Arthur Henry Avis, was born on the 9th May 1889 in Rottingdean, Brighton, Sussex.
The Avis family appear to have lived in Rottingdean for several generations. Arthur’s parents are both from Rottingdean and despite a few years in London where they were both servants they returned to Rottingdean with young children.
1889 saw the birth of Arthur Henry Avis but unfortunately his father died the same year.
Arthur was the youngest of four children. He had 2 brothers and a sister. The children were brought up by their mother living on her own. At the age of 11 Arthur was a milk boy along with his 13 yr old brother according to the 1901 Census. By the age of 21 he was a Gardener living as a boarder in The Lodge, St Mary’s Hall, Brighton (1911 Census).
On 5th October 1914 Arthur became a Police Constable with the Brighton Borough Police Force.
Arthur Avis appears on both WW1 Plaques within The Old Police Museum Cells at Brighton Town Hall. They are shown to be with The Royal Sussex Regiment.
The exact location of where these memorials were originally hung is at this moment lost in time. It is known however that both were recovered from the Old Wellington Road Police Station by author and historian, Retired Police Constable David Rowland and safely deposited in store within the basement of Brighton Police Station, John Street.
Arthur Henry Avis received permission to join the Army from the then Chief Constable Mr William Gentle on 12th May 1915. He left the Police on the same and day attested to join the Army on 12th May 1915. He stated his age was 26yrs, a Police Constable living at Garden Cottage, Rottingdean.
Other Police Officers that had applied for permission to join the Army are shown below.
All are released on the same day as Avis;=.
Edward Eade, Edmund N Funnell, Christopher Gaston, Clifford Gaston, William Daniels, William J Berry, Frederick Stephenson, George Simmons, Samuel V Kitchener and Ernest Lynn.
Arhur Avis has a service number of GS/6822 which is consistent with joining The Royal Sussex Regiment between 2nd May 1915 and 1st June 1915. The “GS” signifies those that joined up for General Service but was not always prefixed on their records. He showed his next of kin as his mother Susan giving the address as Garden Cottage, Rottingdean.
Arthur was initially sent for training with the 10th Battalion on 25th May 1915 at Colchester where he also received training in Stretcher bearing and First Aid on 8th September 1915. Several other recruits were from Brighton Borough Police.
He was at Shoreham between 13th September and 29th October 1915.
On 29th October 1915 he went to Weymouth 8th Battalion Depot for Pioneer training.
The 8th Battalion was formed as a new army unit under the recruitment drive launched soon after the outbreak of the war by the Secretary of State Lord Kitchener and although initially formed as an Infantry unit it was converted to a Pioneer Battalion. The 8th played a less active fighting part in the war; its main role was to be one of support, involving hard physical work. That said the 8th Battalion were still fully trained soldiers and they were required to carry all the same equipment as a normal soldier and be prepared to fight.
On 19th November 1915 Arthur joined the British Expeditionary Force and disembarked at Etaples. The Battalion formed part of the 18th Eastern Division.
The war diary of the 8th Battalion contains a mass of detail concerning map references, geographical positions and an amazing amount of technical information on all aspects of the pioneering work carried out, but sadly contains very little information of the non-pioneering activities of the Battalion.
It is known that Arthur would have caught up with his Battalion in or around Albert, just North of the River Somme. The Battalion was committed to general work on defences, which included trenches, dugouts, shelters and billets and remained in the area for December and into 1916 enduring heavy snow at the end of February.
March 1917 saw the beginning of the preparation for the “Big Push” planned for the 1st July 1916. The 18th had started to dig “Russian Saps” from the divisional front line, beneath “No Man’s Land” The Russian Saps were shallow underground tunnels through which men could pass to the attack unseen by the enemy. Arthur would not have seen the completion of the Saps.
In 1916 Army Council instruction No. 1733 was issued with regards to The Military Police. The instruction is long and tedious but in short explains that the system of Policing such large numbers of Soldiers at home and abroad required trained Police Officers. As a result it would appear that soldiers who were Police Officers prior to the war were being transferred to either the MMP (Mounted Military Police) or MFP (Military Foot Police).
The General Duties of a Military Police Officer include:
(1) The detection of crime, and the arrest of offenders.
(2) The maintenance of order under all circumstances.
(3) The surveillance and control of all civilians and followers within the area occupied by their formations.
(4) Assisting in maintaining march discipline of troops and transport and in regulating traffic.
(5) The collection of stragglers.
(6) The custody of prisoners of war until their transfer to railhead or to a P.O.W. working company.
(7) The protection of the local inhabitants against acts of violence on the part of soldiers or followers.
In addition there were numerous special duties they were expected to see to, amongst which were :—
Taking measures to prevent troops getting into contact with undesirable characters—prostitutes, enemy agents, provocateurs, etc. Ill-treatment of animals. Civilians found within the lines without passes or identity cards. Plundering, marauding and looting. Ill-treatment of inhabitants. Soldiers and civilians trafficking in rations or Government property. Unauthorized cameras and photography. Collecting and returning of horses. Careless talk and the apprehension of anyone giving military information. Arrest of suspicious individuals. The shooting of dogs found unattended near the forward lines, and search of the bodies for messages, etc. Seizure of carrier pigeons. Surveillance for means of communication with the enemy.
On 23rd April 1917 Arthur was temporarily transferred to the Military Foot Police for the duration of the war. He is promoted to Lance Corporal and his new service number is P10428.
On 9th May 1917 he joined up with the 1st Army at Pernes in France until 6th July 1918 when he was transferred to the 5th Army “in the field”. He was still serving with the 5th Army on 15th May 1919. On 6th July 1919 Arthur was sent to Boulogne for transfer to England for demobilization via Wimereux, France.
On 8th July Arthur is at the Crystal palace dispersal unit along with the Gaston twins where he is granted 28 days furlough. (Leave). On 4th August 1919 Arthur is transferred to Class Z army reserve. His address is 67 Bates Road, Brighton.
Arthur would have been awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal and most likely the 1914-1915 Star although the army records do not show this. A medal card cannot be found.
British War Medal
Arthur rejoins Brighton Police on 14th August 1919, having served the Colours for 4yrs and 3 months. At the age of 36 in 1925, Arthur married a probable divorcee (not a widow) Ethel Frances Maud Nickolls nee Finbow. Ethel already had two children from her previous marriage to Christopher George Nickolls. Harry Joshua Charles Frederick Nickolls aged 15 years and Bernard James Nickolls aged 11yrs. On 31st August 1926 Ethel gave birth to a daughter Gwendoline.
The 1939 Register shows Arthur, still a Police Officer, living at 13 Gerrard Street Brighton with his wife Ethel and their daughter Gwendoline.
Arthur died in Brighton in 1946 aged 57 and Ethel died 17 years later in 1946 aged 75.
Research problems- The only research problem was a lack of Medal Card. Copyright Researched and reported by Ian Borthwick 2017, Retired Sussex Police Officer AB579, Served between Nov 1976 to March 2007.