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66 men - Arthur Dolley

[Arthur Dolley photograph kept with letter by sister Freda Annabel Panting Jan 2015]

Image courtesy of Annabel Panting. Arthur's sister Freda kept this photograph with the letter he wrote to her from the trenches just before he died (see right).

Arthur Thomas DOLLEY

Arthur Dolley was born in early 1892 in Oxford, the oldest of the four children of George Henry and Maria Louise Dolley, both of whom had been born in Oxford in 1865/66. They were married in 1890/91. The Dolley family had for several generations been landlords of the Dolphin pub at 43 St Aldate's. Arthur's grandfather Thomas Dolley was a champion rower and the family were prominent figures in Oxford.

When Arthur was born his parents were living at 21 Western Road and his father George was a builder. His brother Leonard was born in 1893/4 and sister May in 1895/6. By 1901 the family had moved to 42 Chilswell Road, and George was a joiner carpenter. A fourth child, Freda, was born in 1905/6, by which time the family was living at 78 Chilswell Road. By 1911 they had moved again, to 73 Abingdon Road, and were living with Arthur's grandmother Laura Sarah Dolley (who was 76); George had employment as a joiner boat builder with Salter's Steamers, the boat-building and hire firm based at Folly Bridge. Arthur was by this time a clerk at the nearby St Ebbe's gasworks and Leonard was a clerk in a house furnishers. Freda was still at school and May had probably left home, as she did not appear in the 1911 census.

Arthur joined the army and became a Private with the 1/4 Battalion of the Oxf & Bucks Light Infantry, service no. 2649. The battalion was sent to France, and was one of the first British units in the Somme sector. Conditions were generally appalling, particularly during the winter, and trenches often collapsed without warning. On 30 November 1915 Arthur  wrote to his younger sister Freda, who was 10, describing how bad the trenches were. Four days later, on 3 December 1915, he was killed in a trench collapse. He was 23. His death  was reported three weeks later in the Oxford Journal Illustrated. He was buried at Hebuterne Military Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais, France.

Arthur's younger brother Leonard joined the Army Service Corps before the War and in September 1913 he was stationed at Aldershot (service no. S/7355). During the War he served with the Army Operations Centre, but survived.

In 1928 Arthur's sister Freda married Reginald Townsend, the son of Thomas Townsend. She died in 1991.

Arthur Dolley was the third cousin of Arthur Wallis (they shared a great-great-grandfather, Charles Earl, who was born in Eynsham in 1779).

With thanks to Annabel Panting (great niece of Arthur Dolley) for images and additional information, and to Gaynor Smith (first cousin once removed of Arthur Wallis) for additional information.

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Extract from a letter written by Arthur Dolley to his younger sister Freda, 30 November 1915. Four days later he died in a trench collapse.
By kind permission of Annabel Panting, Freda's granddaughter. (Click image to close)

[Arthur Dolley letter to Freda, extract, 30-11-1915]