Photograph of George in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: Acc3372
(L to R) Military Medal; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal
George was born on the 30th January 1896 in Chorlton, Manchester. He was baptised at St Peter's Church in nearby Levenshulme on the 29th March. He was named after his father and his mother was Lydia Sabriah. George had an older brother called Herbert, and 4 younger siblings: Edward Herbert, Alice Emily, Eva and Lilian. Herbert was born on the 27th February 1895 and died between April and June of that year, so George never knew him. The family were members of the Church of England.
George senior was self employed as a shop fitter, making display cases. He also sold wooden puppets, which Lydia would dress. When George was born the family lived on Broom Lane in Levenshulme, Manchester. They were at number 64 in 1901, but we don't know if this was their home 5 years earlier. By 1911 the family had moved to 9 Ventnor Avenue in Levenshulme. George had begun to work as an errand boy for a butcher.
The First World War broke out in August 1914. On the 15th April 1915 George left his job as a clerk to join the Army. He joined the 8th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was a unit of the Territorial Force and before the war it was based in Ardwick, Manchester. As the Army expanded at the beginning of the war the 8th Battalion formed a second battalion (2/8th). It also formed a separate training unit called the 3/8th.
When George enlisted he was 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighed 113 pounds. He was given the service number 3773. He will have been issued size 6 boots when he joined the 3/8th Battalion to begin his training.
George was promoted to Acting Paid Lance Corporal on the 14th December. Early in 1916 he moved to Witley in Surrey with the rest of the 3/8th Battalion. He left the UK on the 26th April to join the 1/8th Battalion in Egypt. He reverted to the rank of Private on the 2nd June 1916.
In Egypt George helped to guard the Suez Canal against a Turkish attack. He will have spent a lot of time living in the desert building defensive positions. The Canal was threatened by the Turks until August, when British victories forced them to retreat into the Sinai.
On the 7th November 1916 George was assigned to the 127th Brigade Machine Gun Company. This was made up of 4 sections, one from each battalion in the 127th Brigade (the 1/5th, 1/6th, 1/7th and 1/8th Battalions of the Manchester Regiment). Machine Gun Companies operated the Vickers machine gun. This was used to support the infantry, who were mostly armed with slower firing and shorter ranged rifles. We don't know whether George had been a machine gunner in the 1/8th Battalion before the 127th Brigade Machine Gun Company was formed.
In March 1917 the 127th Brigade left Egypt and moved to France. They served on the old Somme battleground at Epehy and Havrincourt during the summer of 1917, before moving north to Ypres in Belgium during late August.
The brigade guarded the North Sea coast at Nieuwpoort whilst the Passchendaele Offensive was fought around Ypres. They returned to France in mid November and were stationed around Bethune.
On the 27th November George and his comrades in the 127th Machine Gun Company left the Manchester Regiment. They were transferred to the Machine Gun Corps. George was given the service number 73857. This Corps was formed so that machine gunners across the Army could help each other develop the specialist skills their job required. It also made it easier to bring large numbers of machine guns together to support the Army's operations.
George was not with the company when they were transferred. He had been admitted to the 1/2nd East Lancashire Field Ambulance on the 23rd. He is recorded as 'sick' and we don't know anything else about his condition. He returned to the company on the 12th December. He was promoted to Unpaid Lance Corporal on the 29th of that month.
In early 1918 the British began to expect a German attack. This would involve aircraft attacking troops on the ground. If they were used properly, machine guns could be very effective against the low-flying, flimsy and slow aircraft of the time. George was sent on an Anti-Aircraft Course on the 18th February to learn how to do this. The course lasted a week.
Between the 24th February and the 2nd March the 4 Machine Gun Companies in the 42nd Division were formed into the 42nd Machine Gun Battalion. The 127th Company became C Company of this new unit. This meant even more machine guns could be easily grouped together, and there were more machine gunners working together to improve their skills.
George was promoted to Acting Paid Corporal when this reorganisation took place. He left the battalion on the 11th March to go on a course at the Corps Gas School. This lasted for 8 days. Two days after he rejoined the 42nd Battalion the German attack began.
At first the attack, called the Spring Offensive, was extremely successful. The British were forced to retreat, and tens of thousands of soldiers were killed, wounded or captured during the first few days of the attack. The 42nd Division were in the rear when the Germans struck on the 21st March, but by the evening of the 23rd they were in the front line at Ervillers.
After 2 days of German attacks the Division was forced to retreat to Bucquoy. They held on here until the 5th April. At some point during this fighting George carried out an act of great bravery. He was awarded the Military Medal in the London Gazette of the 27th June. There was no citation with his award, so we don't know exactly what he did or where he did it. We know George was presented with his medal, but we don't know when.
Machine guns provided a lot of firepower but required a very small crew. For this reason they were often used to hold off the Germans for as long as possible whilst large numbers of British infantry retreated. This was highly dangerous and many thousands of machine gunners were killed at their posts. George had a lucky escape on the 6th April. He was wounded in action and evacuated to hospital.
We don't know where George was treated, but by the end of June he was well enough to be sent to a Convalescent Camp. We don't know where this camp was, but George left it on the 5th July and rejoined the 42nd Battalion.
The same day George was admitted to the 1/3rd East Lancashire Field Ambulance. He was suffering from cellulitis in his right arm. We don't know how long he spent there before he returned to duty.
The British and their Allies had defeated the German offensive by this time. On the 8th August they began one of their own. The advance cost many lives, but was extremely successful. By the 26th September they had reached the Canal du Nord at Havrincourt.
The Germans had built a strong defensive position along the Canal. It was called the Hindenburg Line. The British began their attack on the 27th. They broke through the Hindenburg Line, but many men of the 42nd Division were killed or wounded. George was one of them.
He had been shot in the left hand, the pelvis and the right kneecap, or patella. George was taken to the 15th Field Ambulance for treatment, but his condition was serious so he was sent to the rear. He was admitted to the 49th Casualty Clearing Station at Grevillers, but he could not be saved and died the same day. He was 22 years old.
George is buried in Grevillers British Cemetery near Bapaume, along with 1923 other men. His grave reference is XIV. A. 14. His parents received his personal items during May 1919. His Military Medal was amongst them. They had been asked whether they wanted to have the medal awarded at a public ceremony, but decided they would rather receive it by post.
Edward spent the war in the 7th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. After he returned home he married and had one son, who he named George William in honour of his brother.
Edward died aged 68 on the 15th February 1966. At some point George William junior emigrated from the UK and went to live in Canada. He married, and towards the end of his life we believe he lived in Burnaby, British Columbia. He died in 2002.
Edward and George's medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment together in October 2005.