Arthur Joseph Down was born on 23rd August 1881 in Deptford, Kent, and having worked as a clerk, then joined the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class (Chatham No.198143) with Impregnable on 4th February 1898, before being advanced to Boy 1st Class whilst with Ganges on 9th March 1899. Rated as an Ordinary Seaman whilst back with Impregnable on 23rd August 1899, after a stint with Pembroke I, he then joined the guard ship Monarch at Simon’s Bay, South Africa on 9th December 1899, shortly after the outbreak of the Boer War.
Down was then posted aboard the gunboat Thrush at the Cape on 24th August 1900, when she was commander by Lieutenant Warren Hastings D’Oyly, he served with her during the Boer War and was one of 65 men of her crew to receive the Queen’s South Africa Medal 1899-1902 without a clasp, 80 medals in all being awarded to this ship.
It was whilst Down was aboard Thrush and playing a minor role in the Boer War, he having been appointed to Able Seaman on 26th May 1901, that the ship received a far more interesting posted to West Africa, when he became one of 46 men of his ship to see service in support of the Aro Expeditionary Force when in early 1902 Thrush helped the British force in Nigeria re-open trade routes on the Lower Niger, closed by the piracy of some locals. These operations which officially began on 15th November 1901, ended on 23rd March 1902. In all only 75 Africa General Service Medal 1899-1956 with the clasp for Aro 1901-1902 were issued to men of the Royal Navy, the other vessel being the Southern Nigeria gunboat Jackdaw, of which 29 men received medals.
Posted to Pembroke on 30th May 1903, Down subsequently saw service afloat aboard Jason from May to December 1903, Aboukir from June 1905 to March 1906, Black Prince from March 1906 to March 1908, Inflexible from November 1908 to November 1910 and finally Albion from December 1910 to August 1911, before being discharged ashore from her on 22nd August 1911.
With the outbreak of the Great War, Down did not however rejoin the Royal Navy, and instead saw service as a Driver later Corporal (No.75499) with the Royal Field Artillery, being present out on the Western Front from 10th July 1915 with the 15th Divisional Ammunition Column, and later transferring as a a Corporal (No.439826) to the Labour Corps, prior to his being transferred to the Class Z Army Reserve on 5th March 1919.
The addition Army service during the Great War is certainly interesting, I dare say he must have had his reasons for not going back to sea, although, I am not sure that would have been a safer option given the ever present dangers.