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Arthur Duncombe Shafto

Captain Arthur Duncombe Shafto, DSO, 2nd Battalion, Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment)

Arthur Dumcombe Shafto

Arthur Duncombe Shafto, DSO

Arthur was born in London 8 April, 1880 the son of Charles Ottiwell Duncombe Shafto and Helena Rosa née Wilkinson, of 9 South Bailey, Durham.  He went as a King's Scholar to Durham School (1893-1898) where was a keen rower graduating through the third and second boats to the first boat crew in 1897 and serving as Captain of the Boat Club in his final year. He also represented the school in the 1st XV at rubgy.


From school he went as a Gentleman Cadet to the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, and obtained his commission in the Northumberland Fusiliers in October 1899. 


He served as a Lieutenant in the South African War, 1899-1900, and took part in the operations in the Orange Free State, February to May 1900; in the Transvaal, west of Pretoria, July to 29 November 1900; in Orange River Colony, May to November 1900; in Cape Colony, south of Orange River, 1899-1900; was present during the operations in the Transvaal, December 1900 to August 1901; also in Orange River Colony, August 1901 to 31 May 1902. On 13 December 1900 he was reported to be taken as a prisoner of war at the Battle of Nooitgedacht – presumably he was not held long.


For these services he was awarded the Queen's Medal with three clasps, and King's Medal with two clasps.  He created a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (London Gazette, 27 September 1901)  "In recognition of services during the operations in South Africa".  The pleasure in receiving such a prestigious award must have been tempered somewhat by the knowledge that his elder brother, Charles, was not there to share in the celebration; he had been killed while serving with the Natal Field Force at Spion Kop. Arthur was also mentioned in dispatches on two occasions during the campaign.

Back in England he had the honour of representing his regiment at the coronation of Edward VII on 9 August 1902.

In 1904 Arthur married Marguerite Cecile Catherine, daughter of  Lieutenant Colonel Stapleton, 19th Hussars, the couple had two children, Mark (born 1905), and Betty (1906).

From 1905 to 1908 Arthur was Staff Captain of the Border Grouped Regimental District and from 1908 to 1910, following a transfer to Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment), of No 5 District.  


He was serving with his battalion when he was killed in action at Audincourt on the 26th August 1914 during the organised chaos of the retreat from Mons. 

He was buried in grave I.5.A at Audencourt British Cemetery between the villages of Audencourt and Beaumont. This cemetery was closed in 1924 when the remains interred there were moved to Caudry British Cemetery, Arthur is now believed to lie in grave II.F.23. The identification of his remains were not totally conclusive, presumably relying on the accuracy of the mapping of the original grave and the limited evidence buried with the body (officer’s clothing and buttons). A dental chart made from the body was evidently not sufficient to confirm the identification.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission include in their records the address of his widow as Castle House, Speen – leading to his inclusion on the Virtual Memorial to men with Newbury connections who died in the Great War.


His name has been added to the online, virtual, memorial to those men with a Newbury connection that are not commemorated on the town’s war memorial.

Arthur’s case for inclusion on the Newbury war memorial comes from his widow’s presence in Castle Houses (20 Bath Road) in the 1920s.  There is no evidence that she was there during the war (she does not appear in a 1917 directory).  However, the lack of directories from 1918-1927 makes it very difficult to state clearly when she moved to Newbury or whether she was a resident at the time names were collected for the memorial. 


The addition of Arthur’s name to the virtual memorial is a simple commemoration of this Newbury connection, perhaps, one day, he might be added to the real memorial?


Thanks to Dick Flory for Arthur's entry in the Durham School Register.

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 Died this day:
28 November 1917
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