Arthur James Latcham was born in 1889, the oldest of five children – all boys – to Walter and Matilda Latcham. The family lived in Street, Somerset, where Walter worked as a carpenter in the Clark’s shoe factory.
Initially following his father into shoemaking, Arthur was quick to enlist when war broke out. Details of Gunner Latcham’s military service is scarce, but documents confirm that he joined the Somerset Royal Horse Artillery on 8th October 1914. He did not see active service abroad, but had been stationed on the east coast for his training.
While little remains of his service records, contemporary media of the day includes a lot of information about both his passing and his subsequent funeral.
On Sunday, December 5th, having a few hours’ leave, he visited his parents at Street, and while at home complained that he was feeling unwell. On the following Wednesday, December 8th (which, by a coincidence, was his twenty-sixth birthday) Mr and Mrs Latcham received a post-card from him from Taunton [where the Somerset RHA was based] stating that he was very ill. They immediately engaged a motor car, and went to Taunton, where they found him in an extremely weak state, and on the point of collapse, he having had to walk to a hospital nearly a mile away three times a day for his medicine. Having obtained the captain’s permission, they brought him home in the motor car, and at once put him under the care of Dr MacVicker. He was then found to be suffering from pneumonia and congestion of the lungs… In spite of the greatest care, and best of nursing, however, he gradually grew worse, and never rallied.Central Somerset Gazette: Friday 24th December 1915.
The following week’s newspaper included nearly a whole column on Gunner Latcham’s funeral, including two tributes, one from his captain and another from the local MP.
I am writing to tell you how very sorry all the officers of this battery are at your loss. Your son was the first member of the Somerset RHA to give his life for his country, and although he did not have the satisfaction of being killed in action, the honour is the same. I’m afraid the last few months he was in this battery were not very happy ones for him, owing to his trouble with his finger; but he bore the trouble and pain well. I had him with me for more than a year, so I can fully appreciate what a good fellow he was and how great your loss is.Captain M Clowes (Central Somerset Gazette: Friday 31st December 1915)
I am very sorry indeed to learn of the sad loss you have suffered through the death of your son. I know that he was a fine fellow, an example of what an Englishman should be, and respected by all who knew him. I am sure you must feel proud to know that he has done all that a man can do, and has died serving his country.Ernest Jardine MP (Central Somerset Gazette: Friday 31st December 1915)
Arthur James Latcham lies at rest in the graveyard of Holy Trinity Church in his home town of Street.
Arthur was the third son Walter and Matilda ad lost. Their second-born, Herbert, passed when a little over a year old. Their third son, William, died a year before Arthur, when he was just 15 years old.