Born at 'East Hayes' on Cheltenham's Pittville Circus Road, 3rd February 1885, KILBY was the son of Sandford and Alice (nee Scott). His father was involved in Customs and was formerly in the Bengal Police. Arthur KILBY attended Bilton Grange School in Rugby, Winchester College and then Sandhurst, joining the South Staffs in 1905. A Captain by 1910, he was another who went abroad with the first elements of the BEF in August 1914, and the following month he was reported to be "...separated (from his unit), wounded and missing between 25/26 September". The officer's father, who was living in Leamington Spa by this time, received a letter nearly a month later, written by Captain KILBY himself, describing how he had been "shot through the right arm and lung". Sandford KILBY was concerned that the official news pertaining to the unknown whereabouts of his son had reached him after the latter had informed him he was being cared for in a British Military Hospital. The Military Secretary wrote back to Mr. KILBY senior, informing him that "...the difficulty of reporting casualties from the Front is sometimes very great". Sandford KILBY also implored the authorities not to evacuate his son back to England as he was "...a very bad sailor...and sea-sickness might be very bad for him", bearing in mind the injury to his lung.
It was later revealed that Captain KILBY had also been wounded by an explosion on 26th August 1914 (three days on from the Battle of Mons), and after a spell in hospital, he had rejoined his battalion, whereupon he soon penetrated the German lines on his own bringing back valuable information. In mid-November 1914, severe fighting around Ypres saw some sections of the French army retreating, and the gaps were filled by men of the South Staffs, supervised by Captains KILBY and JOHNSON, both of whom were injured. KILBY received a Military Cross, but the combination of his wounds required him to convalesce in England, and he did not return to Flanders until the following May. Throughout August and into September KILBY carried out "...consistent good work, making some useful reconnaissances, imbuing all ranks with keenness by his example, reconnoitring German strong-points at close quarters along a narrow canal path. Major MORGAN commented later: "His...absolute fearlessness animated his whole Company with a spirit which will never be forgotten".
On 25th September 1915, a major British offensive began at Loos, and KILBY volunteered to lead the attack on a strongly-defended enemy redoubt, charging along the canal path with his men even though he was wounded at the outset. The murderous machine-gun fire was unrelenting, and KILBY fell fatally injured, yet he still urged his men onwards, firing at the Germans with his rifle as they hurled bombs at the attackers. The precise time or even date of his death is not certain, however Lance Corporal F. HALL, DCM, alluded to from an English hospital in October 1915:
"Informant (HALL) states that he last saw Captain KILBY at Quincy (Cuinchy) near Givenchy (on)
25th September with a shattered foot and wounded hand. Captain KILBY was lying on the canal side
between our lines and the enemy's shouting to his men to go forward, unable to go forward himself
he still kept encouraging his men...Captain KILBY was sinking very fast from the loss of blood when
Informant last saw him. It was impossible to render first-aid to anyone as the towing path on the
Canal side was swept with shell and machine-gun fire.
Another eye-witness stated he saw Captain KILBY "...dragging himself towards our line (with) one foot blown off". A short while later, the former looked again and the officer "seemed to be dead", lying in a hollow with "a film of gas just above it". Before the advance, KILBY's Brigadier had implored him to wait until half the Company had gone forward, realising the Captain's knowledge of the area was vital, but after problems with gas, the senior officer believed KILBY had deliberately led from the front to maintain impetus, and most probably knew he would be killed in the attempt.
After dark, search parties were sent out to look for the wounded, but Captain KILBY could not be found, and for official purposes he was posted as "wounded and missing, possible prisoner", although survivors were convinced that their leader could not have survived as he had been "hit several times". In October 1915, several white crosses were allegedly discovered, placed by the Germans, and bearing the name of, amongst others, Captain KILBY. This has never been verified, although it is said that the German battalion commander defending the position on 25th September later passed a message to the British which read: "The KILBY family may think of their son with pride, as we remember him with respect". Sandford KILBY wrote another letter to the War Office during February 1916, which informed them:
"I propose to publicly announce the fact that my son was killed in action on 25th September 1915...
He always said that if it was to be his fate to be killed in action he hoped he would die leading an
attack. He now lies with his gallant comrades around him, thus ending a noble and glorious career".