Contributed by Mr Peter Saskill
Sergeant Arthur Woodifield (1870 –1950) was a Londoner. Born in Islington (then in Middlesex) on 5 November 1870, he is recorded in the 1891 UK Census as living at home with his parents William and Ann, and he was working for a nautical instrument manufacturer. He was a skilled man, a member of the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers, one of the 110 livery companies in London, and this gave him the Freedom of the City in November 1898 at the age of 28.
Early in the new century he moved to Maidstone in Kent with his wife Jessie and their daughter Dorothy, 2 years old. He married Jessie in April 1898, and remained married to her for the next 52 years until his death. Sadly, their daughter Dorothy would die in 1905 aged 6 years old, but the couple had two more children soon afterwards.
Arthur Woodifield was certainly older than most when he went to war. Records indicate that he landed in France a few days before the Battle of Loos in September 1915 at the age of 45. This is unusual but far from unknown for older men to volunteer, especially if they had desirable skills. The Military Service Act (1916) reduced the upper age limit to 41, so had he waited a few more months he would probably have been rejected. He lived fairly close to the Royal Engineers Regimental HQ at Chatham, and this was the regiment he joined so it is possible he had contacts there. Little is known of his service record while in France, but he spent some time at the Royal Engineers Base Depot in Le Havre. He was still in France in 1919, and he was retained in Class Z Reserve until its abolition in 1920.
Arthur died at his south coast home in 1950, aged 79. His widow Jessie followed him in 1957 at the age of 87. He had been awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal (pictured, left-to-right), known affectionately to the soldiers of the day as ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’ after the popular strip cartoon characters. Recipients of the campaign stars were awarded the other two medals automatically. While the War Medal was a strictly British award, the Victory Medal represented all of the Inter-Allied powers, each country designing its own version utilising common factors agreed in March 1919. All three medals were impressed with the name, rank, service number and unit of the recipient.