Arthur Ware was the youngest son of Thomas Ware, a skilled farm labourer, and his wife Ellen who had been born in Coldridge. In the 1901 census Thomas is described as a ‘yardsman’, with four sons and a daughter, Bessie. Three of the sons, William, Ernest and Arthur all went on to serve in the Devons, a proud record for any family, and all survived. Rising three years old in 1901, Arthur was 13 in 1911. The Winkleigh school records show that he left school a year later aged 14. His father showed his employment certificate but sadly we do not know what this was. Aged only 16 on the outbreak of war. He immediately followed his brothers into the 6th Devons and his name proudly appears in the October 1914 edition of the Chumleigh Deanery Magazine in the list of those already serving from Winkleigh. We do not know if he lied about his age: Arthur’s military documents did not survive the London blitz.
In the wave of patriotism that swept the country in 1914, many Winkleigh men preferred to enlist in the Territorials, which were already known to them and contained many of their friends, rather than respond to the appeal of Lord Kitchener, Minister for War, whose famous poster urged them to join the first hundred thousand of the ‘New Army’. Another factor in their decisions was that nationally the Territorial Force was intended to be used for home defence only, and men were not to be sent overseas. Parents and employers could therefore be assured in these first days of a war that most people thought would be over by Christmas that apart from the risk of invasion the survival of these young men appeared to be certain.
Arthur’s medal card has survived, and his first number 2010 shows his enlistment into the 6th Devons. Legally, he was far too young to go overseas, or be eligible for front line service at this stage, the minimum age limit for this being 19, but many did manage this by falsifying their age. On the outbreak of war on 4th August, the 1/6th Battalion of the Devonshire Territorials, part of the Devon and Cornwall Infantry Brigade, was one of the four battalions already in camp for their annual two weeks training programme at Woodbury Common near Exmouth. So great was the rush to join this Territorial battalion that it was immediately named 1st/6th, so that a second duplicate battalion, the 2nd/6th could be raised.
During August 1914 the 1st/6th Battalion remained in Barnstaple, attached as Army Troops to Wessex Division. However, Territorial troops were needed to replace regular battalions brought home from the Empire, and on 9th October 1914 the 1st/6th sailed for India, landing at Karachi 11 November 1914, where they remained in comparative safety for the first two years of the war. The battalion was then needed as fighting troops, and on 5 January 1916 they landed at Basra, and remained in Mesopotamia for the rest of the war.
It is possible that when the 1st/6th left for India, Arthur might have been transferred to the 2nd /6th which remained in Barnstable, or the reserve battalion, the 3rd/6th that moved to Bournemouth in August 1915. Without surviving documents we have simply no means of knowing. Arthur was 19 years in 1917, at which time he could have been posted to any of the Devon battalions. However, his second army number, 265492 gives a clue. Men who had enlisted (or who had already enlisted pre-war) directly into a Territorial unit, and were therefore not subject to the Military Service Acts (conscription) of 1916 were given new army numbers on 1st March 1917, by an Army Council Instruction published on 23rd December 1916. Each corps of Infantry was allocated a block of numbers starting at 200001. The allocation for each infantry corps was then broken into smaller blocks for each battalion. Those men who had enlisted in a Territorial Army 4th battalion, for example the 4th Battalion of the Devons (the senior Territorial battalion in the Devonshire Regiment), were allocated nubers 200001 to 240000, those of the 5th Devons 240001 to 265000, and so on. From Arthur’s number 265492 it seems likely that he was still serving in one of the 6th Devons battalions, which were numbered from 265001 to 290000. It is interesting that the following number was given to his elder brother Ernest: it seems that the brothers stayed together. Young as he was, if Arthur had indeed gone to India and on to Mesopotamia, then his war would have followed the account of the 1st/6th attached to this page. If on the other hand he remained in the 3rd/6th Battalion, he would have moved from Bournemouth to Sutton Veny in March 1917 and Larkhill in early 1918, until going to Ireland in April 1918, and thereafter stationed at various times at Belfast, Londonderry and Clonmany. Only family history memories can tell us more, and we hope this may become possible.
The medal card gives us further welcome information. Besides the Victory and British medals, proving that Arthur did serve overseas in some theatre, Arthur was awarded the Territorial Force War Medal, the least commonly issued campaign medal. It was instituted in 1920 for members of the Territorial Forces that did not qualify for the 1914 – 1915 Mons medal or star. Only 33,944 of these medals were issued.