Captain Arthur Henry Leslie Soames, MC, Légion d’Honneur

by Wayne Cronin-Wojdat.

Soames Grave (Jimmy Jones)

Arthur Henry Leslie Soames was born on the 20th May 1887 in Wrexham1. He was the son of Frederick William Soames and Julia Mary Soames. At the time of the 1891 census the family was residing at Llwyn Onn Hall, Wrexham2. Frederick William Soames was the owner of the Soames brewery located in Wrexham town centre.

Arthur Henry Leslie Soames was already serving with the 3rd King’s O Hussars prior to Great War. His service records give little  informati about  his  movements.       On the 26th November 1912 flying a Vicke monoplane, at the Vickers School, Brooklands, Surrey, he achieved h flying certificate1. Brookland flying school was established in 1910 a  was one of the first flying schools in England, making him one of Gre Britain’s early aviators.

On the 13th August 1914 Arthur Henry Leslie Soames joined the Briti Expeditionary Force and embarked to the Western Front3. His date embarkation made him amongst the first aviators to serve on the Weste front. His services led to him being mention in despatches on the 19 October 1914. On the 1st January 1915 he was awarded the Military Cross4/5. The Military Cross was awarded to him in recognition of his services in aerial reconnaissance and was presented to him by the King5. He was also recognised for his actions by the French and was being awarded the French Légion d’Honneur5/6.

In February 1915 he returned to England to undertake work as an instructor at the Central Flying School. On the 3rd March 1915 he was promoted to the rank of temporary Captain. This rank was designated to him for the period of his posting as a Squadron Leader engaged in instruction at the Central Flying School4.

On the 7th July 1915, Arthur Henry Leslie Soames was the officer in charge of the experimental section at the Central Flying School. He was involved in an experiment with a new type of bomb in woods near to the Netheravon Hospital, Wiltshire, England6. A report into the inquest states, “It was stated in evidence that he was fatally injured while testing a high explosive bomb by means of a fuse. It appeared that the Captain was behind a tree between 90 to 100 yards from the spot where the bomb exploded, but he was struck by a piece of the projectile, and died shortly afterwards5.”

The inquest returned a verdict of ‘Accidental Death’5/6. The report also recorded that a colleague, Major Boase was also injured during the incident6.

On Saturday 10th July 1915, Arthur Henry Leslie Soames was buried in the churchyard at All Saints, Gresford, Wrexham, in a service performed by Rev. Daniel Davies, Vicar of Wrexham7.

The death of Arthur Henry Leslie Soames was acknowledged by the King in a letter dated 10th July 1915 that was sent to Captain Paine, the Commandant of the Central Flying School, Upavon. The letter read,

“Dear Mr Paine,

The King is greatly distressed to hear of the death of Captain Soames through an incident, and I am commanded to convey to you the expression of His Majesty’s sympathy in the loss of a gallant comrade and experienced flier.

His Majesty well remembers Captain Soames having decorated him some time ago with the Military Cross and also having seen him give an exhibition on bomb throwing on the occasion of his visit to Upavon.

The King would like to know further details of the incident by which Captain Soames lost his life8.”

Arthur Henry Leslie Soames left an estate valued at £282 8s 7d was administered by his father, Frederick William Soames of Bryn Estyn, Wrexham9.

The Great War had devastating consequences for the Soames family. As well as the death of Arthur Henry Leslie Soames, the family also had to cope with the death of his brother William Noel Soames. Lieutenant William Noel Soames of the Cheshire Yeomanry died on the 19th May 1916 in Egypt10/11. Another brother, Captain Julian Alfred Soames, of the Royal Welch Fusiliers was seriously injured and had to have a leg amputated12. Additionally, on the 20th October 1914, Edith, Arthur Henry Leslie Soames sister, lost her husband, Captain William Miles Kington, of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers who was killed in Tonnebeke, Belgium13.

Arthur Henry Leslie Soames father Frederick William Soames had a brother, Harold Soames14. Harold Soames and his wife Katherine Mary Soames (nee Hill) had a daughter, Olave StClair Soames15, who was Arthur Henry Leslie Soames cousin. On the 30th October 1912 Olave StClair married Lord Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting movement16.

Great War Graves at All Saints, Gresford

Gresford War Memorial

Also see Soames Family and Brewery. & Soames at All Saints Church Gresford by Jimmy Jones.


Sources:

  1. Royal Aero Club, Entry for Arthur Henry Leslie Soames, Royal Aero Club Index Cards and Photographs, Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon, England.
  2. Public Record Office, Census returns of England and Wales, 1891, Class RG12, Piece 4614, Folio 5, Page 5, Kew, England.
  3. Army Medal Office, Captain Arthur Henry Leslie Soames, WW1 Medal Index Cards, Western Front Association.
  4. Public Record Office, Service record for Arthur Henry Leslie Soames, Catalogue Reference AIR/76/475, Image Reference: 406, Kew, London.
  5. The Wrexham Advertiser and North Wales News, Saturday 10th July 1915, Wrexham Museum & Archives, Wrexham.
  6. The Royal Aero Club, Flight: The Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom, 16th July 1915, p.517
  7. Gresford Burials 1887 – 1944, Entry for Arthur Henry Leslie Soames, number 827, page 104, Gresford Parish Registers volume 29 (microfilm), Reference PD/34/1/563, Wrexham Museum & Archives, Wrexham.
  8. The Wrexham Advertiser and North Wales News, Saturday 17th July 1915, Wrexham Museum & Archives, Wrexham.
  9. Principal Probate Registry, Entry for Arthur Henry Leslie Soames, Probate date 11th May 1917, Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Probate Registries of the High Court of Justice in England, London, England.
  10. Grave photographs by Jimmy Jones.