Provided with the date of his death, the research for Valentine’s life might have been expected to be straightforward. However, Arthur Valentine remains an enigma.
Given his age, Arthur Valentine could have joined the colours, but no military record has been found for him and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission does not record a war grave. The death of a 24-year-old man of this name was registered, however, at that period, in the West Derby Registration District, and a corresponding birth was registered in the same district in the fourth quarter of 1892. This child, Arthur, was baptised at St Dunstan, Edge Hill, on 28 October 1892, when he was 3 months old, the son of Charles and Emma Valentine of Freeman Street. Charles Valentine was an insurance clerk at that time.
The 1901 census shows that a second son, Charles, had been born in 1894 and that the family was living at Bradfield Street, West Derby. Both boys, aged 9 and 7, were then scholars. By 1911 the family had moved to Church Road, Edge Hill. Arthur Valentine was by then a student teacher and his father was employed as a marine insurance clerk.
Later in 1911 Arthur Valentine joined Bede College and studied there until July 1913, when he completed his teacher training by passing the certificate examinations. He had already passed the Archbishop’s Certificate in March 1913. It is the Bede College records which confirm his date of birth and home town.
The quarterly college magazine The Bede reports regularly on sporting events, educational achievements and other items of interest to students, but only one entry naming Arthur Valentine has been found – in June 1915 – when he paid his subscription to the magazine. He does not seem overly interested in sports or debating. The next mention comes in a list of past students in 1925 and it is crucial – he is listed as “killed in action”.
It has not proved possible to find Service Papers for Arthur Valentine, nor is he mentioned on the Medal Index Rolls. Not all Service Papers have survived, but the 1914 Star and the 1915 Star were awarded to servicemen who had served overseas in 1914 or 1915 respectively and all military personnel were entitled to claim the Victory and the Peace medals. It is most unusual not to find a reference in the second or even both of these sets of records. It does, of course, leave unanswered the question of which regiment he joined, so closer research at regimental level is impossible.
Since Valentine’s death was registered in West Derby, could he have died there whilst serving in the forces? There were numerous military hospitals in Liverpool; casualties could reach their shelter on the same day as their wounding and often still retaining bandages applied in the trenches. However, Valentine doesn’t appear on the medical databases. Also, despite desperate enemy action over Liverpool in the Second World War, there was no bombing in the 1914-1918 conflict which could have caused his death, had he been, for instance, on home leave.
Arthur’s death in 1916 is announced in the Liverpool Echo by his parents. The announcement seems subdued, especially when compared to that published upon the death of his brother, Charles, killed at Maricourt, near Albert, two months earlier. Charles Valentine was a lance-corporal with the Coldstream Guards and his death was marked in the Liverpool Post and Mercury and the following week, his parents thanked their friends for “their kind expressions of sympathy”. His sacrifice was recognised on various local as well as national, memorials. For example, the Merseyside Roll of Honour database lists memorials to him at two local churches, St Anne, Stanley, and St Cyprian, Edge Hill, as well as Clint Road Council School, Edge Hill.
Arthur Valentine’s death is treated quite differently. His parents issued a simple paragraph announcing his death. There is no hint here of a military connection; indeed, no suggestion of anything other than a natural death, no condolences from friends. No war memorials have been found bearing his name.
A testament to the strong feeling in the country about the necessity of volunteering is found in The Bede magazine in March 1916, when a paragraph was published about students declared medically ‘unfit’:
“It has been suggested that those Bede men who have been medically rejected as unfit, should have their names printed in the Magazine to shew that they have made the effort and had the desire to join in the defence of their Country. We are quite ready to publish such a list. There has been no lack of willingness to rejoin the Colours …….”.
The Bede magazine, March 1916.
Arthur Valentine continues to puzzle. He probably died of natural causes at home in Liverpool, but the little note “killed in action” cannot be simply ignored. Perhaps a reader of this short biography might help? If you can suggest any further lines of research, or indeed if you can identify any mistakes, please let us know. We would value any contribution that brings some light to Arthur Valentine’s story.