SECOND LIEUTENANT ARTHUR MAX SPENCER
12TH APRIL 1917 AGE 19
BURIED: HIGHLAND CEMETERY, ROCLINCOURT, FRANCE
This inscription throws light on the timing of the War Graves Commission's request for inscriptions, and for the information families would like included in the cemetery registers.
Arthur Spencer was killed on 12 April 1917, helping his men out of a trench as they went over the top into an attack. The Yorkshire Post announced his death on the 18 April:
Sec. Lieut. Arthur Max Spencer, Rifle Brigade, second son of Mr H.H. Spencer of Eshott, the well-known Yorkshire golfer, has been killed in action.
Do you see how father, Mr Herbert Harvey Spencer, was described - "the well-known golfer"? There's nothing here about him being an MP. This is because he wasn't. He didn't become an MP until 1922 and he lost his seat in 1924. So now we can tell that the Commission's request must have come some time between these two dates.
Five months after Arthur's death there is another announcement in the Yorkshire Post:
Capt. J.F. Spencer ... elder son of Mr H.H. Spencer ... has been severely wounded in the left shoulder and right arm. He is now in a London hospital, making good progress. He was invalided home from the front at Christmas last year with diphtheria, but returned in March last.
But this is not the end of the story as the Leeds Mercury of the 11 October 1920 relates:
The body of the well-dressed young man who was found dead in the billiard room of the Pavilion Hotel, Scarborough, on Friday night with a bullet wound in the mouth and head, and a service revolver by his side was identified by his father on Saturday as that of John Fredrick Spencer of Halifax Road, Bradford.
Herbert Spencer told the inquest that his son had been severely wounded in 1917 and that although he had remained in the army until the end of the war he had never been fit enough to return to the front: "He never had full use of his arm, and he was never well. He did not show shell shock noticeably until he fell from his [motor] bicycle about three months ago". Since then his state of mind had deteriorated rapidly. The coroner, who had lost his own son in the war, returned "a verdict of suicide during temporary insanity".
Nor is this the end of the family's tragedies.
Hull Daily Mail, 15 February 1924
Considerable sympathy is felt for Mr H.H. Spencer, Liberal M.P. for South Bradford, and Mrs Spencer, who received news on Thursday, by cable, of the death of their only surviving son, Mr David H. Spencer, as the result of an accident in Canada.
David Spencer, who was 21, had been staying with relatives in Canada after graduating from King's College, Cambridge. He was killed in a mountaineering accident in British Colombia. The news report ends with the information that the Spencers have one remaining child, a daughter.