Arthur George Theobald came to Chelmsford from Stebbing in the 1890s. He worked as a labourer before marrying at Springfield in January 1912. He served in the army during the war, going abroad soon after its outbreak. He was killed in action in November 1914. He worked as a carter. His home was in Chelmer Place, off Springfield Road.
THEOBALD, ARTHUR GEORGE,
Private, 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment
On 23rd January 1915 the Essex Newsman reported:
“Arthur Theobald, of the Bedfordshire Regiment, who has been killed in action, was the brother-in-law of Mrs. Theobald of 14 Queen Street, Chelmsford.”
Arthur is commemorated at Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France, which records the names of over 13,000 men who fell in the area and who have no known grave. He is also remembered on the Springfield Parish Memorial at All Saints’ Church.
Arthur’s father died on 4th May 1916 in tragic circumstances. The Essex Weekly News of 10th November 1916 reported:
“ROADMAN KILLED. FATAL ACCIDENT AT CHELMSFORD; A serious runaway accident at Chelmsford on Wednesday afternoon resulted in George Theobald, aged 65, of Orchard Road, meeting with injuries which proved fatal onThursday. At about 4.15 Driver Barber, Royal Scots Fusiliers, and Pt. Spence were proceeding from the goods station with a load of. trestle tables, etc., in a wagon drawn by pair of horse«. The animals got out of hand near the Vestry Hall, and bolted into High Street. Spence applied the brakes, but without avail. The driver was pitched off, but he pluckily held on to reins, and was dragged some distance before he let go.
Outside the Saracen's Head Hotel Theobald was sweeping the road and the hordes clashed to his hand-truck, which knocked the poor fellow over violently, rendering him unconscious with a cut at the back of the head. The offside horse became wedged under the forepart of the wagon, and alter being dragged for some yards this proved effective brake, and the other horse came standstill. A lot of the trestles had to be moved and the wagon backed before the fallen animal was liberated. Strange to say, neither horse was much hurt.
Barber, who was taken the Hospital in motor car, escaped with cuts and bruises which were not serious, but Theobald was evidently in a serious condition. Mr. F. Cowlev, of the Voluntary Aid Detachment Mr. H. D. Sheldrake who also possesses ambulance knowledge, and Mr. A. S. Dutfield rendered prompt assistance and the unfortunate man was conveyed to the Hospital on tho police ambulance by P.c. Theobald and Mr. Cowley. He was suffering from a concussion of the brain, and expired at 4.30 a.m. yesterday as stated.
Mr. C. E. Lewis, coroner, held an inquest at the Institution on Thursday afternoon. — Mr. G. Melvin, represented the Town Council, and Major McGregor appeared for the military.
Mrs. Annie Theobald, the widow, gave evidence identification. Deceased’s hearing and sight were good.
Oliver Geo. Iliffe, 85 High Street, Chelmsford, said he heard the runaways, and saw another military wagon pull across New Street as to block the road. The runaways dashed by and collided with the deceased's barrow. Witness did not see the wagon over the deceased.
Pt. James Spence 2/4th. Royal Scots Fusiliers, said he was brakesman on the lorry drawn by the runaways, and was walking behind close to the brake. Near the police station the horses, which had been walking, suddenly bolted; he could not say why. One of the horses reared, and seemed to jerk the driver off. and witness fell after attempting to apply the brake. Witness saw the driver holding on to one the traces and the reins. Witness tried to overtake the horses, but could not before tho old man was knocked down and one horse had fallen. In the morning the bigger horse " started away with a dive" — it always started like that -- but the other horse was quite quiet. The driver did his best to stop the horses.
Sergt Arthur Gaddes, R.S.F-, said was in charge of the transport party, and was riding horseback behind the load. At the goods station the off-side horse began to rear and jump. It then became quiet until near the police station, when it took fright and set off gallop. Deceased was in about the middle the street, and turned his barrow to the left in endeavour to get out of the way. The driver, who was sitting one forms the wagon, did all could to stop the horses, he was accustomed to horses, both in the Army and at home. Witness knew the old man, and had told the drivers to be careful, as the old man was slow getting out of the way.
