AJM Mace

AJM Mace

Two thirds of First World War service records for ranks other than officers were destroyed during a 1940 air raid on London. Fortunately Arthur James Mullinger Mace’s papers were one of the so-called ‘burnt documents’ which survived. They tell us a great deal about his situation and explain why he, and very likely his brother, do not appear on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database. They also tell us that the office boy of 1911 was now a ‘cinema operator’. Arthur Mace joined the 1st Battalion, Welsh Horse regiment at Diss in Norfolk on 7th March 1915, a month short of his twentieth birthday. In September 1915, as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, they sailed for Gallipoli and landed at Anzac Cove. This particular campaign had seen huge losses of Australian and New Zealand forces with 25th April always remembered in those countries as Anzac Day. The Welsh Horse arrived some months after the worst fighting. They had been there just under eight weeks when Arthur first got sick with dysentry and was invalided home on 19th November. His poor record of health continued to afflict him and he was plagued with constant chest pains, breathing difficulties and coughing up blood. On 25th September 1916, after one year and 205 days service, he was discharged from the army, pronounced as ‘being no longer physically fit for war service’ and suffering from ‘tubercular disease of the lung’, (commonly known as TB). It was noted on the form that his father had died of phthisis and a brother was invalided out of the army with the same condition. This was almost certainly William Henry Mullinger Mace who died in Clapham in March 1917. The same report stated that the disease was ‘not due to, but aggravated by experience of hardship on active service’. He was discharged in the aftermath of the Somme at a time when the army’s need for manpower was at its most insatiable. TB would have thrived in the dirty and cramped conditions of trench life, but there was also concern about thousands of infected soldiers returning to their homes and spreading the disease further. The discharge report does note though that his condition might not be permanent and that he should be reviewed in six months. In August 1917, another report stated Arthur’s temporary adddress as being ‘Downs Sanatorium in Sutton’ and that ‘TB is present’. A later one in April 1918 indicated ‘complete incapacity’. A few months later on 1st October Arthur James Mullinger Mace died in South Eastern Hospital, New Cross. This was an old ‘smallpox and fever hospital’ admitting ex-servicemen with TB until 1921. There is something extremely sad about the story of Arthur James Mullinger Mace, the young man who in March 1915 stood five foot nine and whose physical development was noted as ‘good’  was essentially destroyed by his brief exposure to war. He escaped it, yet was condemned to live out the last years of his life in sanatoriums and fever hospitals, in a state of chronic ill health. We had another look for them in the cemetery today but it seems likely they are in unmarked graves. Lambeth Council are going to help us pinpoint exactly where they are. Thank you to Dorothy Williams in Preston for locating Arthur Mace’s service records.

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