwealth War Graves site.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/289457/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
1 Wades Passage, Tipton, Staffs.
Frederick Woodman (25, House Painter, born Wolverhampton), his wife Alice (24, born Tipton), and their 3 children: Arthur (5, born Tipton), Eva (4, born Tipton), Thomas R. (9months, born Tipton).

1911 Census
2 Lilleshall Street, Newport Monmouthshire.
Frederick Joseph Woodman (35, House Decorator, born Wolverhampton), his wife Alice (34, Attending to the Business - Grocery, born Tipton), and their surviving 6 children of 7: Arthur Frederick (15, Confectioner's Packer, born Tipton), Eva (14, born Tipton), Rupert (10, born Tipton), Albert Edward (9, born Dudley), Llewelyn (5, born Newport, Mon), and Leonard (4, born Newport, Mon).

Personal Data

The Woodman family arrived in Melbourne, Australia on the SS "Port Lincoln" on 5th March 1914. Frederick Woodman Snr may have arrived earlier as the passenger list shows: Mrs A. Woodman 37, Mr F. Woodman 18 (Arthur Frederick), Miss E. Woodman 15, Master T. Woodman 11, Master A. Woodman 9, Master L. Woodman 7, and Master L. Woodman 5.

Arthur's Australian Service papers show thath he attested 16th March 1915, initially to 'D' Company, 22nd Brigade, but transferred to 6th Brigade MGC (of 2nd Division). He was 19 years 10 months old, 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed 10 stones with a 35-inch chest, dark brown eyes and auburn hair, and apprenticed to a baker in St. Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria. Before emigrating to Australia, he had already served 2 years with the 4th Welsh Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery in England. Both his employer and father consented to him joining the Australian Army.

Arthur's unit embarked from Melbourne, Victoria, on board HMAT A38 Ulysses on 10th May 1915. He arrived in Gallipoli 30th August 1915, serving until the withdrawal from Gallipoli saw him arrive in Alexandria on 7th January 1916, and then to Marseilles, France, on 26th March 1916. He served on the Western Front until hospitalised to England in November 1916 with an anal fistula. He remained in England until April 1917, during which he had a period of 4 days "Absent without Leave". He was still made Acting Corporal on 26th April 1917. A couple of minor hospital attendances, including scabies, were recorded until he was reported as Killed in Action by shellfire on 31st August 1918.

Arthur was buried at Mont St. Quentin (62C NW 1.15.d.20.30) before being exhumed and reinterred at Peronne Communal Cemetery Extension after the war, this was reported to his father in January 1920. Photographs of his grave were sent in April 1920, his mother had expressed an intention to visit the grave if her health held out. It is known (from family sources) that Arthur's mother, Alice Maud, and her Australian-born 8-year old daughter, Gwendoline, came to England in 1926 staying with her mother in Hall Street, Tipton. They arrived in Hull on 19 June 1926 and departed on 21 September 1926. It is not known definitively if Alice visited her son's grave but it is likely that she did after traveling that distance, and in 1920 having expressed a desire to visit the grave. Let us hope that she did.

Arthur's British War Medal was issued in 1921, the Victory Medal in 1922 and his Death Plaque in 1923. His brother, Llewellyn Woodman, applied for this Australian Gallipoli Medallion in 1967.

Arthur's father, Frederick Joseph Woodman, also volunteered and served in the Australian Forces in August 1915, serving just over 4 months in Egypt before he was invalided back to Australia suffering from deafness.

Action resulting in his death

Arthur Woodman belonged to the 2nd Battalion, Australian Machine Gun Corps, part of the Australian 2nd Division. This unit had seen hard fighting at Gallipoli, the Somme, Arras and Third Battle of Ypres. Arthur had been present from landing in Gallipoli in August 1915.

The Battle of Amiens began on the 8th August 1918, the Australians played a significant role with the Germans forced back up to 8 miles on the day, and continuing the advance throughout August. This marked the start of the 100 Days Offensive, culminating with the November 1918 Armistice.

Just above the River Somme and the town of Péronne stood Mont St Quentin, providing perfect observation over the surrounding country. This area was key to the German defence of the Somme line, and by the end of August was their last stronghold in this area.

The Australian operation to take Mont St Quentin is sometimes regarded as their finest achievement.

The Australian 2nd Division crossed the Somme on the night of 31st August, and attacked Mont St Quentin at 5 am, from the unexpected position of northwest. It was an uphill fight across very open ground where they were vulnerable to attack from the German-held heights above.

Working in small groups, the troops gained the village of Mont St Quentin and the slope and summit of the hill by 7.00 am. Many of the German defenders had fled.

At 9.30am a counter-attack was launched by the enemy. They advanced through sap trenches to a position about 10 yards from the Australian gun positions and endeavoured to force the line back by bombing. Combined bombing, rifle and machine-gun fire by the Australians drove the enemy back, inflicting severe casualties.

By the end of the day (31st August), the Australians had been unable to hold their gains on Mont St Quentin and the German had regained the crest. However, the Australians held on just below the summit and next day it was recaptured and firmly held, but at the cost of 3,000 casualties.

September 1st saw fierce fighting to take the town of Péronne involving hand-to-hand combat. After heavy fighting, the Australians forced the complete German withdrawal from Péronne, and the Germans had to retreat to their last line of defence- the Hindenburg Line.

Most of this was too late for Arthur Woodman who had been killed in action on 31st August. He was initially buried about 1 mile west of Mont St Quentin, but in July 1919 he was exhumed ad re-buried in Péronne Communal Cemetery Extension.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald 7th December 1918
Woodman: Killed in action, August 31st. Private Arthur Woodman, Australian Forces, eldest son of Alice and Frederick Woodman, of Elsternwick, Australia, and the grandson of Mr and Mrs Millinson, of Hall Street, Tipton.