Arnold Dargie

Arnold Dargie was a good friend and fellow officer of Bertie in the 1/1st Welsh Carnarvonshire Heavy Battery. He was born on the 19th of August 1891 the son of Mr and Mrs Thomas Dargie of Derwen Deg, Upper Bangor. While at Grove Park School in Wrexham his athletic prowess was apparent to all and he soon became a prominent figure in local football and sporting circles. He played for Liverpool reserves over 2 seasons and for Wales three times, scoring a staggering 100+ goals, including ten hat tricks for Bangor. At six foot, he was described as a “deadly” centre forward and dribbler sans pareil – never descending to “doubtful tactics”With Bertie playing in defence for fierce rivals Caernarfon,  Arnold must have made a formidable opponent in the pre-war years. As a renown local hero I can only imagine the confidence he must have given his men through the struggles of war.

An interesting piece in the 3rd July 1914 edition of The North Wales Chronicle covered the AGM of Bangor FC. and the merriment caused when discussing Arnold’s continuing role as team captain.  “Mr A. Dargie was again nominated for the captaincy of the first team. Mr Dargie, however, said he had held the post for the last four years, and he felt he should make way for a younger man (laughter). He tried to do his duty last season, but he thought it desirable to resign. The committee, however, decided not to accept his resignation, and prevailed upon him to retain tho captaincy for the rest of the season, though he would turn out if he could. A captain should be able to play every Saturday, and he was afraid be could not “pledge himself to do that”.

The reason for this can probably be seen in the local press and London Gazette which noted his promotions and ongoing commitment to the Carnarvon Heavy Battery early in 1914.

According to the excellent ‘Play up, Liverpool FC‘ website, The Welsh RGA boys won a football match at Northampton County Ground with Arnold scoring all three goals and cheered on by fellow battery members who’d traveled from Bedford Barracks for the match. Their team bolstered by experienced local players, plus another amateur Welsh International in goal, easily swept to victory. This is a place I knew well, but of course had no idea of this connection at the time.

Like George Brymer, the 19 year old Arnold had joined the historic Welsh Carnarvonshire Territorial battery as a volunteer gunner. His regular profession was as a Merchant Tailor in the family firm Bayne and Dargie in Upper Bangor.  His medical examination was carried out by Dr Corbet W Owen, a well respected local physician who was also a member of the battery. Sadly the well respected doctor died young during his military training.

Arnold attended the annual summer training camps at Parkgate, Trawsfynydd and Pembroke Dock in the years running up to the war. His surviving papers show he originally attested in May 1910, then on December 10th 1912, both he and George were commissioned as 2nd Lieutenants which was reported in The London Gazette of March 1913. The regional press frequently covered their activities from formal dinners and preparations for war. The battery had become mobilised within 24 hours of the declaration and with Arnold commanding the right column and George, the left, they carried out their work “most expeditiously”.  While in France he became a Captain on 28th August 1916 and then Major after transferring as Officer Commanding of 137th Battery, then part of the same 15th Heavy Artillery Group) on 7th June 1917. “A striking testimony to his efficiency as a soldier” said the reports. He was mentioned in Dispatches for “for gallant and distinguished services in the field.” By the time the Gazette had listed his final promotion, Arnold had already been killed.

Tragically he was mortally wounded near Lens in France on September 18th 1917. At 19.10hrs on the day he was killed, his battery fired 15 rounds in response to incoming enemy shelling. In the preceding days they had been regularly targeting enemy working parties, transport and the church at Harnes. His funeral was attended by many of his fellow Welshmen from the 1/1st battery who sang Beth sydd i mi yn y bad (‘What is there for me in the world’) as a reminder of home at his grave side. The North Wales Chronicle printed a fitting tribute to a remarkable young man and local hero.

                       Tributes from the Officers and Men

Brandon wrote “It has been a big blow to us all. We were subjected to a lot of shelling on and off during the day. About 7 pm your son was in the trench just outside the dug-out giving orders to a few men, when a shell landed and killed him outright and wounded four others. Everything that could be done was done for him. Although he was so badly hit, he looked as if he was asleep. He was loved by all. A fine gunner, he was one of the best commanding officers I have had the pleasure of serving under.”

While Major H.A. Lewis, RGA, in a letter stated that the shell broke practically at Major Dargie’s feet, killing him almost instantaneously, and wounding two others, who had since died. “His death was painless, and he died as he would have wished to die, fighting with his battery and facing the Hun. He was a kind, courageous British gentleman, always cheery and very willing. He will be missed very much by his battery and by all who knew him.”

arnoldSecond Lieutenant Whalley, in a letter of condolence, mentions that Major Dargie and himself had been joking only a few minutes before the shell landed; in fact, he had a narrow escape himself from the same shell.

