b. 06/05/1893 Paisley, Scotland. d. 24/04/1917 Fontaine, France.
Arthur Henderson (1893-1917) was born at 18 Greenhill Road, Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland on 6th May 1893. His father, George, was a building contractor and magistrate, often referred to as Mr Baillie Henderson. He married Elizabeth nee Purdie on 29th December 1882 at Lessuddon, St Boswells, Roxburghshire. She was working as a domestic maid before she married. Sadly, she died aged just 39 in 1897, when Arthur was 4, and George remarried in March 1906, to Elizabeth Wilkins, a medical nurse. His father was also awarded the OBE for his work as Chairman of the Paisley War Savings Committee in 1920. Arthur had six siblings in all, five from his father’s first marriage, one from his second. Sadly, his eldest brother, John would also be killed in the Great War, on 9th April 1917 near La Folie Farm during the attack on Vimy Ridge.
Arthur was educated at John Neilson Institution, Paisley. He was a fine cricketer, playing for Ferguslie Cricket Club. After school he was employed as an accountant and stockbroker by Messrs R Easton & Co of Glasgow. He enlisted in 1/6th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders on 2nd September 1914 and served in 1 Platoon, A Company with William Davidson Bissett, who was later awarded the VC in 1918. He was commissioned into 3/6th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders on 5th April 1915, served with 4th Battalion and was attached to 2nd Battalion in France from 1st October. He was appointed Acting Captain on 19th August 1916.
He was awarded the Military Cross for his actions during the Battle of the Somme leading his company in an attack with great courage and determination, advancing the line and consolidating the position won with great skill. This action is believed to have been on 27th-28th August 1916, when he led A Company in an attack on Pommiers Redoubt.
On 23rd April 1917, at Fontaine-les-Croisilles, France, during an attack on the enemy trenches this officer, although almost immediately wounded in the left arm, led his Company through the front enemy line until he gained his final objective. He then proceeded to consolidate his position, which, owing to heavy gun and machine gun fire and bombing attacks, was in danger of being isolated. By his cheerful courage and coolness he was enabled to maintain the spirit of his men under most trying conditions. Captain Henderson was killed after he had successfully accomplished his task.
As he never married, his Victoria Cross and Military Cross were presented to his father outside Buckingham Palace by King George V on 21st July 1917. Arthur had died of his wounds the day after the action and was buried in Cojeul British Cemetery, St Martin-sur-Cojeul, France. In addition to his VC and MC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. His medals were sold at a Christie’s auction on 4th July 1978 for £8,200, a world record at the time. On 27th November 1990 they were sold again at Christie’s for £14,000 to Michael Ashcroft and are displayed at the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: COJEUL BRITISH CEMETERY, SAINT MARTIN SUR COJEUL.
ROW B, GRAVE 61
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map
Mark Sanders – Henderson VC Medal Card
Thomas Stewart – Image of the VC Stone at Renfrewshire House, Paisley, Scotland.