Sapper Arthur Gravill
98th Light Railway Company Royal Engineers
Sapper Arthur Gravill was born in 1898 in Epworth Lincolnshire. He was the eldest son of Herbert and Jenny Gravill and brother to Ernest and Olive. At the age of 13 he was working as a grocer errand boy. The 1911 census records the family living in Chapel Street Epworth, where Ernest’s father, Herbert, was working as a farm labourer.
At the time of his enlistment, Arthur was working as a railway shunter with the Great Central Railway and the family were listed as living at Bottesford Moor, Scunthorpe. He enlisted in Lincoln, into the Royal Engineers, 98th Light Railway Company, in May 1917.
On the 17th December 1917, the 98th Company embarked at Southampton on the ship HMS Osmanieh and sailed for Egypt, disembarking in Alexandria on 31 Dec 1917. The Osmanieh was mined the same day and sunk with the loss of 199 lives.
In January 1917 the Egyptian Expedition Force were making preparations to attack Gaza in Palestine and the 98th were moved there to ease transport problems. To supply the Gaza front, there was a need for a system of light railways. When this was begun, the railhead at Deir El Belah to the mouth of the Wadi Ghuzze, was almost entirely within range of the enemy’s guns and the operating trains were continually exposed to shell- fire. Deir El Belah became the rail head in April 1917 and an aerodrome and camps were established there. By autumn the British forces turned their attention to the next objective: securing Jerusalem. This fell into allied hands on 9th December 1917. In the whole campaign, the British suffered a total of 550,000 casualties. More than 90% of these were attributed to disease, heat and other secondary causes. Hostilities ceased on 30th October 1918. Arthur survived the hostilities but suffered from the poor conditions.
Sapper Arthur Gravill died of pneumonia on the 9th January 1919 in the 69th General Hospital age 21 years old.
Remembered with Honour
Deri El Belah War Cemetery, Israel and Palestine.