2.11 and 37.31 – Will and Arthur Marshall and Alice Ada Swindells

This grave is two graves – the real one, and the accidental one. The accidental one is a CWGC marker at the front of the graveyard, and the real one lies further back near the school path. The second one contains two heroes, father and son, and a woman who loved them both dearly.

Arthur Marshall was born on March 30th 1922 in Todmorden. His parents were Will Marshall and Alice Ada (maidenly Martin).

When Arthur was 6, his father Will died in a bus accident. He was the driver and was hailed for saving his passengers. Will had served in WW1 and was a prisoner of war for some time, and had gone to work for the Todmorden Corporation after the war driving buses. His death was something really extraordinary, you can see on the gravestone a mention of “the bus tragedy at Bacup” – the brakes failed while still going uphill towards the town, and Will managed to steer the bus while it rolled backwards at speed, down the hill, in the rain, on an icy road, for long enough for everyone on board to lie down and brace themselves for the worst. He had to hang his head out the window to see where the bus was going…which was ultimately what killed him. No one else on the bus was killed. Arthur must have grown up in the shadow of his father’s bravery on multiple fronts and it’s no wonder he went into the army when WW2 broke out.

Will Marshall

There are no available census records to show where Arthur was living (or working) so we know very little about his adult life pre-war. His mother appears in the 1939 register living at 22 Lower Laith Avenue. There is a family members name on this record which is blacked out and we think is likely to be him – frustratingly it should have been un-redacted by now, as it’s been 100 years since he was born, but it hasn’t been updated yet.

Even though Arthur was prepared to give his life for his country, he met death purely by accident, while still on British soil. Unlike so many of the others buried in the graveyard here who died of illnesses rather than injuries received in battle…he was killed miles away from any enemy combatants, on 16th  August 1944 in a flying accident at Tiree, Argyll. Arthur served with 518 Squadron as part of Coastal Command, which was tasked with
meteorological surveys hundreds of miles into the Atlantic, and also keeping observations on U-boat activity.

While taking part in an air test his plane met another in thick clouds, and despite their attempts to avoid each other, it was too late to do so. Both o the pilots involved died. There was an inquiry into the accident by the Flight Commander, which stated that:
“it would appear that Halifax LL296 “S” having been given permission by radio to land, was flying in an upwind direction above the runway in use in order to set the directional Gyro. Having reached a point approximately 1,000 yards from the end of the runway, LL186 “M” broke cloud dead ahead, and then banked violently to starboard but the starboard wing of “S” collided with the port wing of “M”. Both aircraft burst into flames on impact, the fragment falling to the north and south of the island of Loch.”

Arthur Marshall

There is a probate record for Arthur which gives his address as 41 Burrard-Road, London – this differs to a newspaper snippet giving his address as Lower Laith Avenue, but the date of death and the mention of service make it hard to believe this was a different Arthur Marshall. His money went to Enid Jessie Michelson, a married woman from Llandudno. Another mystery we weren’t able to solve. Not like the mystery of the two graves here in the graveyard, because Arthur’s other stone at 2.11 is directly across from Fred and Emma Marshall and their children – but we traced Arthur’s father Will backwards, to his father (also named Arthur), and he is no relation to Fred Marshall. Why was the white marble stone placed there? The answer lies in a clerical error based on two different ways of marking the graves here.

The original sexton’s book marked graves from the school path outwards towards Burnley Road, as this was the direction of travel for adding to the graveyard. When the yard was transcribed in 2006, it was decided that it was easier to change the numbering around to start from Burnley Road instead – it made sense, since the gateway there was the primary entrance into the graveyard. When the CWGC came to place Arthur’s stone, they were using the original record of his burial, which gave a row and plot number that they also assumed was in from the road. It’s a red herring that it happens also be near a Marshall gravestone, although that might have made the CWGC people think they were correct. But alas…everyone who has come to pay their respects to Arthur has actually been paying them to a chap named John Mitchell who died in 1915 aged 59.

Alice Ada remarried to Harry Swindells in 1946, and died herself in 1968. We hope that she found fresh happiness after losing her husband and son. Sadly, her sidestone was moved away from this grave at one point, but we plan to reunite the family.

You can watch a video by researcher Matt about Will Marshall and the Bacup bus tragedy here.

One Comment

  1. Pingback:2.11 – John Mitchell – F.O.C.C.T.

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