Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Pte Arthur Richard Bastin

There were a large number of Bastins living in Exeter and Devon. Arthur's father Joseph worked as a jobbing gardener and married Mary Ann Broom in 1872. They had 9 children, one of whom died in childhood, which was not unusual in Victorian times. Arthur was the youngest, born in 1894 in the St Thomas area of Exeter. In 1911, he was apprenticed as a Brass Finisher to Willey's Foundry, a firm that was in existence in Exeter from the 1860's to the late 1980's and one of the largest employers in the city. In 1912 he joined the 1st Wessex Field Ambulance, Regt No: 1689, and trained as an Orderly in the Nursing section. His elder brother Ernest was also a pre-war member of the unit and probably influenced him to join.

Arthur was not a regular attender at first but in January 1914, was part of a squad of recruits who won the Recruit Competition at the unit's annual prize giving. His brother Sidney was in the same team. Arthur was mobilised with the unit on 5th August 1914. He was assigned to the second line unit  2/1st Wessex Field Ambulance and trained with them until recruiting bought them up to strength and they landed in France on the 16th January 1916. The 2/1st were put under command of the 55th (West Lancs) Division and served on the Somme, at Passchendaele, Cambrai and Bethune. 
North Evington War Hospital - Formerly a Poor Law Infirmary, built in 1905, it became the Leicester General Hospital, still in existence
Two weeks after the Armistice, Arthur was taken ill and evacuated via Boulogne back to the UK. He was thought to be suffering from nephritis but as an in-patient at the North Evington War Hospital in Leicester, he was diagnosed with a tumour on the small intestine. He never recovered from surgery and died from "exhaustion" on 15th January 1919. His body was taken back to Exeter and buried in St Thomas' Cemetery, Exwick.

Arthur's grave in the foreground, his brother is buried further back up the hill.

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