George, Hubert Trehearne. Died 19th Jun 1918

Hubert Trehearne GEORGE’s birth was registered in Q2, 1898 in Southwell, Nottinghamshire.  He was the son of Walter George, who was born in about 1853 in Worcester, and Harriett, née Blissett, George, who was also born in Worcester, in about 1855.  Their marriage was registered in Q2, 1876, in Martley, Worcestershire.

In 1881, his father had been a ‘Schoolmaster, Wesleyan’ and the family were living in Moor Lane, Southwell.  In 1891, the family were still living in Moor Lane, and Herbert’s father was an ‘Elementary Schoolmaster’.  There were three children at that date: William B George, 14; Walter H George, 12; and Nellie E George, 6.

By 1901, his father had become the Headmaster of an Elementary School, and the family had moved to live in Park Street, Southwell.  Hubert had now ‘arrived’ and was three years old.  In 1911, Hubert was 13, and his parents were still living in Park Street.  Hubert, being much younger, was the only child still at home and his father, now 58, was still teaching as a ‘Head, Elementary School, County Council’.  His parents had now been married for 34 years and had four children who were all still living.

At some later date between 1911 and the war, it seems that the family moved to Rugby, possibly because of the educational opportunities for their son, and Hubert attended Lawrence Sheriff School.  They lived there for the rest of their lives.  His mother died in Rugby, aged 76, in about early 1930, his father died there aged 88, some ten years later in late 1940.

Unfortunately no Service Records have survived for Hubert, but it seems that he joined up in Rugby, and he served – at least initially – as a Private, No:PS/11642, in the Royal Fusiliers, later he would be posted to become No:104281, in the 1st Section of the 8th Bn. Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) (MGC).  At some date he was promoted Lance Corporal.

There is no date when Hubert went to France, but it would probably be some time after he joined up and he was unlikely to have been sufficiently trained – or indeed old enough to serve overseas – until sometime in 1917.

The 8th Battalion of the MGC was formed on 20 January 1918 from 23rd, 24th, 25th and 218th Machine Gun Companies and was part of the 8th Division.

Whilst it was fairly quiet at the start of 1918, Hubert would have continued to be involved in the routine of trench warfare, and the front was comparatively quiet prior to 21 March.

However, an attack by the Germans had been anticipated and on 21 March 1918, they launched a major offensive, Operation Michael, against the British Fifth Army and the right wing of the British Third Army.  The German artillery targeted command and communications; then, the destruction of artillery; and then the front-line infantry.  The artillery bombardment began at 4.40am on 21 March 1918, and hit targets over an area of 150 square miles, the biggest barrage of the entire war.  Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours.

This first action on 21 March 1918 was known by the Allies as the Battle of St Quentin, and the 8th Battalion was engaged in the Battle of St Quentin (XIX Corps/5 Army) from 23 March 1918; and then the actions on the Somme Crossings, 24-25 March 1918; the Battle of Rosières, 26-27 March 1918; the actions at Villers Bretonneux (III Corps/4th Army), 24/25 April 1918; and then later in Battle of the Aisne (IX Corps/6 French Army & 5 French Army), 27 May to 6 June 1918.[1]

In the absence of an immediately accessible War Diary, various memoranda have been found on-line relating to members of the 8th Battalion MGC, and these have been collated to establish the locations and activities of the Battalion.  There is some overlap and ‘conflict’, but these give an impression.  It is known that Herbert was captured, but it is not known where or when.

Although not subjected to the initial thrust of the offensive, the 8th Division fought a series of costly actions during the remainder of the month.  Between 24-25 April, the Division was involved in a desperate defence of the Villers-Bretonneux sector to the east of Amiens that would result in catastrophic casualties.  At the end of the month, orders were issued for the 8th Division to proceed to a training area near Abbeville.  This was cancelled, although some movement had already commenced.

30 April – the Transport Section of the 8th Battalion MGC mobilized.  Travelling eastwards, the night was spent at Soues to the west of Amiens.

1 May – the battalion transport set forth once again and proceeded to Pont-de-Metz to the south-west the town.  The Base Depot of the M.G.C. was located at Camiers.  At 9.30 a.m., the 8th Battalion, M.G.C. embussed at a road junction located at Les Croisettes, north of Huppy, and proceeded by lorry to the west of Amiens where they debussed at Ferrieres.  The battalion then proceeded by route march to Pont-de-Metz.

2 May, 8th Battalion, M.G.C. Headquarters with “A” and “B” Companies entrained at Saleux.  After a lengthy journey travelling south for much of the day, they then detrained at Fere (Fere-en-Tardenois) and marched to Mont-St.-Martin located to the south-west of Fismes on the banks of the River Vesle.

3 May – the 8th were located at Saleux to the south-west of Amiens.  The 25th Infantry Brigade were located at Huppy, to the south of Abbeville and further to the south, the 8th Battalion, MGC were in or near the village of Doudelainville.  “C” Company entrained at Saleux arriving in the late evening at Mont-St.-Martin followed by “D” Company who arrived at the latter place early on the morning of 4 May.  The division had by now received orders to move south to positions north of Reims and to occupy the front line near the River Aisne.

