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Peabody residents in World War One
Some of the residents who served, and the sacrifices they made.
Arthur Henry Cross (known as Henry) was awarded the Victoria Cross for an action on the Western Front in March 1918.
He lived for around 30 years at Marshalsea, which we acquired in 1964.
At the outbreak of World War I Henry was working at Woolwich Royal Dockyard as a labourer, which counted as war work and thus exempted him from military service. However, he enlisted on 30 May 1916.
Later that year he transferred to the 121st Company, 40th Bn., Machine Gun Corps, 40th Division and it was whilst serving with them as a Private (Acting Lance Corporal) that he was awarded the Victoria Cross for an action at Ervillers on 25th March 1918. The citation reads:
"No. 62990 Pte (A./L./Cpl) Arthur Henry Cross,
M. G. Corps (Camberwell)
For most conspicuous bravery and initiative L/Cpl Cross volunteered to make a reconnaissance of the position of two machine guns which had been captured by the enemy.
He advanced single-handed to the enemy trench and with his revolver forced seven of the enemy to surrender and carry the machine guns with their tripods and ammunition to our lines.
He then handed over his prisoners, collected teams for his guns, which he brought into action with exceptional dash and skill, annihilating a very heavy attack by the enemy.
It is impossible to speak too highly of the extreme gallantry, initiative, and dash displayed by this N.C.O., who showed throughout four days of operations supreme devotion to duty."
Henry's medals, including the Victoria Cross
After the war, Henry returned to his family (in 1903 he'd married Theresa Grace Coxhead, and they went on to have seven children) at Trinity Buildings in Mermaid Court at the Borough.
After Theresa died in October 1931 Henry married Minnie Harrison in August 1934 and they moved to Douglas Buildings. They had two children.
World War II
During the Second World War Henry was a member of the Civil Defence Volunteers and worked as a fire spotter.
Henry with Lord Mountbatten
On the night of 10 May 1941, the worst night of the Blitz, Minnie and their two children took cover in the air raid shelter at Douglas Buildings. Henry refused to leave their flat. Unfortunately his wife and children were killed and ironically Henry, who hadn't sought shelter, was spared.
Henry died on 23 November 1965 in his flat, number 50 Douglas Buildings. The neighbours clubbed together to buy a wreath in the shape of a Victoria Cross.
Henry is buried in Streatham Park Cemetery
Words by Christine Wagg, Peabody historian
We commerate World War One here and look at its impact on our residents and communities.
Our records show that by 1916 there were 2,637 Peabody residents serving with the armed forces. We believe 350–400 died on active service.