Arthur George Dance was born on 29 November 1896 at Hurst near Wokingham. On census night in 1911 he appears to have been in training with 3rd Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment at Brock Barracks and his age is given as 17. Certainly by 1914 he was living in Englefield for he was one of those named as having enlisted in the first weeks of the war.
After completing training he was posted to the 2nd Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment, arriving in France on 11 January 1915 as part of a draft of 45 men. The 2nd Battalion was one of the Regular Army battalions and arrived in France on 5 November 1914 almost straight of the boat from India. They went immediately into the line at Fauquissart where the trenches had become established after the retreat from Mons and the counter-attack on the Marne. The trenches there were barely established and were also flooded as a result of the wet weather. Casualties were incurred during the effort to improve the breastwork but even greater numbers were hospitalised as a result of illness caused by the sudden contrast between the heat and drought of India and the wet and cold of France. This is probably why Arthur Dance found himself in one of the Regular battalions rather than Kitcher's New Army - as did William Seymour.
The battalion saw its first concerted action on 10 March 1915 in the attack at Neuve Chapelle where Wiliam Seymour was killed. After a period of routine alternation between trench duty and reserve, punctuated by two attacks on the German lines at Bac St Maur and Bois Grenier, the battalion attacked at Orvillers on 1 July 1916. Two Lewis guns were damaged that day so perhaps that is when Arthur Dance, who was a machine gunner, lost his finger.
From 24 March 1918 the Battalion was engaged in a rearguard action against the German advance at Bethencourt west of the Somme until relieved on 1 April. For gallantry and devotion to duty during this time Arthur Dance was awarded the Military Medal. On 27 May the Battalion was holding the line at Berry au Bac when the Germans attacked in great strength and overran the Battalion with estimated casualties of 23 officers and 600 other ranks (leaving only 1 officer and 68 other ranks). Arthur Dance was among those posted “missing” at this time but it was confirmed in July that he was a prisoner of war.
Arthur was repatriated after the end of the war and on 1 September 1919 married Mary Keturah (Kitty) Vince in St Mark's church. They went on to have six children at 44 Chalkpit Cottages. The photograph shows Arthur and Kitty with those six children. After the Second World War Kitty Dance prepared the cricket teas and her four sons played in the team. Arthur was still to be seen driving the blue Fordson Major tractor from Chalkpit Farm well into the 1950s.
© 2019 Richard J Smith