George William MUSGROVE
Rank: Private
Number: 72789
Unit: 25th Company MACHINE GUN CORPS
Date of Death: 16 August 1917
Age: 33
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium

William appears to be commemorated twice on the Stockport War Memorial. He is, almost certainly the "W Musgrove" whose name appears amongst those who served with the Machine Gun Corps and the " G W Musgrove" included amongst those who served with Irish Regiments.

When he had first enlisted into the army, he had joined the Lancashire Fusiliers, but was transferred to the Royal Irish Rifles before he went overseas (service number 7417). Presumably friends or family who did not know he was subsequently transferred to the Corps also arranged for his name to be inscribed on the Memorial.

He was the son of Adam and Jane Musgrove and had three sisters - Harriett, Nellie and Emily. Adam was a greengrocer with premises at 597 Gorton Road, Reddish. In 1906, William married Mary Philbin in a civil ceremony at Stockport. They lived at 2 Higher Thomas Street and had two children; one of whom was called Molly. Before he enlisted into the army in September 1914, William worked as a bricklayer for David Eadie & Co, Short Street, Heaton Norris.

Machine Gun Corps Companies operated 16 heavy Vickers guns, each with a seven man crew. They had two major roles. During offensive operations, they would lay down barrages of fire which covered the infantry attack, whilst in defence, they would be positioned so that interlocking fields of fire would cut down any German troops trying to cross No Man's Land.

The Third Battle of Ypres is often known as Passchendaele. The first day's attack was on 31 July and over the coming days, the Company was in action and had suffered casualties. As they moved into position for an attack that would be later designated as the Battle of Langemarck, it was noted that their strength was insufficient to man more than 12 of the 16 guns.

The nights of the 13/14th and 14/15th were spent in carrying ammunition forward in preparation for the attack. This continued until about 10pm on the 15th. It was a very difficult task. There had been heavy rain for days and the ground was literally like a bog and it was simply not possible to get many of the heavy cases forward to the main barrage positions.

By the night of the 15th, six guns were in position on the Westhoek Ridge and two more were attached to each of the two attacking battalions - 1st Royal Irish Rifles and 2nd Royal Berkshires. The last two guns were moved towards a position known as Birr Crossroads.  They were expected to meet a carrying party from another unit who were bringing up ammunition. This party failed to arrive and it meant the gunners had to carry as much as they could themselves, but this was only about 20 boxes. The guides taking these guns forward to Birr Crossroads got lost in the dark and, in consequence, when "zero hour" arrived at 4.45am, they were not yet in position and, indeed, were pinned down by enemy shellfire.

The six guns on the Ridge fired their barrages but, owing to the lack of ammunition, had to restrain their firing to only 30 rounds per minute (the guns could fire a rate of 500 minute, expending a full ammunition belt in 30 seconds).

The four guns that had accompanied the attacking battalions themselves became targets for the enemy machine gunners and suffered heavy casualties. They did manage to fire all their ammunition and then withdrew. William was amongst these men.

At about 7am, the barrage guns and the two that had previously got lost moved to the forward edge of the Ridge and prepared to deal with an enemy counter attack. This duly arrived at about 9am but was driven off.

William was one of eight members of the Company to be killed. His Captain later wrote to the family "I have known the deceased since I joined the Company in January. During an attack his section went forward with the attacking infantry and he was shot through the head whilst assisting a corporal to fire his machine gun at the advancing Germans. His death was painless and instantaneous and he died a true soldier's death, gallantly holding on with a little band of men that held the enemy back. All the officers and men express their deep sympathy with you."

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