Hunt, George William Henry. Died 3rd Sep 1918

George Henry William [or William Henry] HUNT was born in Colombo, Ceylon, on 31 October 1898He was the elder son of George Hunt, who was born in about 1870 in Long Lawford and whose father, William, had been a ‘Foreman Platelayer’.

George Hunt was stated to be in the ‘6th Foot’ and from the birth dates of his children was in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) from at least 1898 to 1905.  There is no record of a marriage in UK, and as a soldier it seems more likely that he married when he was on this posting.  It also seems likely that his wife died in Ceylon, – unless it was an ‘unofficial’ marriage, however this is less likely as he returned to UK with his four children and later remarried in UK in 1910.

In 1881 the 6th Regiment of Foot had become the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (RWR) – and it seems that at the date of birth of his elder son in 1898, he  was still using the old nomenclature, which may suggest that he had been in Ceylon for some time.  Only the 2nd Battalion of the RWR had been stationed in Ceylon, from 1891 to 1896, which suggests that George may have joined up before he was 21 and remained in Ceylon after the Battalion left – he might have transferred to another next regiment who were posted to Ceylon.

As he was abroad there is no census return for him in 1901.  By 1911, George senior had been remarried for about a year with Eliza, née Thompson, Hunt, who he had probably known when he was young as she was also born in Long Lawford in about 1872; her father had been a general labourer, and in 1901 she had been working as a cook for a clergyman in New Milverton.  George and Eliza were married on 23 January 1910 at Lillington, Warwickshire [Reg: Rugby, Q1, 1910, 6d, 842].

In 1911, George junior had two younger sisters and one younger brother, the latter born in 1905 – all four children were born in Ceylon.  They were then all living at 122 Lawford Road, New Bilton, Rugby, a six room houseGeorge senior wrote that he was a ‘Storekeeper (Iron & Steel Stores), ‘Willans & Robinson’ Steel Works & Army Pensioner’.  George junior had attended St Oswald’s School, and before he joined up he was employed in the Punch Shop at the B.T.H..[1]

When war broke out George would have been about 16 years old.  As no full Service Record has survived, his full career cannot be established.  However, it seems that he joined the Royal Marines in November 1915, at the age of 17,[2] as a Private, No: PO/19175 – the ‘PO’ indicated that he was in the Portsmouth Division.  With an excess of men over those needed to man the fleet, the Royal Naval Division was formed at the outbreak of the war from Royal Navy and Royal Marine reservists and volunteers who were not needed for service at sea.

The Royal Naval Division fought at Antwerp in 1914 and then at Gallipoli in 1915.  It seems that some records survived,[3] and that George was earlier in the 3rd Royal Marine Battalion.  From November 1916 to 1919, this Battalion was formed as the garrison for various Greek Islands after the withdrawal from Gallipoli, when the 1st Royal Marines had transferred via Marseilles to fight in France.

These Greek islands included: Mudros, Imbros, and Tenedos.  George was on Mudros from 1 November 1916 – having joined up in later 1916 when he was 17.  He was, fortunately, too late to be sent to Gallipoli.  On 16 April 1918 he was drafted from the 3rd Battalion on Mudros to join the 1st Royal Marine Battalion, British Expeditionary Force, in France.  He thus became part of the reinforcements for the Royal Marine Light Infantry.

Earlier in 1916, following many losses among the original naval volunteers, the Royal Naval Division had transferred to the British Army as the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division.  As noted above, in May 1916, it arrived in Marseilles, and from there was brought north to Abbeville, and fought on the Western Front as an Army formation for the remainder of the war.

George was still in the Mediterranean during this period, but the Royal Marine Division was in action in France in late 1916 until early 1918 and took part …

In 1916: the Battle of the Ancre, a phase of the Battles of the Somme 1916 (13-18 November 1916).  In 1917: the Operations on the Ancre (January-March 1917); the Second Battle of the Scarpe (23-24 April 1917), a phase of the Arras Offensive, in which the Division captured Gavrelle; the Battle of Arleux (28-29 April 1917), a phase of the Arras Offensive; the Second Battle of Passchendaele (26 October-10 November 1917), a phase of the Third Battles of Ypres 1917; the action of Welsh Ridge (30 December 1917), subsequent to the Cambrai operations.  Then in 1918 the Battalion was involved in the Battle of St Quentin (21-23 March 1918); which was the initial action against the German offensive ‘Operation Michael,[4] and the Battle of Bapaume (24-25 March 1918), phases of the First Battles of the Somme 1918.[5]

Very soon after the date of George’s posting to the 1st Battalion on 16 April 1918, the 1st and 2nd RM Battalions, which were both in the 188th (RN) Brigade, amalgamated on 29 April 1918, as the Royal Marine Battalion.  As George ‘returned to France’ in about mid-August, a fortnight before his death, this may imply that these later reinforcements returned from Mudros, via UK, and had leave, rather than travelling north through France.

