Arthur Luston Owen


This biography was written by Victoria Doran.

Arthur Luston Owen was possibly the youngest of the local men to die in the First World War, being still short of his 17th birthday when he died at Gallipoli.

Arthur Luston Owen photo.JPG

Arthur Luston Owen

Arthur was born in West Kirby the eldest of the 4 children of Thomas Arthur Owen (1866-1914) and Sarah Ann Preston (1864-???). He was baptised at St Bridget on 8 January 1899. No connection has been found to explain his middle name of Luston.

Arthur Luston Owen baptism cropped jpg.jpg

from St Bridget, West Kirby parish register

His father Thomas was born in Welshpool, Montgomeryshire in 1866 to John Waring Owen (1838-???) and Sarah Emma Owen (1843-1890). By the time Thomas was 15 the family had moved to Irby, where his father was employed as a gardener, sometimes as a jobbing gardener and sometimes on market gardens. Arthur must have known his paternal grandfather, as in 1911 John Waring Owen was living with Arthur’s maiden aunt, another Sarah Emma Owen, who ran a Tea Room and Gardens at Rose Cottage, Thurstaston Road, Irby. John Waring Owen probably died in the same quarter year as Arthur.

Tea Garden, Irby.jpg

The Tea Gardens, Irby

His mother Sarah Ann Preston came from a more exotic background. Her parents Jabez Preston (1839-???) and Ann Stubbs (1837-???) were married on 16 November 1856 at St Mary, Edge Hill, Liverpool.

Jabez Preston & Ann Stubbs marriage.jpg

Jabez Preston was only 17 years old and Ann Stubbs 19, but both lied about their ages at the marriage.  Both were from Cheshire, Jabez, a groom, from Winsford and Ann from Northwich. The marriage was by banns, but Ann must have been very obviously pregnant as their eldest child Matthew Henry Preston was born on 26 November only 10 days after the marriage.

Two years later on 21 November 1858 when Matthew Henry Preston was belatedly baptised, Jabez was described as a soldier. The family then moved with the army to India. Arthur’s mother Sarah Ann was born as their second surviving child on 5 February 1864 at Umballa, Bengal, India.

The family had moved to Fort William, Calcutta by January 1867 when Eliza was born. By January 1869 when Margaret Elizabeth was born they had returned to England and were living in Aldershot, so presumably Jabez was still in the army. If he served for 12 years, he was probably awaiting his discharge at this time.

The next child Samuel was born in Runcorn, Cheshire at the beginning of 1871, and by the census of that year Jabez was working as a labourer at a chemical works in St Helens, Lancashire. On 14 May 1876 Edwin, the final child in the family was baptised at St Helens.

After that Jabez disappears from the records. Edwin was subsequently adopted by an unrelated family. At the 1881 and 1891 censuses Sarah Ann’s mother, Ann described herself as a widow and charwoman, but whether she actually was a widow is unknown as no death has been found for Jabez.

Any army tales Arthur heard as a child must have come to him very secondhand and probably exaggerated by his mother or uncles and aunts. His grandmother Ann also disappears after 1891, so it is unlikely he knew her, though possibly she remarried. 

At the 1891 census, Sarah Ann Preston was working as a domestic servant for William and Mary Caddow in Church Road, West Kirby. On 4 May 1898 she married Thomas Arthur Owen at St Mary, Birkenhead.Until his death at the age of 48 in the 3rd quarter of 1914, Thomas Arthur Owen worked as a builder’s labourer.

In 1901 the family, now including Walter Owen (1900-1976) were living in Village Road, West Kirby. By 1911 they had moved to 2 South Road and Arthur now had 2 more brothers Frederick (1902-1968) and Thomas Gilbert (1908-1990) as well as a sister Ada Doris (1905-???).

Arthur Luston Owen DA 17 Sep 1915 words.JPG

Deeside Advertiser 17 September 1915

Note that Arthur is described as being a year older than he actually was. From this article we know that Arthur worked for E & T Beddard when he left school. The Beddards were coal merchants at the station yards at both West Kirby and Hoylake. It is not known in what capacity Arthur worked for them.

In early November 1914, despite being only around his 16th birthday, Arthur enlisted in the Cheshire Regiment as Private 2804. He presumably lied about his age, but was accepted as he was well developed for his age.

Cheshire cap badge

Cap badge of the Cheshire Regiment

His military record has not survived, but we know that after training he landed at Gallipoli with his Battalion the 1st/4th Cheshires on 8 August 1915. Like many of his companions he did not survive long, being killed in action a week later on 15 August. He was still several months short of his 17th birthday.

He is commemorated on the Helles Memorial at Gallipoli, as well as Grange Hill War Memorial and the plaques in St Bridget and St Andrew churches, all at West Kirby.

Helles Memorial as joeg

Helles Memorial, Gallipoli

Birth: Dec 1898 at West Kirby
Death: 15 Aug 1915 at Gallipoli, Turkey; killed in action
strong>Addresses: Village Road, West Kirby (1901); 2 South Road, West Kirby (11); 19 Westbourne Road, West Kirby (15)
strong>Occupation: worked for coal merchant
Unit: 1/4th Battalion Cheshire Regiment
Number and Rank: 2804; Private (Signaller)
Medals: 15 Star, Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: Helles Memorial, Gallipoli, Turkey
Sources: GH, WK, CWGC, MC, DA, Census: 01, 11, BR, PR, India baptisms


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