Arnold war heroes’ shop, Llandudno
William Arnold, a Norfolk grocer, came to Llandudno in 1882 and set up a family drapery business at this shop in Mostyn Street, now the local Principality Building Society branch. Four of his five sons enlisted to fight in the First World War. Remarkably, all four were decorated for heroic deeds with the Tank Corps.
At the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (in the Somme region of France) in September 1916, Arthur Arnold in his tank “Dracula” broke through enemy lines. This was the world’s first battle involving tanks. Despite being wounded in the knee, he went to help another tank, rescued a wounded man and brought his tank back safely. He was awarded the Military Cross, one of the first people ever to be decorated for tank warfare. After recovering from his wounds in Britain, he rejoined the Tank Corps in 1917. During an attack near St Julien he was shot through the lung and taken prisoner.
On 20 November 1917, Lt Col Clem Arnold was in the vanguard of the Tank Corps’ charge towards German lines at Cambrai (south of Ypres, Belgium). The 381 British tanks easily crossed the three German lines. There were 1,500 British casualties, versus 10,000 German prisoners and 200 guns captured. Bells were rung across Britain, for the first time in the war, to celebrate the victory. Within 10 days, the Germans had retaken all their lost ground.
During the Battle of Amiens in August 1918, Clem was in charge of a Whippet light tank which he’d named “The Musical Box”. The tank was hit and burst into flames. He pulled his two crew members out of the tank but one died. He was taken prisoner. Clem Arnold, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, was befriended by his German captor – they are pictured together (right).
In 1920 a tank that had fought at Cambrai was given to Llandudno. Clem Arnold, with a five-man crew, drove it through the town to its display location on the Marine Drive.
Frank Arnold received the Military Cross. Col William Arnold was awarded the DSO in June 1918 for service with the 2nd Tank Brigade. While a prisoner of war at Freiberg in 1918, he was joined by Clem.
Arthur and William settled in South Africa after the war. Clem helped to run the drapery business but at the Second World War’s outbreak he joined the local Territorial Army unit and became commanding officer of the 69th Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery (pictured left). After the war he returned to run the shop and was a well-known local character. He died in 1978.
With thanks to John Lawson-Reay, of the Llandudno & Colwyn Bay History Society