b. 06/10/1923 Llanddulas, Wales. d. 20/12/1944 Ariano nei Polesine, Italy.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 27/08 - 20/12/1944 Italy.
Arthur Banks (1923-1944) was born on 6th October 1923 in Llanddulas, Abergele, North Wales, the only son of Charles Chaplin Banks MC and Harriet Margaret Banks (nee Phibbs). His mother originally came from Cheltenham in Gloucestershire. Sadly, Arthur’s mother died when he was six, and his father re-married to Charlotte Phibbs – Harriet’s sister, and they had a daughter, named Margaret. Charles Banks ran a school at Arnold House in Llanddulas taking over from his father, where for a while the novelist Evelyn Waugh studied. Arthur was educated there before going to St Edward’s School. Oxford where he became Head of Apsley House.
While Arthur was in Oxford, he gained the nickname “Sausages” for his keenness to eat them with his school mates. Arthur enlisted in June 1942 in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) and began his training at Mevagissey. In August 1944, the now Sergeant Banks was moved to the “Shark Squadron” A party but was only with the squadron for three weeks when the accident occurred which led ultimately to his tragic death.
On 29th August 1944, during an armed reconnaissance flight over the Ravenna and Ferrara areas of Italy, his aircraft was badly damaged by anti-aircraft fire. Banks was compelled to make a forced landing, and after destroying his aircraft he tried to reach the Allied lines. He made contact with a group of partisans and, during the following months, he became an outstanding figure among them, advising and encouraging them in action against the enemy.
Early in December 1944 an attempt was made at crossing into Allied territory by boat, the whole party was surrounded and captured. Banks was handed over to the German commander of the district, who presided at his interrogation, during which he was tortured. At one stage he succeeded in getting hold of a machine gun, with which he could have killed most of his captors, but one of the partisans, fearing reprisals, stopped him. On 8th December, he was taken to a prison in Adria, where he remained until 19th December, when he was moved to another prison at Ariano Polesine and was again tortured to make him talk, which he never did. He was then stripped, bound and thrown into the river Po; he managed to escape, but was recaptured, taken back to the prison and shot.
Arthur’s body was initially dumped on a dung heap, but after the war, his body was recovered and he was buried in Argenta War Gap Cemetery. Banks’s gallantry was not recognised until 5th November 1946 when events surrounding his death emerged after a post-war investigation. The announcement of his posthumous George Cross appeared in the London Gazette that day. On 3rd December 1946, the GC was presented by King George VI to Arthur’s sister, Margaret Castle. His GC, 1939-45 Star, Italy Star, and War Medal 1939-45 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf are privately held.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: PRIVATELY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: ARGENTA GAP WAR CEMETERY, ITALY.
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
The War Graves Photographic Project
St Clements Danes Church, Aldwych, London