b. 13/12/1884 Shipdham, Norfolk. d. 23/11/1965 Lambeth, London.
Arthur Henry Cross (1884-1965) was born in a cottage opposite a chapel in Shipdham, Norfolk on 13th December 1884. Although he was named Arthur Henry, he was always known as either Henry or “Crossy”. He was the son of William Cross, a wheelwright and carpenter of Shipdham and at the age of 17 he left home and went to work in Camberwell and was employed on the Great Eastern Railway and later at Woolwich Dockyard. He took part in the Derby Scheme as a Private and enlisted in the 21st London Regiment (1st Surrey Rifles) on 30th May 1916.
His battalion was in the 142 Brigade of the 47th (London) Division but in 1917 he joined 121 Company, 40th Battalion Machine Gun Corps, 40th Division.
On 25th March 1918 at Ervillers, France, Lance-Corporal Cross volunteered to make a reconnaissance of the position of two machine-guns which had been captured by the enemy. With the agreement of his sergeant he crept back alone with only a service revolver to what had been his section's trench and was now the enemy's. He surprised seven soldiers who responded by throwing down their rifles. He then marched them carrying the machine guns complete with the tripods and ammunition to the British lines. He then handed over the prisoners and collected teams for his guns which he brought into action immediately, annihilating a very heavy attack by the enemy.
He was decorated with his VC at Buckingham Palace on 4th September 1918. On 16th September 1918, on the village green at Shipdham, he was given a gold watch by the local vicar, inscribed “Presented by the people of Shipdham to Lance Corporal A H Cross VC, September 1918”. Soon afterwards, Cross was charged with being absent without leave from the Army and at Dereham, Norfolk, Cross stated that he had been granted extra leave, to continue after his presentation, in order to visit his mother in Shipdham. Cross was handed over to the Army authorities. On 31st March 1919 he was discharged from the Army as a Corporal. After his military service he increasingly found it hard to get employment and after his gratuity was spent he fell on hard times. In April 1920 he lived at Trinity Buildings, Mermaid Court, Southwark and was unemployed for some time as he was suffering from gastritis. Unable to keep his family on his disability pension, he accepted a job of council scavenger at £3 17s a week. In 1923 he was again up in the courts and charged with loitering for the purposes of street betting. On another occasion he was bound over for stealing a postal order when in the employment of the Post Office before he became a city messenger.
He was first married to Miss M Harrison, who subsequently passed away. In the Second World War, his second wife and two of their children were killed in an air raid in May 1941, when they had gone down into the air raid shelter and Cross stayed in his flat. The shelter received a direct hit. Subsequently, he continued as a city messenger and lived alone. In the 1950s he answered an appeal by the makers of the film “Carrrington VC”, who wanted the star, David Niven, to wear a genuinine VC in the courtroom scenes. Cross lent them his and had his photograph taken with the famous actor. He attended several VC events including the Centenary in Hyde Park in June 1956.
Cross was found dead by his daughter on 26th November 1965 at Marshalsea Road, Lambeth, the small flat that he had lived in for 30 years. He was a long time member of the Machine Gun Corps Old Comrades’ Association, and when he died in 1965 the MGC / OCA arranged his funeral and adherred to his wish that his burial would be a simple affair. No headstone marked his grave in Streatham Vale Cemetery, although there was a small headstone commemorating his second wife and two children who were killed during the Blitz in 1941. Arthur Cross's first wife also lies elsewhere in the cemetery in an unmarked grave.
The idea to erect a proper marker over Arthur Cross's grave was first suggested by Geoff Willars who, after contacting the the MGC / OCA, made a significant donation to start a fund to erect a headstone, after which Judith Lappin, the Honorary Secretary of the MGC / OCA, took up the challenge.
Various interested parties and relatives contributed funds to the project and following a feature about the fundraising in "This England" magazine further donations were made by readers and the Editor generously agreed to provide whatever further money was needed to purchase the headstone. OCA Committee Member, Robert Collister BEM, managed to trace Victor Cross, son of Arthur Cross, who gave permission for a headstone to be placed over his father's grave on condition his mother's name be included. ( Sadly, Victor Cross died before the ceremony took place ). The service, held on Thursday, 27th September 2001, arranged by Judith Lappin of the MGC / OCA, was officiated by the Association's Honorary Chaplain, Colonel ( Rtd ) The Reverend John Barrie. The material carefully chosen for the headstone comprised green granite with silver lettering.
Following his death, his medals including his VC and MM were held privately in the family. On 19th April 2012, the medals were sold at Spink’s, London and sold for a hammer price of £185,000 to an unknown buyer. The medals are now in private ownership.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: SOLD AT AUCTION FOR 185,000 IN APRIL 2012. (BUYER UNKNOWN).
BURIAL PLACE: STREATHAM VALE CEMETERY, LONDON.
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
PLOT E, SQUARE 27, GRAVE 885
All Saints Church, Shipdham, Norfolk