Private Arthur Duncombe King

Date of Birth 28 August 1893
Age at Death 24
Date of Death 4 October 1917
Service Number 1519
Military Service 4 Battalion, 1 Australian Machine Gun Company
Merton Address 24 Denmark Road, Wimbledon
Local Memorial Wimbledon Parish Church

Additional Information

Born in Wimbledon on 28 August 1893, Arthur was the eldest son of Arthur and Mary King. The couple also had 3 younger children, Evelyn, Henry and Leonard. His father was a painter’s foreman and by 1901 the family were living at 24, Denmark Road, Wimbledon, Unusually by the standards of the day, Arthur was not baptised until 1910, by which stage his father had died.

In 1911 widow Mary King and her family were still living at the Denmark Hill address but were now accompanied by her sister, Caroline Steggall, who was a needlewoman. Daughter, Evelyn was also working as a dressmaker and George, now 17, was employed at a jam and potted meat factory.

By 1913, George was keen to better his prospects and emigrated to Australia aboard the SS Hawkes Bay. He was heading for Melbourne but ended up in Sydney and eventually found work as a farm labourer. Following the outbreak of war, he enlisted in December 1914 at Liverpool, New South Wales.

Arthur served as a Private in the 4th Battalion of the 1st Australian Machine Gun Corps and was one of 20,000 men offered as an expeditionary force by the Government of Australia. During the early stages of the war, the 1st Australian Infantry had fought on the Eastern Front, training in Egypt and joining the Allied assault on the Gallipoli peninsular.

In January 1916 the A.I.F was developed to form five Divisions - four Australian and one New Zealand. The infantry were divided between six brigades and new troops were recruited. This influenced the destination to which Arthur was subsequently sent. The units sailed for France and Flanders on 13 March 1916 and remained there for the duration of the war.

The 1st Australian Division fought at many of the major battles on the Western Front, including the Battles of the Somme (1 July – 18 November 1916), including the Battle of Pozieres (23 July – 3 September 1916) and the Third battle of Ypres. The latter involved offensives on the Menin Road and at Polygon Wood, (20 September – 3 October 1917).

Arthur is thought to have been killed at the Battle of Broodseinde near Ypres in 1917. This was the most successful Allied attack during the Passchendaele campaign. Through a series of successive "bite-and-hold" assaults, British and Commonwealth forces devastated the German defence, forcing the enemy back and causing a severe loss of morale amongst the German 4th Army.

Unfortunately this was followed by a period of torrential rain, which left Allied artillery and their support units fighting through increasingly boggy ground, already devastated by shell fire. They became sitting targets once stuck in the mud. The battle claimed the lives of 20,000 Allied servicemen, including 6,423 Australians. Arthur was one of them – he died on 4 October 1917 and was buried at the Buttes New British Cemetery in Zonnebeke.

Arthur’s mother was still living at 24 Denmark Road, Wimbledon at the time of his death, so his name also appears on a monumental inscription at Wimbledon Parish Church.


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