William Bell McArthur
A number of those listed on our war memorial are not natives of the district. One of these is William Bell McArthur. William, the second son of Mr. John and Mrs. Jeannie McArthur, was born in Renfrew, Scotland in 1893. The family moved to New Malden in the 1900s and made their home at ‘Danebury’, Montem Road. William received his early education at the Christ Church Boys’ School Elm Road, subsequently proceeding to Tiffin Boys’ School.
William McArthur enlisted into the 1st/14th Battalion London Regiment (London Scottish) on the outbreak of war and proceeded to France on the 8th March 1915. He took part in a number of battles including that at Loos, where he was promoted in the field to a commission, being posted to the Royal Scots Fusiliers on 6th November 1915. According to the Surrey Comet although experiencing many very narrow escapes, Second Lieutenant McArthur came through all these early engagements unscathed. On one occasion when with the London Scottish, a bullet struck his garter, which was wound several times round his leg, cutting each fold but leaving him unscathed. On another occasion a shot penetrated his pack.
William Bell McArthur was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry on 27th March 1916 at the Battle of St. Eloi. He was presented with the ribbon by a Divisional Commander at a special parade. The Surrey Comet noted that “The honour earned by the gallant young officer is also an honour to New Malden, Lieutenant McArthur being the first from this particular district to receive such distinction”.
William’s luck finally ran out whilst serving with the 1st Royal Scots at the Battle of Arras in the Spring of 1917. The Battalion were in reserve, and had to endure heavy shelling in the assembly trenches. Their subsequent advances were held up by machine-gun fire and ultimately failed. According to the Battalion’s official history the casualties incurred were mostly from artillery fire. Among the dead that Easter Monday April 9th was Second Lieutenant William B. McArthur.
William is buried at Beaurains Road Cemetery on the southern outskirts of Arras. In addition to his name being one of 265 local men listed on the Maldens and Coombe war memorial, he is also remembered on the memorials at Christ Church and the United Reformed Church, New Malden.