Arthur Wellesley Polybank
Service number: 94837
Regiment: Royal Army Medical Corps
Born: 4th quarter 1889
Died: 5th March 1919
Age: 29 years
POLYBLANK*, Arthur Wellesley. 1889-1919. *Shown as POLYBANK on the war memorial.
His birth was registered in Poplar in 1889 and he was baptised on 14th May 1890 at St. Michael and All Angels, St. Leonards Road, the son of George, a shipwright and Rebecca of 243 Brunswick Road, Bromley by Bow. George was born c.1849 at Rotherhithe and he may be the person who was bound as an apprentice to Richard Waters of Limehouse on 13th February 1866 (Thames Watermen and Lightermen records).
Arthur’s parents were married in Poplar in 1875 the birthplace of his mother Rebecca French. Rebecca’s father Robert was born at Northfleet in Kent but by 1871 he and his wife Elizabeth, their son and 2 daughters plus a 10 year old grandson (Thomas F. Goss) were living at 15 Bow Lane, Poplar. Robert aged 63 and his 23 year old son William were employed as shipwrights.
In 1891 George and Rebecca are still at the above address together with their nine children, the eldest Alice is 15 whilst Arthur, the newest arrival, is 1. Sadly by 1897 both parents had died within 5 weeks of each other. Rebecca, aged 46 died on 17th January and her husband followed her on 22nd February at the age of 48. The Death Duty indexes show that George was Rebecca’s executor, whilst an A. R. Polyblank was George’s executor. Arthur would have been only 7 years of age when left an orphan.
By 1901 the siblings had moved and were living at 50 Star Lane, Canning Town, in a household headed up by their eldest brother George aged 22 who was working as a stevedore in the docks. Alice is missing but the rest of the family are occupying the whole house and the majority are working. William 18 is a butcher’s assistant, Albert 17 a printer’s warehouseman, Alfred 15 is an apprentice leather bag maker whilst Arthur 11 (presumably still a schoolboy) is assisting on a milk round. Beatrice aged 20 is a waitress but her 23 year old sister Annie has no occupation shown so perhaps she looked after the home whilst their 13 year old sister Vera, who should have been shown as a scholar but this entry is blank, seems to have changed her name from Ethel.
In the December Qtr. of 1914 Arthur married Florence Hilda Plater at Lambeth; she was born on 11th May 1888 at Wycombe? This couple had 2 children – Edgar born on 12th September 1915 and Cynthia born on 25th December 1917. Both births were registered at Lambeth.
Arthur joined the Royal Army Medical Corps as Private 94837 and died on 5th March 1919. His last known address was 169 Railton Road, Herne Hill, London, SE24 while his brother William was living at 132 Railton Road in 1911 with his wife and son. Arthur was buried in Grave No. 9719 in Square 4. If there was a stone to mark the grave it has since disappeared but the grave is just in front of a large headstone recording his mother’s French family.
Before Arthur was called up he was employed at Smithfield Market in London where his name is displayed on the Market’s war memorial.
Arthur’s widow Florence does not seem to have remarried as she is living at Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire in 1939 with her daughter Cynthia Radford and her son-in-law Eric Radford, a van driver employed by the Co-operative Society. At this time her son Edgar is married and living in Croydon employed as a Precision Fitter Mechanic with the words ‘ARP Ambulance’ also shown against his name in the 1939 Register.
One of Arthur’s brothers, Alfred Mordaunt Polyblank fortunately survived the war and distinguished himself in the submarine world. He joined the Royal Navy at Portsmouth in 1903 aged 18 and was mentioned in the London Gazette twice when he was awarded the Roumanian Cross of Military Virtue 2nd Class and received the DSM in 1919 for services in submarines. He enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy on 25th March 1919 as Boatman II (AB), No. 3661. It would appear he stayed in Australia for the rest of his life.