b. 21/07/1890 Bombay, India. d. 06/05/1915 Gallipoli, Turkey.
Arthur Walderne St Clair Tisdall (1890-1915) was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India on 21st July 1890, the second son of the Reverend Dr William St Clair Tisdall and his wife Marian (nee Gray). His father, an acknowledged expert on comparative Eastern religions, was in charge of the Church Missionary Society’s Mahommedan Mission.
In 1892, after a short stay in England, the Tisdall family embarked for Ispahan, in Persia, where Dr Tisdall was to head theee CMS Persia-Baghdad Mission. For the next eight years of Arthur’s life, this was the family home. He was nicknamed “Pog” by the family and was educated privately by a governess and his father, who taught him to speak Latin by the age of 10.
The family finally returned to England, via the Dardanelles, in 1900. He enrolled as a pupil at Bedford School, where he obtained the new nickname “Pussy” due to his time in Persia, and a reputation for high academic ability. In 1909, he began at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he rowed for his college, and amassed a plethora of academic prizes, culminating in a Double First BA Honours degree and the Chancellor’s Gold Medal for Classics. In 1913, he passed the combined Indian and Home Civil Service examination and took up an appointment in London. He seemed destined for a distinguished career in the Civil Service when the Great War broke out.
In May 1914, Tisdall joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, and when they mobilised in August, he cut short a camping holiday in Sussex to join his unit as an able seaman. After training at Walmer Camp, he found himself two months later in Belgium as part of the Royal Naval Division hastily despatched to defend Antwerp from the advancing German Army. Although a low rank, he was appointed interpreter to the local Belgian commandant. When the Germans broke through, the Royal Naval Division were compelled to beat a hasty retreat. More than 1000 men were forced to seek interment in Holland to avoid capture. Tisdall was among those fortunate to escape to England, where he was promptly commissioned into the Anson Battalion, his rank of sub-lieutenant being backdated to 1st October 1914.
He spent the winter in training camps, before news came in February 1915 of impending action. The division left Blandford Forum Camp in Dorset for Bristol on 27th February. A few days later, their destination was confirmed as the Dardanelles. They were shipped to Egypt while final preparations for the beach landings were made. Tisdall learned that his platoon’s role was to be aboard the River Clyde.
On the first day of the Gallipoli landings (25th April 1915) at V Beach, Gallipoli, during the landing from SS River Clyde, Tisdall heard wounded men on the beach calling for help. The men were under heavy machine gun fire from entrenched Turkish forces. He jumped into the water, and pushing a boat in front of him, went to their rescue. He found, however, that he could not manage alone, but managed to enlist the help of first one, and then three more naval personnel. They made five trips from the ship to the shore and were responsible for rescuing several wounded men under heavy and accurate fire, until darkness forced them to stop.
Tisdall was killed in action on 6th May and was buried the following day close to where he fell. Sadly, his grave location was lost, and he is commemorated on the Helles Memorial, Gallipoli. Fifty-five years after his death, on 28th April 1970, his brother and sister, F R St Clair Tisdall and Mrs A Alcock, attended a ceremony on HMS President, where they presented his VC and other medals to the HQ of the London Division, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. The medals are now in private ownership having been sold in 2004. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20 and the Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oak leaf.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NOT PUBLICLY HELD. SOLD TO PRIVATE BUYER IN 2004.
BURIAL PLACE: NO KNOWN GRAVE. ON HELLES MEMORIAL. PANEL 8-15.
Steve Lee www.memorialstovalour.co.uk – Image of Tisdall VC’s name on the Bedford School Memorial.