Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

George Sayce

George Sayce :

George Sayce : (L to R) 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

(L to R) 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

George was born on the 9th December 1893 in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. His father was called John Edward and his mother was Ann. He was one of 10 children. We know the names of 9: John E., James, Edith, Annie, Alice, Charles, Nellie and Lizzie, who were all older than him. One of the family's children had died by 1911. We don't know whether this was the other sibling.

John had worked as a house painter since at least 1881. By 1891 John junior and James had both followed in their father's footsteps. In this year the family lived at 20 Copthorne View Cottages in Shrewsbury.

John had worked for someone else in 1891, but by 1901 he had become self-employed. His 2 older sons still worked with him. They lived with Ann and their younger siblings at 15 St Mary's Street in Shrewsbury.

At some point over the next 10 years the family moved to Oldham, Lancashire. In 1911 John and Ann lived with Annie, Alice, Charles, Nellie and George at 35 Churchill Street near Alexandra Park in Oldham. John's sister in law Mary Green and granddaughter Elsie Jones also lived with them. We don't know whose child Elsie was.

John still worked as a house painter, and had also branched out into churches. He had become successful enough to employ others. Charles had followed in his father's footsteps, but George had not. He worked as a fitter for a company that made textile machinery for Oldham's many cotton mills.

As well as his civilian job, in mid-to-late 1912 George joined the Army. He enlisted in the 10th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was a unit of the Territorial Force based in Oldham. George kept his civilian home and job and trained as a soldier during evenings and weekends, as well as an annual training camp lasting around 2 weeks. His service number was 1444.

When the First World War broke out in August 1914 the 10th Battalion was called up for full time service. They were sent overseas on the 10th September and arrived in Egypt on the 25th.

During this period George was a member of the battalion's Machine Gun Section. This used the Maxim Machine Gun to support the battalion's operations. This section was commanded by an officer, Captain Albert Leach, and included 21 soldiers. On the 3rd November they left the rest of the battalion.

The Section was sent to Ismailia to assist Indian units in guarding the Suez Canal. They became the first members of the 10th Battalion to see combat when they helped to defeat 2 Turkish attacks on the Canal. They were both launched in the early morning, one on the 27th January 1915 and the other on the 3rd February. According to Albert 'the men behaved very well under fire'.

George returned to the rest of the battalion at the end of February. After 2 more months of training he left Egypt and took part in the invasion of Gallipoli on the 5th May. By this time the battalion had been renamed the 1/10th Battalion.

Within days George and his comrades were in the front line and taking casualties from the Turkish defenders. On the 4th June the British launched a large attack on the village of Krithia. George and the 1/10th Battalion advanced further than most British units, but this meant when the Turks counter attacked they were cut off and forced to withdraw without capturing the village. The battalion lost many men killed and wounded during this fighting. Their next large operation took place on the 6th and 7th August, again in the Krithia area, and again unsuccessfully.

From then on life in Gallipoli was quieter, but no less dangerous. The 1/10th Battalion took its turn in the front line and in the rear; it took casualties from Turkish snipers and artillery as well as losing men to diseases such as diarrhoea and dysentery.

The battalion left Gallipoli on the 21st January 1916 and returned to Egypt. They moved into the Sinai Desert and began preparing defences to protect the Suez Canal against a Turkish attack. They remained here until March 1917 when they were sent to the Western Front in France and Belgium. They fought here until the end of the war in November 1918.

At some point George left the 1/10th Battalion and returned to the UK. We don't know when this was, or why he had to leave. Like all soldiers serving with the Territorial Force he was given a new service number during March 1917: 375169.

By the end of the war George was serving with the 5th (Reserve) Battalion of the Manchester Regiment at Scarborough in Yorkshire. He held the rank of Acting Sergeant.

After the war George was demobilised and left the Army. He returned to Oldham and his work as a fitter.

On the 20th August 1921 George married Edith Scholes in St Thomas' Parish Church in Werneth, Oldham. When they got married he lived at 41 Chelmsford Street and she lived at 90 Villa Road. We don't know where they made their home.

George and Edith lived in Oldham for the rest of their lives. We know they lived on Lorne Street in Werneth for some time. They had 2 sons. George junior was born on the 23rd October 1922, and Kenneth on the 24th January 1925.

By the end of their lives George and Edith had 5 granddaughters. Edith died in September 1974 at the age of 76. Less than 3 months later George junior died. He was 52.

George died shortly after his 85th birthday, in December 1978. His medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in August 2011.

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