British War Medal
George was born between April and June 1883 in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire. His father was called Lawrence and his mother was Wilhelmina. He had 3 older siblings: Matilda, Thomas and Lawrence, and 3 younger: Maria, John and Sarah. The family were members of the Church of England.
In 1891 the family lived at 24 Craven Street in the Hurst district of Ashton. Lawrence worked as a labourer at an iron foundry. Ten years later they had moved to 4 Ney Street in the Waterloo district. Lawrence still worked at a foundry. George was a brickmaker's labourer. He was also a soldier.
George had joined the Lancashire Fusiliers Militia on the 27th December 1900. This meant he kept his civilian job and lived at home, but trained as a soldier for a short period every year. When he enlisted George was 5 feet 2 1/4 inches tall and weighed 105 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion with brown eyes and hair. He was assigned to the 5th Battalion and given the service number 635.
When George enlisted the Boer War was being fought in South Africa between the British and Boer settlers. The 5th Battalion was called into service on the 6th May 1901 and sent to South Africa soon afterwards.
We don't know anything about the 5th Battalion's time in South Africa. We believe George left them in March 1902, before the end of the war on the 31st May, and returned to the UK, although we don't know why.
After he was disembodied George returned to his civilian life. He was allowed to miss the 1903 training period, but was present at every other annual training until the Militia was disbanded on the 1st August 1908. The Militia was replaced with the Special Reserve. This was intended to be more useful to the Army. Whereas Militia soldiers could only be called up to serve in their units, Special Reservists were intended to join units of the Regular Army as individuals or small groups. George spent 2 years 147 days as a Special Reservist. He left the Army on the 26th December 1910.
On the 17th January 1903 George married Susannah Shepley at St James' Church in Ashton. We don't know where they made their home, but they had had no children when the First World War broke out in August 1914. By this time George worked in a coal mine. He lived at 13 Cross Street, off Old Street in Ashton.
Like many thousands of men George joined the Army soon after the outbreak of war. He enlisted in the Manchester Regiment on the 19th September and was given the service number 6177. He was now 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 119 pounds. He was assigned to the new 13th Battalion which was being formed at the Regimental Depot in Ashton-under-Lyne.
By the end of 1914 the 13th Battalion were at Eastbourne in Sussex. With his experience in South Africa George could have been extremely valuable to his comrades, but instead he seems to have got into trouble quite often.
The first offence that we know of took place on the 3rd December 1914 when George was 'drunk and using obscene language in entrance to Grand Hotel'. He was Confined to Barracks (CB) for 5 days. George overstayed his leave pass from 10pm on the 25th January 1915 until midnight on the 29th, and then missed the battalion's Church Parade on Sunday the 31st. Again, he was confined to barracks. On the 20th February he was found 'drunk in Compton Street' at about 8:20pm. He was fined 2 shillings and 6 pence (2/6) and confined to barracks for 10 days.
Soon after this the 13th Battalion moved to Knockholt in Kent. The new surroundings don't seem to have affected George's behaviour. He went Absent without Leave (AWOL) on the 12th March and was arrested around 7 miles away in Bromley. He was given 168 hours of Field Punishment Number 2. This involved doing hard labour and being held in fetters or handcuffs the rest of the time.
Just 2 weeks later George received the same punishment for 'striking a comrade and stating a falsehood to a Non Commissioned Officer'. He was also confined to barracks for the same length of time.
At Seaford in Sussex George was AWOL on the 4th May. He was given 3 days CB and fined 2 days pay. The 13th Battalion moved to Aldershot in Hampshire later that month. Whilst he was there George was found 'drunk' on the 5th August. He then 'violently resisted the garrison picquet'. For this he was given 14 days in detention and fined 2/6.
At around 10pm on the 28th George went AWOL again. He was 'apprehended by police in Ashton' the next day and returned to face 10 days CB. During this period he was 'insolent to a Medical Officer' on the 2nd September and given 168 hours in detention.
The 13th Battalion crossed to France on the 7th September. They served in the trenches around Hebuterne, Bayonvillers and Chuignes during the month between the 11th September and the 14th October. They saw very little fighting and lost only 5 men. In late October they were informed that they would be sent to Salonika in Greece (today called Thessalonika). They arrived there on the 5th November.
George was a member of D Company when the battalion went overseas. Being in a war zone doesn't seem to have improved his behaviour. On the 25th September George missed the 10am parade. He was given 24 hours Field Punishment Number 1. This was similar to FP Number 2, except that the soldier could also be tied to a fixed object for up to 2 hours per day, on 3 days out of 4.
The original aim of sending troops to Salonika was to support the Serbian Army, but it had been defeated before they arrived. The force was kept there anyway. Men stationed in Salonika spent most of their time building defensive positions, and did very little major fighting. The main threat they faced was not the Bulgarians or the Austrians but disease. Malaria was rampant, and other diseases would sometimes sweep through the force.
During his time in Salonika George committed several more offences. He was absent on at least 6 occasions between arriving in Salonika and the end of April 1916. His punishments included being confined to barracks, given Field Punishment Number 1 and fined.
George fell sick in June 1916. On the 9th he was admitted to 28 General Hospital in Salonika suffering from myalgia, or fever. He did not recover quickly so on the 15th he was sent to St Paul's Hospital on the island of Malta. After a month he was still sick, so he was returned to the UK to recover. George arrived on the 15th July and was admitted to 2 Western General Hospital at Seymour Park in Manchester.
George was discharged from hospital on the 1st August. He had made a full recovery. He was allowed home until the 10th, and then reported to the 14th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment at Brocton in Staffordshire.
By the end of August George had returned to his old habits. On the 21st he was confined to camp for 10 days after overstaying his pass for 3 days 11 1/2 hours. He also forfeited 5 days pay. A week later he was given 28 days of Field Punishment Number 2 for 'making an improper reply to Lance Corporal McQueen'.
On the 31st August George returned to France. He was assigned to the 30th Infantry Base Depot at Etaples until he could be assigned to a unit. The 16th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment claimed him on the 25th September.
George served with the 16th Battalion throughout the rest of 1916 and all of 1917. They fought at Flers Courcellette during October then spent the rest of the year at Bellacourt. During early 1917 they served in the Arras area. In late May they moved north to Ypres in Belgium. The battalion took part in the Passchendaele Offensive during the autumn of 1917.
On the 15th February 1918 George was tried by a Court Martial on the charge of being drunk whilst on active service. He was found guilty and sentenced to 28 days Field Punishment Number 1.
In March 1918 the 16th Battalion was stationed around Manchester Hill near St Quentin. They were expecting a German attack, and one began on the 21st. After hard fighting all day the battalion was overwhelmed and many of the survivors were captured. George was one of the prisoners.
At first the Army classed George as missing. This was what they told Susannah. They did not find out he was a Prisoner of War (POW) until the 19th April. The war ended on the 11th November, so the Germans had to release all their POWs. George returned to the UK on the 16th December. We don't know where he had been held during his time as a POW.
George was discharged on the 11th April 1919. He returned to Ashton and found work as a miner. He may have struggled to adapt to civilian life, or maybe he missed the Army, but on the 8th July 1921 he reenlisted in the Manchester Regiment. They gave him the service number 3516852. He served until the 7th July 1922, when he left and returned to his home at 5 Beswick Street in Ashton.
We don't know anything about what George did during this time, and the rest of his life also remains a mystery. His medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in around 1960. As well as his British War Medal, George was also awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Cape Colony', 'Orange Free State' and 'South Africa 1901', the 1914-15 Star and the Allied Victory Medal for his Army service.