Poppy

First World War in Headington and Marston, Oxford

Arthur Charles FRY (1892–1917)

Arthur Fry

Arthur Charles Fry was born at Tonbridge, Kent on 6 November 1892, the eldest son of John Fry (born in Maidstone in 1867) and Mary Annie Errey (born in Canterbury in 1866).

His parents were married in Canterbury on 14 June 1890 and had three sons:

  • Arthur Charles Fry (born in Tonbridge on 6 November 1892 but not baptised at St Peter's Church, Maidstone until 2 May 1897)
  • Bertram Hugh Jesse Fry (born in Tonbridge on 26 July 1894 but not baptised at St Peter's Church, Maidstone until 2 May 1897)
  • John Eric Donald Fry (born in Horsemonden, Kent on 9 March 1900).

In 1891 Arthur’s parents were living at 52 Broad Street Canterbury, where his father John Fry (who was the son of a blacksmith at an iron foundry in Maidstone) was working as a “general smith”. By the time of Arthur’s birth eighteen months later, they had moved to Tonbridge.

By 1900 the family had moved again, this time to Horsemonden, and the 1901 census shows that they lived near the station there. Arthur’s father then described himself as a mechanical engineer.

Right: Arthur Fry (photograph supplied
by his niece Mrs Lucy Milner, née Fry)

In 1906 Arthur Fry entered Derby School, and he was described thus in his obituary in the school magazine:

An outstanding feature of his character was the great loyalty he had for the School, and the keen interest he took in all School events. One can so clearly recall that he always came down to cheer on the team, and was present at all events in which the School was represented. He was a Praepostor and one of the Editors of the “Derbeian”; a member, first of the Cadet Corps, and subsequently of the O.T.C.; and was much interested in securing the continuance of the series of School Honour Boards.

At the time of the 1911 census Arthur (18) was still at Derby School, and was described as the ward of Wilfrid Ryan Johnson (a Clerk in Holy Orders, then a single man then aged 39), and the two of them were living (without servants) at 31 West Avenue, Derby, which was presumably Johnson’s home. Arthur’s family was now living in Gillingham (at 216 Windmill Road): his father appears to have started a third career (as a ship fitter); his brother Bertram (16) was an apprentice electrical engineer; and his youngest brother John (11) was still at school.

On 14 October 1911 Arthur Fry went up to Hertford College, Oxford, where he obtained a Bible Clerkship. The Undergraduate Register records that he passed Responsions (preliminary examinations for entry) in Trinity Term 1911. He went on to pass examinations in Holy Scripture (then compulsory) in Michaelmas Term 1912 and Greek and Latin in Hilary Term 1913. In Trinity Term 1914 he passed examinations in the following “groups” of the Final Pass School: A1 (two books, either both Greek, or one Greek and one Latin) and C1 (The Elements of Algebra and Geometrical Trigonometry).

About six weeks after the start of the First World War, Fry gave up his studies and enlisted on 19 September 1914 in the ranks of the 18th (Public Schools) Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers.

In the last quarter of 1914 in Epsom, Arthur Charles Fry (22) married Lucy Elizabeth Empson (38). Lucy was born in Faringdon, Berkshire in 1876 and probably met Arthur while he was in Oxford, as at the time of the 1911 census she and her older sister, both spinsters of private means, were living at 223 Cowley Road. In 1924 Fry may have been based at Epsom with the Royal Fusiliers. They do not appear to have had any children.

Following an operation in the Royal Army Medical Corps Hospital in Oxford, Fry was discharged from the army as medically unfit. As soon as he had recovered, on 8 May 1915, he enlisted for clerical work in that same Oxford hospital, and was promoted to Corporal in the R.A.M.C. Territorials on 11 July 1916.

Under the War Decree (1) of 8 February 1916 Fry was exempted from further university examinations. This decree appears in the University Gazette No.1483 Vol. XLVI. It states:

Any member of the University who shall have been absent on Military Service and who at the termination of the period of his Military Service, or after he has been absent on such Service for not less than four Terms, shall either have kept or, … be deemed to have kept, twelve Terms by residence, and who shall be statutably qualified to the Examination in any Final Honour School, shall be permitted to supplicate for the Degree of Bachelor of Arts without passing any further Examinations, provided that he shall have paid the fee of three pounds in addition to the fees payable under the provisions of the Statutes.

Hence the degree of BA was conferred on Arthur Fry at a ceremony in Oxford on 8 July 1916.

Arthur and Lucy Fry lived in the cottage that is now in the grounds of Headington School on the corner of the London Road and Headley Way; but when they lived there it was in a quieter setting, as there was neither school nor Headley Way. It was called Bromley Cottage in 1915, and it may have been Fry, with his Kentish roots, who rechristened it with that name; by the 1920s as it was usually known as The Boundary Cottage: it not only marked the easternmost point of the Davenport House grounds (the Oxford Field) but also stood beside the Boundary Brook, which until 1928 separated Oxford from Headington.

Kelly’s Directory for 1916/17 correctly lists “A. C. Fry” at this house but curiously lists him as the gardener of Miss Davenport of Davenport House. Miss Davenport’s brother, Hugh Davenport, was a Major in Fry’s battalion and also an Oxford man: it seems likely that it was through Major Davenport that Fry and his wife were able to rent this service cottage, and perhaps Kelly’s Directory wrongly assumed that Fry was Davenport family’s gardener.

Later in 1916 Arthur Charles Fry was well enough to enter an Officers’ Training Battalion, from which he received a commission in the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

Fry's wooden cross

Poppy Fry went to France on 5 January 1917 as a Second Lieutenant in “D” Company of the 2nd/4th Battalion, and seven weeks later on 28 February 1917 he was seriously injured at Ablaincourt and died at No. 5 Casualty Clearing Station that night, aged 24. He is buried at Bray Military Cemetery at Bray-sur-Somme (I.C.16). He was listed as dead in The Times of 7 March 1917.

Right: Arthur Charles Fry's battlefield
cross, now in St Ervan Church in
Cornwall, photographed by Andrew
Macdonald on behalf of the
Returned from the Front
website. It reads:
     IWGC
     2/LT A. G. FRY
     4/O AND BUCKS L.A.

Fry's guardian and executor Wilfrid Ryan Johnson was the Rector of St Ervan's until his death in 1954, which explains why the cross ended up in that church.

A fellow officer described Fry thus:

During the short time he was in the line he did extremely well. His Company Commander told me that it was perfectly extraordinary how quick he took to everything, and he went so far as to say that he was the best Platoon Commander he had had … he was most popular with his Platoon … and an awfully keen soldier…. In the line he was awfully good and brave, did not care a rap for bullet or shell, and was always with his men if there was a bombardment on, walking about amongst them cracking jokes and cheering them on, and the men admired him and thought of him as a little god. It was a chance shell that hit him, and he lay for hours in an Officers’ dug-out before they could take him to the Field Ambulance and then to hospital, where he died on March 1st [or the day before, according to the CWGC].

The following report by Major Geoffrey Keith Rose gives more information about how Fry died:

At 10 o’clock I heard that Fry, the commander of No. I6 Platoon, had been hit by shrapnel on his way from Company H.Q. to the Sucrerie. To get him to the nearest shelter (C Company H.Q.) was difficult through the mud, and uncomfortable enough with 5.9s coming down close to the trench, but the men, as always, played up splendidly to assist a comrade. Soon afterwards, the doctor, in answer to a telephonic summons, appeared at my H.Q. On our way to reach Fry we were both knocked down in the trench by a 4″, which also wounded Corporal Rockall in the shoulder-blade. I regret that Fry, though safely moved from the trenches the same night, had received a mortal wound. In him died a fine example of the platoon officer. He met his wound in the course of a trivial duty which, had I guessed that he would do it under heavy shelling, I should have forbidden him to undertake. His type of bravery, though it wears no decorations, is distinguished, more than all other, by the unwritten admiration of the Infantry.

Memorial to Fry in Hertford College

 

 

Arthur Charles Fry is remembered on:

• The roll of honour of St Andrew’s Church in Old Headington

• The Derby School war memorial

• The memorial in Hertford College Chapel, Oxford (shown left)

Fry left £394 9s. 1d. in his will, and administration was granted in Oxford to his widow, Lucy Elizabeth Fry; his guardian, the Revd Wilfred Ryan Johnson; and William Clark Jotcham, solicitor on 26 June 1917.

In July 1917 Mrs Fry, clad in mourning, attended the reception at Headington Manor House for Edward Brooks of Windsor Street, who had been in her husband's company and had just been awarded the Victoria Cross.


Postscript

St Andrew's memorial board

Arthur’s widow
  • Mrs Lucy Elizabeth Fry remained at The Boundary Cottage for the rest of her life. The whole Davenport estate running along the north side of the Headington Road was sold to Headington School in 1920, but the school evidently allowed Mrs Fry to continue to rent the house. She did not remarry, and she died at Boundary Cottage at the age of 74 on 30 October 1950. Her effects came to £756 2s. 5d.
Arthur’s parents
  • John Fry died at 174 Shakespeare Road, Gillingham, Kent at the age of 63 on 10 February 1931. His effects came to £1,272 1s. 3d., and his executor was his son Bertram Hugh Jesse Fry, who was a design engineer.
  • Mary Annie Fry died at 174 Shakespeare Road, Gillingham, Kent on 24 April 1920 at the age of 54 (wrongly given by GRO as 52). Her effects came to £409 3s. 11d., and her executor was her son John, described as a shipwright. .
Arthur’s brothers
  • Bertram Hugh Jesse Fry (born 1894) married Isabella Downie McEwan (not Isabella D. Marshall as given in GRO index) in the Medway district of Kent in 1920. They had three daughters: Berta I. A. Fry (born 1921/2); Sheila L. W. Fry (born on 21 October 1925, who married Francis J. Bancroft in 1951 and died aged 28 near the beginning of 1954); and Valerie Vivien Fry (born in Gillingham, Kent on 20 August 1927, who married James K. G. Marwick in Chatham in 1951 and moved to Edinburgh and had several childrenI. Arthur's sister-in-law Isabella died in 1959, and his brother Bertram died in Sittingbourne, Kent in 1970.
  • John Eric Donald Fry (born 1900), described as a draughtsman of 79 Bedford Road, Clapham, married Alice Ruby Turner, the daughter of retired India civil servant Stephen Duntze Riley Davis Turner, at St Paul's Church, Brixton on 7 September 1920. They had four children, all born in Canada: Lucy Agnes Fry (1922), Eric Duntz Fry (1925), Alice Jean Fry (1926), and Arthur Charles Fry (1927). Arthur's brother John died in Hammersmith in 1967.

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