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Bridgwater, Somerset
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Arthur Oswald Major

Captain 1/5th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry

Arthur Major was born in Bridgwater in April 1875. His parents were Henry James Major, a brick and tile manufacturor employing 120 men and 100 boys and Julia Mary Holmes. In 1881 they lived a little way down from and across the road from the Horse and Jockey Inn on the edge of St Matthew's Field. Arthur had two brothers, one older and one younger and an older sister. The family employed a nurse, a housemaid, a cook and a gardener. In 1891 the family lived in 9 Northfields and Arthur, aged 15, now had two more younger brothers. By 1901 Arthur had joined his father's company as a clerk and still lived at home. By 1911 he had worked his way up to cashier.

The Battle of El-Gib recorded on his memorial is now known as simply part of General Allenby's wider Battle for Jerusalem in November 1917. On 21st November, Allenby's 75th Division had been held up by hostile artillery fire. Orders were given for the Wiltshire Regiment and the Somerset Light Infantry to attack and capture the fortified villages of El Jib and Bir Nebala. On 22nd November, they moved forward with a squadron of cavalry, the Somersets at the front of the attack under the command of Captain Major. A mistake on the first day held up the attack and the men had to endure a cold night camping in their warm-weather tropical kit. The following morning they attacked El Jib, and immediately came under severe shrapnel and high explosive fire, without the benefit of their own counter-artillery. The Somersets nevertheless moved forward under intense machine gun fire. Captain Oswald Major, who went forward with his company, was first wounded and then killed outright by shellfire. Small groups of his men reached the village, but all perished. His battalion lost 69 killed and over 400 wounded in the unsuccessful attack.

Arthur was 42 when he died and there is no record of him having married. He was laid to rest on the Mount of Olives outside of Jerusalem, and this memorial records how for him to have been buried in such a holy place was a consolation for the family.

On 5 December 1917 the Bridgwater Mercury reported 'Bridgwater Officer killed in Palestine: Captain Arthur Oswald Major of the Somerset Light Infantry was killed in action on November 23rd. Profound sympathy is felt for his father Mr Henry Major J.P. Captain Major was 42 years of age and was a most efficient officer. He joined the forces as a private and steadily worked his way through the ranks. He served for three years before being transferred to Egypt. He attended Dr Morgan's School and he was very proficient at sport, playing hockey for the county. He had many skills and was a sidesman at St. Mary's Church, also taking bible classes. Many tributes have been paid to him.

Two years later his name was added to the new memorial erected to his father, Wembdon Road Cemetery number 204. The inscription reads: In Loving Memory of Henry James Major who died December 7th 1919 aged 91 years. Also Julia Mary Major wife of the above who passed peacefully to her rest Dec 24th 1934 aged 88 years. My peace I give unto you. Also Winifred Major 14th October 1963 aged 91 years. Capt. A. Oswald Major 1/5th P.A. Somerset Inf. the beloved son of Henry J & Julia M. Major who died in action in the Battle of El-Gib Nov. 23rd Palestine 1917 aged 42 years, laid to rest on Mount of Olives.

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