Updated 10 May 2013: After the initial version of this page appeared on 9 May 2013 Andy Arnold reminded me of the Croydon Roll of Honour, which has filled in a few more details, and allowed me to correct a couple of details. The update has also allowed me to correct a number of typos.
Arthur Ernest Plowman was at least the third generation of his family to ring at Beddington. He had progressed far enough in ringing to take part in a quarter peal on Easter Day 1916 (23 April), but he had just turned 18 so was liable for conscription. He attested on 10 May 1916, though he may not have actually begun his training until later that year. He was posted to a Base Depot in France on 29 March 1917, just short of his 19th birthday. On 15 April he was posted to a frontline unit, 13th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, and seems to have joined them at Izel-lès-Hameau, just under 20km west of Arras on 17 April. The battalion had already been heavily involved in the opening phases of the Battle of Arras and in the early hours of 23 April would rejoin the fray – a rather different day to that which he had enjoyed just a year before. After just under a week of hard fighting he was reported missing, and subsequently his death was officially presumed to have taken place on 29 April 1917. His body was never found, and he is commemorated on the Arras Memorial to the Missing.
Arthur Ernest Plowman (who appears to have been known as Ernest) was born at Wallington, Surrey on 15 April 1898. His parents, Arthur John Plowman and Kate Groves had married in the latter part of 1896. Arthur was from a Beddington family, Kate had been born in Newbury, Berkshire. Arthur was already a bellringer at Beddington, following his own father, John Plowman, who had been a ringer from about the time a new ring of bells was installed in 1869 (he was elected to the College Youths in 1878). John died at the age of just 41 in 1893.
By 1901 the family had moved the short distance to Croydon, where they were living at 11 Westfield Road, but Arthur was still a regular ringer at Beddington. The 1891 census shows that Arthur had originally been an apprentice compositor at a printers, but by 1901 he is described as foreman packer rubber goods. As the 1911 census lists him as a despatch clerk in the cycle and motor trade, the rubber goods were presumably inner tubers, tyres and the like! In 1902 a sister arrived for Ernest, Doris Kate. By 1911 the family had moved again, but an even shorter distance to 4 Ainsworth Road, Croydon. Ernest was educated at the Welcome Hall school in Scarbrook Road, effectively an overflow from the Parish (now Minster) Church School.
At some point Ernest learnt to ring, travelling with his father to Beddington. The report of the quarter peal in which Ernest rang the tenor to Grandsire Triples, while his father rang the treble, describes him as “one of Beddington’s youngsters”. Just under three weeks later he would join up, he was recorded as being 18 years 1 month, 5’6″ tall, weighing 131 lbs and having a 35″ chest with 3″ expansion, a painter [this is possibly a mistranscription for printer, see below], born Wallington, attested Croydon, and living 4 Ainsworth Road, Croydon. There is a hint that he did not actually start training immediately, the register entry is marked to say he went to 30th Training Reserve Battalion, but the former 10th (Reserve) Battalion, East Surrey Regiment did not adopt that name until 1 September 1916. The Croydon Roll of Honour states he enlisted on 1 September 1916, which would fit with that being the actual date of his call up. Here his occupation is given as “apprentice to printer’s machine minder”.
His posting to France on 29 March 1917 was followed just a month later by his death.
A report in The Ringing World in December 1918 does mention his death in passing – it is principally a report of the funeral of Serjeant Major John Webb of Benhilton but as some of the ringers at the funeral came from Mitcham and Beddington their own casualties are also given a mention.
However, for some reason, when the Association’s roll of honour was finally drawn up, Ernest was not included. This was despite a statement at the AGM in January 1917, “the number of new members elected during the past year had been four only – against the 50 who had been called too the colours since the outbreak of hostilities. The names of those 50 do not cover the number of ringers of the Association who have exchanged the rope for the rifle, and the Master appealed to the representatives of the towers to see that a complete record was kept, whether members of the Association or not, in order that a complete and permanent record might hereafter be prepared.” (Ringing World 2 February 1917 p37).
A century on, it seems just he should also be listed amongst the losses to ringing in Surrey. He should also be added to the Central Council for Church Bell Ringers roll of honour. He is listed in the Croydon Roll of Honour. The Wallington War Memorial apparently lists H Plowman, it is possible this should be Ernest, there was a Horace Plowman living in Wallington in 1911, but there does not seem to be a matching CWGC entry.