After the holding of the German advance, the RM Battalion was engaged in the Battle of Albert (21-23 August 1918), a phase of the Second Battles of the Somme 1918, when it was located at Achiet-le-Grand, north-west of Bapaume and south of Arras.  This became a decisive Allied victory, and in holding the German Spring Offensive, the Allies, and particularly the B.E.F., took increased confidence in their ability to turn the tide of war in their favour.  The Battalion was then involved in another Allied victory, the Battle of Drocourt-Queant[6] (2-3 September 1918), a phase of the Second Battles of Arras 1918, when located at Inchy-en-Artois.[7]

The War Diary for the 1st RM Battalion[8] gives some detail on the actions leading up to and during that battle.  On 25 August 1918, ‘The Bn. attacked enemy positions at LOUPART WOOD.’  Then on 28 August they were relieved and went into bivouacs at MINUMENT.  During August, 46 O.R.s [Other Ranks] were killed, 7 died of wounds, 260 were wounded and 31 missing.

After two days on 31 August, they were moved again ready for another attack.

1 September 1918 – BOIRY ST RICTRUDE – ‘Battalion bivouacked in the open arriving at 5.30 A.M.  During the day Bn received instructions to move up to an assembly position near FONTAINE. … Battalion left at about 5.45 P.M. arriving about 9. P.M. resting for the night in trench to N.W. of CROISILLES-FONTAINE Rd..  Verbal instructions received for attack on following day.

‘2 September 1918 – In action from U10a to QUEANT – Battalion moved to assembly in U10a with the 2nd Bn R. IRISH Regt on left and ANSON in support.  At ZERO (5AM) plus 2 hrs. 45 mins Advance was made in Artillery formation through RIENCOURT passing through 57th DIV. and attacking 2nd objective line running from V25 c. 0.1. to V19 d. 3. 7.  Fighting continued through the day until final objective was taken and the Bn. Held a line before QUEANT running from Y26 d. 7. 9. to Y27 d. 5. 0.  Casualties.  Killed 1 Officer, 15 O.R.s, Wounded 1 Officer, 61 O.R.s (estimated).’

‘3 September – In action – At about 9.30 A.M. Bn received instructions to proceed to an assembly position in V28 a & b with orders to stand by to move at short notice.  At 7.0 PM instructions received to proceed to BUISSY SWITCH and HINDENBURG SUPPORT line from junction of switch & support line to D 6 c. 8. 7. and Bn was placed at the disposal of G.O.C. 189th Inf. Bde.  killed 13 O.R.s, wounded 14 O.R.s.’

George William Henry HUNT was one of those ‘13 O. R.s’ who were ‘Killed in Action’ on 3 September 1918.  He was 19 years old.  His body was either never found or not identified and he is commemorated on Panel 1, Stone No. 1.B., of the Vis-en-Artois Memorial, in Pas de Calais, France.

Vis-en-Artois and Haucourt are villages on the road from Arras to Cambrai, about 10 kilometres south-east of Arras.  The Vis-en-Artois Memorial is the back drop to the Vis-en-Artois British Cemetery, which is west of Haucourt.

The Memorial bears the names of over 9,000 men who fell in the period from 8 August 1918 to the date of the Armistice in the Advance to Victory in Picardy and Artois, between the Somme and Loos, and who have no known grave.  They belonged to the forces of Great Britain and Ireland and South Africa – the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand forces being commemorated on other memorials to the missing.  The Memorial consists of a screen wall in three parts.  The middle part of the screen wall is concave and carries stone panels on which names are carved … The flanking parts of the screen wall are also curved and carry stone panels carved with names.[9]

His father was still living at 122 Lawford Road when he was informed of the death of his son, and the Rugby Advertiser[10] noted,
Mr. E. Hunt, 122 Lawford Road, New Bilton, has received news that his son, Pte G H W Hunt, Royal Marine Light Infantry, was killed in action on September 3rd.  He was an old St Oswald’s boy, and joined the Marines in November, 1915, at the age of 17.  Previous to this he was employed in the Punch Shop at the B.T.H.  He only returned to France a fortnight before his death.

The Naval Medal Roll[11] showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  He is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate and as ‘HUNT G H W’ on the BTH list of ‘Employees Who Served in the War 1914 – 1918’ and also on the BTH War Memorial.[12]

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

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This article on George William Henry HUNT was researched and written for the Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, May 2018.

[1]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 28 September 1918.

[2]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 28 September 1918.

[3]      Royal Naval Division, Casualties of the Great War, 1914-1924.

[4]      See: https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/the-1918-spring-offensive-operation-michael/.

[5]      http://www.wartimememoriesproject.com/greatwar/allied/division.php?pid=11595.

[6]      The Drocourt-Quéant Line was an extension of the Hindenburg Line and ran between the two French towns from which it gained its name.

[7]      http://www.wartimememoriesproject.com/greatwar/allied/division.php?pid=11595.

[8] UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Royal Marines, 63rd (Royal Naval) Division Piece 3110/1: 1 Royal Marine Battalion (1916 May – 1919 Apr).

[9]      https://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/79200/vis-en-artois-memorial/.

[10]     Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 28 September 1918.

[11]     The National Archives, Roll of Royal Naval War Medals, 1914-1920, NCOs & Men, Royal Marines, Han-Mam, Catalogue reference: ADM 171/169.

[12]     Taken from the list of names on the BTH War Memorial when it was unveiled, as published in the Rugby Advertiser, 4 November 1921.  See also https://www.rugbyfhg.co.uk/bth-war-memorial.