Golby, George Arthur. Died 22nd Mar 1917

George Arthur GOLBY, was born in Paddington, London, in about early 1895, the son of Arthur John Golby, a painter, and his wife, Emma née Hamer, who was born in Marylebone, London. Arthur and Emma’s marriage had been registered in Greenwich in Q2 1894. Whilst George was born in Paddington, it seems likely his mother had been visiting her parents.

The family seems to have been established in Rugby, where Arthur John Golby had been born in about 1868 in Hillmorton, his father in turn having come to Hillmorton from Oxfordshire, before the 1880s, to work as a bricklayer.

George was christened at Hillmorton on 14 April 1895 and his sister was born in Rugby in about 1897.   By 1911 the family were living at 5 Paradise Street, Rugby.

George attended Murray School, where he was the ‘… winner of the Over Prize – which is offered annually to the boy who, in the opinion of his fellows, shows the best example of true manliness – in 1907.’[1] By 1911, when George was 16, he was a Clerk for an Electrical Engineers, and living with his parents and younger sister. He is not mentioned on the British Thompson Houston memorial, so must have worked for another firm in Rugby.

There is some confusion over George’s military service. His death notice suggested that he was a ‘…L-Corpl … of one of the Rifle Corps …’, however, his Medal Card and the CWGC describe him as Sapper No.95858 in the 89th Field Company Royal Engineers [RE]. His Medal Card also stated that he went to France on 30 October 1915, although there is no specific mention of reinforcements arriving with the 89th around that date in the War Diary.

The 89th Field Company were attached to the 14th Division which had been in action in August and September 1916 at Hooge, Delville Wood and Flers-Courccelette. It seems likely that George was part of the general reinforcement during the ‘quieter’ winter period as between 30 October and George’s death on 22 March 1917, the 14th Division and hence the 89th were not in any major actions, although they would later be actively involved in the battles at Scarpe in April 1917.

George wrote a letter to W T Coles Hodges which was published in the Rugby Advertiser in January 1916.[2]

OLD MURRAYIAN’S LETTER

Sapper Geo A Golby, a former scholar at the Murray School, and an “Over” Prize man, in a letter to Mr W T Coles Hodges[3] from the front says: “I have been out here since early in October, and have got quite used to the shells, etc, screaming over my head … I look forward to receiving the Rugby Advertiser every week, and am always pleased when I see the name of one of my old school chums in the list of recruits. I think by the number of names I have seen that our school is doing its share to free the world of these barbarians, and I am sure that if those who have not enlisted could just have a glimpse of this country, they would not hesitate for a minute. Only this morning we passed about a dozen old people (all between 60 and 70 years of age, I should think) whom the Germans had shelled out of their homes. It is a sight such as these that make us so anxious to get at the Huns. … I am pleased to say we are having a spell of fine weather just now, and goodness only knows we want it, as we are nearly up to our knees in mud in some places. This is the only thing to complain of out here; the food is extra.”

However, George was killed ‘… by a stray shell …’ on 22 March 1917 which was a month before the battle of Arras, when he was involved in work just to the south of Arras making the preparations for that battle.

The 89th Field Company’s War Diary[4] relates that in later February 1917 the Company had been strengthening defences in Arras, working to prepare Advanced Dressing Stations, strengthening cellars, preparing Trench Mortar positions and signal stations. From 18-20 March 1917 they were working on bridging trenches and were subjected to heavy shelling by the Germans. Then on 21 and 22 March …

21 March – … Nos. 3 and 4 Sections with two parties of 80 men each from 41st Bde, clearing main road through Beaurains.

22 March … Work the same as 21st. … No.4 Section caught by shellfire in Ronville … casualties, Lce Cpl Mitchell, Lce Cpl Golby, Saprs Anderson, E Durston, J Jones, Little, killed, …

Three more of the Engineers in that working group were wounded and two concussed.

George was buried at Beaurains Road Cemetery, Beaurains in grave ref: 1 C 21. His mother chose the inscription, ‘Lord we asked of thee life. But thou hast given him life everlasting’. The cemetery was near where he had been working on the southern outskirts of Arras. The five other men from his Field Company who were killed by the same shell were buried beside him in graves C18 to C23.

The cemetery was only begun a few days before Beaurains was captured by Commonwealth forces on 18 March 1917 [just four days before George’s death]. It was a month before the Battle of Arras began, and the Germans were still in nearby Tilloy-les-Mofflaines. The cemetery was used (sometimes under the name of Ronville Forward Cemetery) until the beginning of June by the 14th (Light) Division Burial Officer and by fighting units.[5]

George was awarded the Victory and British medals and the 1915 Star. He is remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate. The Rugby Advertiser noted that ‘… all the Over prizemen, who are of military age are actually in the firing line, and that two have made the great sacrifice, the other being Corpl Barnwell.’[6]

After the war, his mother was writing to the CWGC from 202 Ducane Road, Shepherd’s Bush, London, and it seems that Emma and George had moved to London – George’s death was registered in Hammersmith in 1927.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

This article on George Arthur GOLBY was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, February 2017.

 

[1]       From a notice of death in the Rugby Advertiser.

[2]       Rugby Advertiser, 8 January 1916.

[3]       Wm Thos Coles Hodges of 17 Gainsborough Street, Rugby, was headmaster of Murray School from at least 1906.

[4]       Royal Engineers, 14th Division: Piece 1889/3: 89 Field Company Royal Engineers (1915 May – 1919 Jun). Also available at www.ancestry.co.uk.

[5]       CWGC, http://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/…

[6]       Lance Corporal George Thomas BARNWELL, No.3026, 1st/6th Bn South Staffs, was killed on 15 July 1915. He was the son of J and E Barnwell of 35 Claremont Road, Rugby and buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery. See https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/barnwell-george-thomas-died-15th-jul-1915/.

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