Dr. C, W. Alford said he saw the deceased when was being placed on the ambulance. At the hospital witness found a small cut on the left side of the back of the head and graze on the arm. Witness could find no sign of a fractured skull, but there were signs of cerebral haemorrhage, which was the cause of death.
A verdict Accidental death was returned. Mr. Melvin, Town Clerk, expressed sympathy with the relatives, and said the deceased was a very reliable old man and one the oldest employees of the Corporation. The jury gave their fees to widow.
In 1917 Chelmsford Borough Council, who had employed Arthur’s father when he was killed, agreed to pat £189 8s/ 7d. compensation to Arthur’s two half-brothers.
Arthur’s brother, Charles, applied for his late sibling’s Victory, British War War and 1914 Star medals on 15th April 1920 when living at 14 Queen Street in Chelmsford. According to the register of electors Charles was living at 25 Glebe Road, Chelmsford in 1918, while Arthur’s widow was listed at 14 Chelmer Place, Springfield. In 1919 she married George W. Dockrill in Norfolk, but she died the same year, aged 30 in Norfolk.
Arthur was born in Stebbing in 1886, the son of George Theobald and Sarah Ann Theobald (nee Searles). His father was born in 1850 in Stebbing; his mother c1848 in Little Leighs. The couple had married in 1868 and in both 1871 and 1881 had been living at Stebbing.
Arthur’s siblings, all Stebbing-born included William Theobald (born in 1869), Charles Albert Theobald (1871-1959), Kate Eliza Theobald (born on 28th October 1872, died in 1952), Elizabeth Ann Theobald (1878-1934), Horace James Theobald (1881-1966), and Francis Edwin Theobald (born and died in 1891).
The 1891 census found five year-old Arthur living with his parents and four
siblings at The Green in Stebbing. Arthur’s father and brother Charles were employed as farm labourers; Arthur’s sister Elizabeth was a domestic servant.
Ten years later the family had moved to Chelmsford. The census of 1901 recorded them at 17 Marlborough Road, Chelmsford. Arthur was now aged 15 and a general labourer, as were his father and brother Horace and grandfather and boarder Joseph Theobald. Arthur’s mother died later in 1901.
Arthur’s father remarried on 20th January 1903 to Annie Waller, and went on to have two children with her - Herbert Theobald (1903-1977) and Jack Theobald (1908-1995).
In 1911 the census listed Arthur boarding with Horace and Kate Theobald at 25 Glebe Road in Chelmsford. At the time he was a contractor’s carter, equivalent of a modern-day van driver. Meanwhile his father, step-mother and two ghalf-brothers were living at 1 Orchard Villas in Orchard Street, Chelmsford (today’s number 32).
Arthur married Selina Harriet Mulley on 7th January 1912 at All Saints’ Church in Springfield. At the time both bride and groom lived in Springfield. Arthur was aged 26 and employed as a labourer - his bride was aged 23 and had been born in Springfield in 1889. The couple did not have any children.
In October 1913 Arthur was working again as a carman. That month he appeared before Chelmsford’s magistrates, charged with not having the proper control of a pantechnicon and three horses at Boreham earlier in the month. P.c. Moss reported that he had found Arthur lying asleep on top of the pantechnicon at three o’clock , when it was very foggy. He was fined ten shillings and four shillings costs.
Arthur lived and enlisted at Chelmsford. He served in the 1st Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment, a regular army unit, which was based in Mullingar in Ireland at the outbreak of the war. As part of the 5th Division it left Belfast on the S.S. Oronsa on 14th August 1915 and arrived at Le Havre on the night of the 15th August 1915, embarking the next day.
He was killed in action on 7th November 1914 while serving as Private 7738 in the 1st Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment. A comrade in the battalion, Frederick William Miller, died that day and is also commemorated on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford.