Names Familiar To All

The stories of the East Ilsley War Memorial

205299 Pte ARTHUR SPEKE, Royal Buckinghamshire Hussars, d. 14 Nov 1917

James Arthur Speke was born in 1895 in Cranfield, Bedfordshire. His parents were from Gloucestershire, and his father Samuel was a groom. In 1911 Arthur was an apprentice stable lad at the Druids Lodge racing stable on Salisbury Plain. One of his colleagues there was Joe Constable, who was to marry an Ilsley girl (a sister of Edward Mills), and settle in East Ilsley. It’s probable that like Joe, Arthur came to work for one of the East Ilsley trainers.

Arthur enlisted in the Royal Buckinghamshire Hussars (Bucks Yeomanry) at Churn Camp, probably in September or October 1914. His name was recorded as Arthur James Speake, and his residence was given as Finsbury, but as a single man he may have given the address of a relative. He is listed by the Newbury Weekly News in its Active Service Roll as serving with the Berks Yeomanry, but this is an understandable error. Both regiments were training at Churn at the time.

Arthur landed in the Middle East on 21 April 1915. He died of wounds on 14 November 1917, the day after the Battle of El Mughar Ridge which led to the British capture of Junction Station, about 30 miles west of Jerusalem. It is almost certain that he sustained his fatal wounds during the cavalry charge on the Turkish positions.

Arthur is buried in Gaza War Cemetery. He is also commemorated on the war memorial at Kibworth, Leicestershire, where his parents lived at the time of his death.

Gaza War Cemetery

Gaza War Cemetery above c.1917 and below in the 1920s

Gaza War Cemetery

Photos courtesy of Library of Congress