b. 16/12/1893 East Witton, North Yorkshire. d. 29/08/1956 Leeds, Yorkshire.
Arthur Poulter (1893-1956) was born in Kilgram Bridge, four miles east of the village of East Witton, North Yorkshire on 16th December 1893. His father, Robert, was a farmer, and Arthur was one of nine sons, all of whom served in the war, and lived on their home farm until 1908, when he left to become a farm servant.
At the age of 19, he moved to Leeds, West Yorkshire, where he gained employment as a drayman with Messrs Timothy Taylor at their maltings at the Gelderd Road depot. He then changed his job and worked for Mr T Rochford as a cartman and used to deliver firewood in the New Wortley district of the city. While working for Mr. Rochford, Poulter met and fell in love with Miss Ada Briggs, step-daughter of Mr. Rochford, and in 1916, they married. They went on to have two daughters and eight sons, one of whom, also named Arthur, died in 1947 as a result of deprivation as a POW in Germany.
In 1916, he enlisted with the West Riding Regiment and was described as a man of fine physique. He would become the eighth man from Leeds to receive the VC. On the 9th / 10th April 1918 the 1/4 West Riding Regiment ( Duke of Wellington’s ) moved into the area at Erquinghem and were to cover a crossing of the River Lys to stem the German advance. On the 10th the Duke of Wellington’s C Company assembled near the top of the Rue Delpierre while two officers and three NCOs went forward to reconnoitre. The ground was swept by machine-gun fire and one of the officers assumed the original objective could not be reached and decided that the line of a railway should be held instead.
He returned to his company in order to inform them of the change of plan. However, men were already being hit while waiting for their officers and losses mounted, the company stretcher-bearers becoming very hard pressed. Soon there were just not enough stretcher-bearers and helpers to cope with the high number of casualties and it was during this time that Arthur Poulter earned his Victoria Cross. He tended the wounded for hour after hour and also somehow got them to safety as well. In Arthur Poulter’s own words:
“Gradually all the stretcher-bearers in my company were killed or wounded and I was left to ‘carry on’. How I got through the first day alone I do not know. It is a ‘wonder’ to me. The enemy artillery and rifle fire was directed at us from a range that could not have been much more than 50 to 100 yards, and each time I went out a hail of shrapnel was falling around, the artillery and machine-gun barrage was terrific. The first day I went out ten times to bring back some our our wounded and had to carry them a distance of 400 to 500 yards across a bridge over a river to where the RAMC men were. I carried them on my back, and two of them were hit again before I could get them to the rear.”
Following the gazetting of the award on 28th June 1918, he spent the remainder of the War in various military hospitals, finally ending up in Croydon War Hospital. He was later presented with his medal in the Ballroom at Buckingham Palace on 13th December 1918. He was discharged in 1919 and was fit enough for work again. First he worked in the Leeds Transport Depot and was later employed by Price (Tailors) Ltd. He became a popular local figure. In 1953 he was involved in an accident when he was hit by a police car and had to be taken to hospital. He stopped work with Price in February 1956 and became seriously ill, dying six months later on 29th August 1956. His wife Ada had died two years before. He was buried in New Wortley Cemetery, Leeds. His family placed a new headstone on his grave in 2010.
In December 1956 Arthur Poulter’s Victoria Cross and other medals were handed over to the Leeds City Museum on an indefinite loan. It was not the first time the medals had been in the ownership of anyone other than the Poulter family. One of Poulter’s son’s had swapped the medal for a large bag of marbles with a boy from down the street. The medal was rescued after Poulter’s wife took her son and the marbles back down the road.However, in June 1999 the Poulter family decided to donate the VC and campaign medals to the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment Museum located in the Bankfield Museum in Halifax, Yorkshire, where they are still on display.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: DUKE OF WELLINGTON’S REGIMENT MUSEUM, HALIFAX, YORKS..
BURIAL PLACE: NEW WORTLEY CEMETERY, LEEDS, YORKSHIRE. GRAVE 2500.
Richmondshire District Council – Images of the Poulter VC Stone at the East Witton War Memorial, and its accompanying programme.
Thomas Stewart – Image of the medal group at the Duke of Wellington Regiment Museum, Halifax.