Stanstead Abbotts

Local History Society

Maurice Arnott SPICER

Corporal 81840

B Coy 32nd Infantry Battalion (Alberta Regiment) Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force

Killed in Action 22nd May 1915 aged 33

Born on 23rd April 1882 in Hambledon, Surrey, one of nine children, where he lived with his parents Herbert and Martha.  In the 1891 census he was in Brading on the Isle of Wight, possibly on holiday, and 10 years later he was living in Oakwood Hill in Surrey, and his father appears to have been absent from the house on the night of the census as his wife does not describe herself as a widow.  At the time of Maurice’s death his family were living at Cranbourne, St Margaret’s.

From 1897 until 1899 Maurice studied at Mill Hill School in North London where he was a member of Burton Bank House (along with his brother Cecil who also fought and fell, see his page).  By 1901 Maurice was working as a dairy farmer, and within a few years he had emigrated to Canada, where he became an estate agent, possibly to join his brother Charles who had already left the UK.

When the war broke out in 1914 he joined the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force on December 14th 1914, with his brother, Cecil.  He was posted to B Coy. 32nd Infantry Battalion and sailed to England in February 1915, from where they were shipped to France in late May and June 1915.  He had been promoted to Corporal but after only a month in the field he was killed in action at the battle for the village of Festubert. This was part of the Artois offensive, which the British First Army undertook to assist the French who were providing the bulk of the troops for this offensive. It began on 11thMay with a 60 hour bombardment by 433 guns that fired about 100,000 shells. Initially the advance on the first day made good progress in good weather conditions but after 3 days of heavy fighting two British Divisions had to be withdrawn due to heavy losses.  On the 18th May the Canadian Division, assisted by the 51st Highland Division renewed the advance but made little progress due to heavy German artillery fire.  The allied attack then stalled and the troops had to dig in during heavy rain and the attack did not continue until 20thMay and lasted until the 25thMay when the village of Festubert was captured.

The Canadian Division had advanced a matter of 900 meters on a 1.6 km front but it had cost them 2968 casualties of whom 661 were dead.  It is said by a witness that Maurice was killed by a German soldier dressed as a Scottish Highlander.

His body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Canadian Memorial at Vimy Ridge near Lens.

Medals Awarded: British War Medal, Victory Medal, Canadian 1914-15 Star