The 8th Division were now placed in Corps Reserve with Headquarters located at Chery-Chartreuve to the south of Mont-St.-Martin.  In the days that followed, the battalion spent their time in training and the cleaning of equipment

11 May – the infantry of the 8th Division to move into the line between the River Aisne at Berry-au-Bac and the Bois de la Casemate on relief of a French division.  The 8th Battalion M.G.C. followed suit at 7 a.m. in the morning marching via Fismes to Bourgogne Camp located to the west of Ventelay.

12 May – the front line was reconnoitred by the officers whilst the battalion spent the day preparing for occupation of positions in the front line.

13/14 May – night – the first units of the 8th Battalion M.G.C. began to move into the front line area when “B” Company moved into the right sub-sector of the divisional front with 16 guns, Company Headquarters being located at P.C. Dunkerque.  “C” Company also proceeded to occupy front line positions in the left sub-sector of the divisional front with 10 guns, Company Headquarters being located at Tuilerie on the southern outskirts of la Ville-aux-Bois.

14 May – night – “A” Company moved into the line with 16 guns and took over positions on the entire brigade front with Company Headquarters being located at P.C. Verdun.  The dispositions of the battalion are now described in the War Diary on this date as:  “The whole of “A” & “B” Coys together with 10 guns of “C” Coy are in the line.  “D” Coy together with 6 guns of “C” Coy in Divisnl. Res. at Bourgogne Camp.  The Bn. H.Q. & transport lines are also at Bourgogne Camp.”  It was declared that all three Infantry Brigades and the 8th Battalion M.G.C. of the 8th Division had completed the relief of outgoing French units in that salient, this relief having commenced on 12 May.

27 May 1918 – at the start of the Battle of the Aisne, the 8th Battalion MGC were at a place called Beri-au-Bac  which is right on the river.  Many were killed during the initial barrage.  It is known that some men were taken prisoner, including the CSM of A Company who was taken POW at Berry au Bac on 27 May and held at Langansalza POW camp until January 1919.

It seems quite likely that Herbert was perhaps wounded but also taken prisoner in that action, however, it could have been earlier.  The CWGC advised that he died whilst a Prisoner of War.  He may have been wounded.  The ICRC Historical Archives do not have a record card for him, however, these PoW records do have details of an enquiry from his father ‘Mr Walter George. (fath) 2 High. Str. Rugby.’[2]  The last news from his son had been dated 20 March 1918, and Herbert’s father’s enquiry was dated 24 May 1918.

It is thus possible that he was captured any time after later March 1918.  Prisoner of War camps provided a harsh environment, with fitter men being sent to work in local industry, or digging trenches, burying the dead and moving munitions.  Many of these were worked and starved to death, quite literally, as they received insufficient food – the German troops and civilians by this date were also receiving insufficient food because of the British blockade of German ports.  He may of course have been wounded and died whilst undergoing treatment, or become ill and died.

Herbert George died aged 20, on 19 June 1918.  He was originally buried in the Valenciennes Communal Cemetery German Extension in Grave Ref:1221 – this was some distance north-east of where he had been in action, and it seems likely that he was held in a PoW camp in this area or was being treated there, prior to being moved to Germany.  Valenciennes is some 25km north-east of Cambrai.

After the War the graves in the German Cemetery were ‘concentrated’ (exhumed, identified as necessary, and moved for reburial).  He was reburied in the Valenciennes (St. Roch) Communal Cemetery in grave reference: IV. F. 21.

Valenciennes (St Roch) Communal Cemetery is situated on the north-east side of Valenciennes.  In November and December 1918, the 2nd, 57th, 4th Canadian and 32nd Casualty Clearing Stations were posted at Valenciennes and the last of them did not leave until October 1919.  The Communal Cemetery of St. Roch was used by the Germans in August and September 1914 and an extension was then made on the south-east side.

The Commonwealth plots were made adjoining the German: I and II contain the graves of October 1918 to December 1919; III, IV, V and part of VI contain the graves of 348 soldiers buried originally in the German Extension and 226 whose bodies were brought from other cemeteries or from the battlefields.

The German Extension has since been removed and the Commonwealth plots are within the enlarged Communal Cemetery.

Later, when a permanent gravestone replaced the temporary cross, probably in the 1920s, it included his family’s message, “Happy with the Saviour”.  It seems that his parents had moved from 2 High Street, and were, by then, living at 9 Elborow Street, Rugby.

Hubert Treharne George is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates; and on the WWI Lawrence Sheriff School Plaque,[3] which reads,
‘In Commemoration of our Brother Laurentians who Fell in The Great War, 1914-1918, Orando Laborando.’   

His Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Herbert Trehearne GEORGE 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 RFHG, February  2018.

 

[1]      http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/topic/64070-8th-bn-machine-gun-corps-infantry/; note by ‘Koyli’, 24 November 2006, quoting information from: Sacker, Graham, The Suicide Club.

 

[2] https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/File/Search, 1914-1918, Prisoners Of The First World War, ICRC Historical Archives,

[3]      Information from https://www.rugbyfhg.co.uk/lawrence-sheriff-school-plaques.

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