A Chaplain wrote as follows: – “Dear Mr Dargie, – I am quite a stranger to you, but I feel I must write to offer you my real sympathy in your time of trial. I knew your son quite well, and he was one of the bravest men I have ever met, and I have met many brave men. Some months ago it was my lot to be with him in some great danger, and I shall never forget his cheery courage, and I know how it helped me.

“I went to see him the very evening he was killed (though, unfortunately, I missed him) in order to arrange a service with his battery. He was always so keen that I should come, and he gave me all the help in his power. The service was arranged for to-day, and, of course, we held it, and you may be sure that we all had him in our mind the whole time.

“Indeed we prayed for him by name, and also, for all who mourned him. It was extraordinary the hold he had obtained over the affections and loyalty of the men of the battery, though he had not been with them long. I buried him yesterday in a large British cemetery.”

Major Brymer (Carnarvon) wrote as follows: – “It is with feelings of the greatest sorrow that I write to offer you and Mrs Dargie and family my deepest and heartfelt sympathy in the terrible bereavement which has befallen you. At the request of all officers, N.C.O.’s, and men of this unit, I also beg to offer their feelings of sincerest sympathy.

“By the death of Arnold I have personally lost a dear and beloved friend, and all my officers and men alike have lost a personality which they respected and admired. . . his sterling qualities . . . This after I, with three of my officers and a party of NCO’s and men attended the funeral in a British cemetery a few kilometres away. The funeral was also attended by officers and men from Arnold’s unit, and you may rest assured that it was carried out with all reverence and respect.

“It will also afford you consolation to know that his grave will be looked after with all care and devotion. We sang a well-known Welsh hymn over the grave, a last tribute we asked to be allowed to pay to a respected officer. I feel I cannot convey to you the feelings of sorrow which are within me. Arnold was such a fine honourable man, He had made himself so well liked by all who came in contact with him, and he had made such a wonderful progress in his work that the thought that he has been struck down leaves one stunned.”

dogA Bombardier from Major Dargie’s battery, in a letter of sympathy, speaks of the way he had endeared himself to the men.
“He was always so kind and appreciative and considerate in every way. He had shown himself to be a commanding officer whom the battery loved, and on whom we could rely. He was so cheerful and happy in his work.”

Gunner W. Donaldson, son of Mrs. Donaldson, the Market Hall, who was in Major Dargie’s battery, writing home to his mother, states that Major Dargie was only about fifteen yards from him when he was killed.

“I will really miss him,“ states Gunner Donaldson, “as we were such good friends, It was a terrible time for us. Four others were wounded, and I helped to carry them to the dressing station, the Germans shelling us all the time. I have been asked by one of my officers when my leave comes off to take Major Dargie’s little dog home to his relatives.”

Brilliant football career

A football correspondent wrote: “As one who watched Major Dargie’s football career, may I be allowed to lay my chaplet on his tomb? If my memory serves me right, Dargie, then a schoolboy, first played at Bangor against the Citizens with the Wrexham Combination team.

His school days over, he joined father in business (at the Dargie Emporium) , and cast his lot with the club of his native town, though Wrexham were very anxious to retain him. He had not played in many matches for the Citizens ere his fame spread far beyond the confines of Bangor. Dargie became a name to conjure with. When, as captain, he strode out of the dressing-room, leading his team- a fine specimen of manhood, the hopes of the supporters of the local club reached their zenith.

Speculation became rife as to the number of goals he would score. Given an opening, woead betide any goalkeeper who tried to stop his shots. More than once the force of his shots not only sent the ball into the net, but the unfortunate goalkeeper as well. Equally at home in any position – centre-forward, full-back, or even between the sticks, he could always be relied upon, and he was such a “sport” that, if necessary, he would turn out with the Reserve team.

To the end he retained his Amateur status and frequently played for Wales in International matches, and also for a short time with Liverpool Reserves. Fame inevitably brings its penalty, and after playing a few seasons, he was scarcely able to touch the ball before several opponents were round him like bees – an irritating practice, but he never seemed ruffled. On and off the field he was the same straight lad.

churchWell, Arnold, you have played your last game in a contest where the trophy is the liberty of nations. You have gone under before the referee has signalled “Time up,” but you have left behind you the fragrant memory of one who, to the end, played the game.”

The Denbighshire Free Press reported that a memorial service was arranged by the special request of the YMCA Committee. A service in memory of Major Dargie was held at Prince’s Road Church, Upper Bangor.

In 1936 his father, Thomas, paid for a supporters stand and at Bangor City football ground in memory of his son. His family moved to Beaumaris, Anglesey where they initiated the Dargie Cup, regarded as the most prestigious event in the Anglesey Football League.

Arnold is buried at Bully Grenay CWGC Cemetery. Grave ref: IV.F.7

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Information for this page has come from Rootsweb, History Points, Play up – Liverpool FC and North Wales Chronicle archive. Special thanks to Michel from Loos who went out specially, after answering my appeal for a photograph of Arnold’s headstone.