George BANCROFT
Rank: Private
Number: 242382
Unit: 2/6th Battalion LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 15 November 1917
Age: 29 (probably)
Cemetery: Dochy Farm New British Cemetery, Langemarck, Belgium

The name of G Bancroft is inscribed on the Hazel Grove War Memorial and has previously been researched by John Eaton for his 1998 book "Hazel Grove to Armageddon". The development of the internet since then allows some new information about his background to be recorded.

The publication of the 1901 Census now means that a probable identification of him can be made. The Bancroft family was living in four rooms at 13 Angel Street. 58 year old William was married to Betty (nee Daniels). They had married in 1879 at St Mary's Church, Stockport. At the time of the Census, four children were living at home - Walter (then 20), William (15), Mary (15) and George (13). All had been born in Hazel Grove. George was still at school.

Mr Eaton records that George enlisted into the army on 23 November 1914 joining the local Territorial Battalion - the 6th Cheshires. The original pre-War members of the Battalion had already been mobilised and went to France on 10 November. George will have joined the newly formed 2/6th Battalion for his army training. His medal entitlement records at the National Archives make no mention of this service, confirming that he never served abroad with Cheshires but will have been transferred to the Fusiliers when his training was completed. His original service number, 12540, is quite low and he was probably on active service by the late spring of 1915. The 2/6th Battalion did not go overseas until March 1917, so he must have served with another Battalion before that. He was probably transferred to the new Battalion after recovering from wounds or long-term illness. When he was fit enough to return the 2/6th will have been in greater need of new troops.

On 31 July 1917, British forces launched an offensive on the outskirts of the Belgian town of Ypres. It would later become officially known as the Third Battle of Ypres, but many people will know it simply by the name of the village that was an objective for the first few days - Passchendaele. The village is on top of a long sweeping ridge which rises almost from the centre of Ypres.

The first day saw some successes but then it started to rain. And it rained heavily for several days, turning the battlefield into a quagmire. The coming weeks of fighting would be a long hard slog characterised by small advances. Many men, killed during attacks, had to be left in No Man's Land and their bodies simply disappeared into the mud. The Battle was deemed to have come to an end on 10 November but, of course, deaths on both sides continued. On the 14th, George and his comrades were in reserve positions at Anzac House but moved into the front line, relieving the 2/8th Battalion. This was at a position recorded only as "Moulin Farm". It has not been possible to establish exactly where this was but, as it was described as the "front line", then it must have towards the top of the ridge near the villages of Poelcapelle or Passchendaele itself.

The Battalion's War Diary makes no specific mention of the next day or, indeed, the several days of the tour of duty. It can be assumed,  therefore, that this was as quiet a time as it ever was. The Diary does record that nine men were killed during the tour. They will, almost certainly, have been killed by shellfire. George will have been buried very close to where he was killed. After the War, many of these small front line burial areas were closed as the land was returned to civilian use. George's remains will have been brought to the newly created Dochy Farm Cemetery and reburied. His grave is now tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

   
           
   
     
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