Arthur William Hitchen was born and raised in Chelmsford, the son of a Boer War veteran. He worked as an office boy and later joined the army in 1915 or 1916. He was killed in action near Arras in May 1917. His family home was in Belle Vue, off Upper Bridge Road.
HITCHEN, ARTHUR WILLIAM,
Private, 2nd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers
Arthur lived and enlisted at Chelmsford, having formerly served as 1443 in the Territorial Reserve Battalion. He later joined the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. and served as Private G/53065. The battalion was a regular army infantry battalion that had been in India at the outbreak of war, returned to England to join 86th Brigade in the 29th Division. In 1915 it participated in the Gallipoli campaign, before landing in France in March 1916. It then participated in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and the Arras offensive in 1917. Arthur is likely to have been drafted into the battalion as a replacement in 1916 or 1917.
Arthur was killed in action on 11th May 1917 near Arras, Pas de Calais in France. He was aged 19. Today he lies at Wancourt British Cemetery about five miles south-east of Arras (grave: IV. A. 14). The cemetery also contains the graves of two other Chelmsford men, both from the 10th (Service) Battalion of the Essex Regiment, Edward George Harvey and Henry James Twinn.
News of Arthur’s death first appeared in the 15th June 1917 edition of the Essex County Chronicle:
“Mr. and Mrs. Hitchen, 14 Belle Vue, Upper Bridge Road, Chelmsford, gave been officially informed that their son, Pt. A. W. Hitchen, Royal Fusiliers, has been missing since May 11th.”
Arthur is commemorated on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford, and the Moulsham Parish Memorial, St John’s Church, Moulsham. He was entitled to the Victory and British War medals.
On 10th May 1918 the Essex County Chronicle included the following in memoriam notice:
“Hitchen. - In ever loving memory of our dear son and brother, Pt. A. W. Hitchen. 2nd Royal Fusiliers, who fell fighting for his country somewhere in France on May 11th, 1917, aged 19 years.
One year has passed, our hearts are sore; As time goes on we feel it more; No morning dawns, no night begins; But what we always think of him.
From Mother, Father, Sister, and Brother - 14 Belle Vue, Upper Bridge Road, Chelmsford.”
The 1918 register of electors listed Arthur’s parents at 14 Belle Vue, Chelmsford.
His mother died in 1931. aged 61. His father died in 1947, aged 76, at 14 Belle Vue.
Arthur was born in Chelmsford in 1898, the eldest child of Arthur Hitchen and Ellen Hitchen (nee Parish).
He was baptised at St John’s Church, Moulsham on 2nd April 1898. At the time his father was a labourer of 20 George Street, Chelmsford.
Arthur’s father had been born in Danbury in 1870; his mother in Roxwell in 1869. They had married on 14th April 1897 at Roxwell. At that time Arthur’s father a 34 year-old labourer, living in Chelmsford; his bride was also aged 34, living in Roxwell and the daughter of the woodman William Parish.
Arthur’s father served as Private 6970 in The NorthLancashire Regiment during the Boer War.
Arthur’s siblings were Elsie Ada Hitchen (1899-1956) who was born in Chelmsford and baptised at St John’s Church., Moulsham on 6th September 1899 - at the time her father was a labourer of 20 George Street); and Percy Charles Hitchen (born on 27th January 1904 in Chelmsford, died in 1978), who was baptised at St John’s Church., Moulsham on 20th March 1904 - at the time his father was still a labourer of 20 George Street.
The 1901 census recorded three year-old Arthur living with his parents and sister in George Street. His father was employed at the time as an electric crane driver.
A decade later the 1911 census listed 13 year-old Arthur living with his parents and two younger siblings at 14 Belle Vue Cottages, Upper Bridge Road, Chelmsford. Arthur was an office boy, and his father was a crane driver, both for an electrical engineer’s - probably for Crompton & Co. was a close neighbour at number 9 Belle Vue.