Elston, Arthur Ernest

Hull Pals Memorial Post. PRIVATE ARTHUR ERNEST ELSTON 11/1342. Born in April 1893, Arthur was the youngest of four children to Robert and Agnes Elston of 13 Albert’s Terrace, Waterloo Street, Hull. A Labourer before the war, he enlisted at Hull City Hall on 28th December 1914 joining the 11th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, ‘The Tradesmen’, 2nd Hull Pals. After spending the following year training at various barracks throughout East and North Yorkshire, the Pals sailed for Alexandria, Egypt in December 1915 where they were posted to guard the Suez Canal from potential attack by the Turks. On 29th February 1916 they left Port Said for Marseilles and the trek north to the trenches of the Western Front. Arthur was a veteran of the Somme and had witnessed the battalion being decimated in front of Oppy Wood. He had survived both. What claimed Arthur’s life was not a big attack, some heroic chapter in the annals of history. He was killed in action on 16th May 1917, just another statistic of the ‘daily wastage’ of life in the trenches. His body was never recovered and his name is commemorated on the Arras Memorial; he was 24 years old. Arthur’s elder brother, Robert William Elston, was killed during The Blitz, a victim of a German bombing raid on the night of 3rd June 1941.

The attack on Oppy Wood, part of the Battle of Arras, was a significant battle for the East Yorkshire Regiment and particularly for the city of Hull.  All four Hull Pals battalions were involved on 3 May and all suffered heavy casualties, with 40% of those present killed or injured. 2nd Lieutenant Jack Harrison, a local teacher and rugby player with Hull FC, won a posthumous Victoria Cross for his bravery in rushing a machine gun position to protect his platoon. His body was never found.
The village of Oppy in France had been in German hands since October 1914 and was part of a formidable defensive system including trenches, dug-outs and thick barbed wire defences. During the Battle of Arras, which began in April 1917, the British tried to take Oppy. The first attack was a failure. A second attack was partially successful. The third attack on 3 May, known officially as the Third Battle of the Scarpe, was again unsuccessful with significant loss of life. The troops were ordered to attack at 3.45am, rather than at dawn, and the defending Germans could easily see the line of British soldiers clearly lit by the full moon. The British continued to attack Oppy and were finally successful the following year. The City of Hull Memorial at Oppy was unveiled in 1927 and commemorates the men of the Hull Pals who were killed on 3 and 4 May 1917.

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Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France