Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

George Robert Gunn

George Robert Gunn :

George Robert Gunn : General Service Medal 1918-62 with clasp 'Iraq'

General Service Medal 1918-62 with clasp 'Iraq'

George was born in around August 1900 in Burnley, Lancashire. His mother was called Margaret Alma, and he was an only child. His father had died before 1909, and in that year Margaret married Frank Greenwood.

By 1911 they lived at 30 Derby Road in Burnley. Frank worked as a blacksmith's striker at a coal mine, and Margaret was a weaver in a cotton mill.

The First World War broke out in August 1914, but George was not old enough to join the Army until mid 1918. He was conscripted into the Welsh Regiment in around late July or August and given the service number 78970. George trained in the UK, and did not see service overseas before the end of the war in November.

By February 1919 George was a member of the 52nd (Graduated) Battalion of the Welsh Regiment, based at Saxmundham in Suffolk. This was a unit that held soldiers who had completed their basic training and were waiting to be drafted overseas. As the war was over the Army was demobilising thousands of war veterans. It still needed soldiers though, so the Army offered cash bounties to men willing to volunteer to stay in the Army. It is likely that George took advantage of this offer.

On the 5th February George was 'discharged to re-enlist' in the Manchester Regiment. He was given the service number 88880. We believe he spent some time in the 20th Battalion, although we don't know when or for how long.

By February 1920 George had joined the 2nd Battalion in Tipperary, Ireland. He went with them to Mesopotamia, now Iraq, on the 13th.

Between April and July the Battalion was based in Tikrit, they then moved to Hillah. Many of the soldiers in Iraq were inexperienced and were not fully trained on all the Battalion's weaponry. Many of the men who had served in the First World War had already been demobilised. George's experience, however limited it may have been, will undoubtedly have been helpful to him and his comrades.

On the 24th July 1920 the Battalion was around 20 miles outside Hillah when it was attacked by Arab tribesmen. They held off the Arabs until nightfall, and then D Company was ordered to hold position to allow the rest of the Battalion to get away. George escaped back to Hillah, but 79 of his comrades were captured by the Arabs. They were released in October.

George and the 2nd Battalion left Mesopotamia on Boxing Day 1920 and moved to Kamptee in India. He was given the new service number 3513643. At some point he returned to the UK, and was discharged as 'services no longer required' on the 11th December 1922.

George went to live with his mother and Frank at 20 Guildford Street in Burnley. We don't know what job he had or anything about his life until the 18th March 1931 when he reenlisted in the 8th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was a unit of the Territorial Army based in Ardwick. As a Territorial George will have kept his civilian job and trained as a soldier during evenings and weekends.

George's previous experience seems to have served him well. He was promoted to Corporal on the 25th February 1935, which means he had already been promoted to Lance Corporal. Between the 12th and the 25th May of that year he attended a Hygiene and Sanitation Course at the Army School of Hygiene in Aldershot, Hampshire. He passed.

During this time there were 6 members of the 8th Battalion who had served in Iraq in 1920. Of these men, the medals of George and of Thomas Haddock are in the Museum of the Manchester Regiment collection. A comrade remembered George and another veteran, 'Paddy' Fitzgerald, often 'arguing violently with each other in what I was told by other 'old sweats' was profane Arabic'.

George was still serving when the Second World War broke out in September 1939. The 8th Battalion was called into service and began training at their drill hall. Perhaps because of his age George left them on the 20th February 1940 for the 8th (Home Defence) Battalion of the King's Royal Rifle Corps.

We don't know anything about George's service during the Second World War, although it is very unlikely that he was sent overseas. Afterwards he suffered from spinal trouble and by 1949 he was forced to go and live at the East Lancashire Home for Disabled Sailors and Soldiers, at Broughton House in Salford. He would live there for the rest of his life. He died aged 54 on the 30th October 1954.

George was popular with his fellow old comrades, they often visited him. He was described as 'extremely cheerful' and 'an inspiration'. His medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in May 1997. Broughton House is still open in 2013, and continues to offer residential care to military veterans.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council