On 29 May 1895, at the age of 19, George joined the Marines. He served for 10 years and was discharged to the Fleet Reserve on 7 July 1905. It not known what he did over the coming few years but he almost certainly returned to the area we would now call Greater Manchester. In 1904, he is believed to have married Elizabeth Walker at St Mark’s Church, West Gorton. The couple lived nearby at 4 Prospect Street and had at least two children together.
When War was declared on 4 August 1914, George was still a reservist and was recalled to serve. Although he had been married for some years, his next of kin was listed as his aunt, a Mrs Walker of 47 Charles Street, Openshaw. He was quickly in action during the defence of Antwerp in October where, unlike may other Marines, he managed to escape capture by the advancing Germans. Back in Britain, he was promoted to Lance Corporal on 15 January 1915. He saw considerable action throughout the whole of the failed Gallipoli campaign and was promoted to Acting Corporal from 9 November. With his comrades, George was withdrawn to Egypt in January 1916, where he reverted to the rank of Private.
Whilst he was away, Elizabeth died in the late spring of 1915 and the children were put into the care of the workhouse Guardian.
On 18 February, he board the transport ship “Llandovery Castle” at Alexandria and rejoined his unit, then at Stavros in Crete, on the 29th. He was promoted to Corporal when he arrived. In mid-May, the Marines embarked for France and the dangers of the Western Front.
On 17 August, George was again promoted, becoming an acting Lance Sergeant. The Battle of the Somme had started on 1 July and, at a high cost in lives, British troops had moved slowly forward over the following weeks. The attack scheduled for 13 November would be the last major attack of the Battle and would finally see the capture of some objectives originally set for the first day.
The Marines, part of the Army’s 63rd Division, moved to their assembly positions on the 12th, opposite the German trenches in front of Beaucourt. They advanced at “zero hour” – 5.45am – in four waves – one platoon from each company to a wave. The Battalion’s War Diary records “There was a very thick mist. Every Company Commander was killed before crossing German Front Line. Enemy trenches were practically obliterated by our arty (artillery). NO MAN'S LAND & ground between various German lines, as far as slope down to STATION Road was pitted with shell holes, deep & very muddy.”
The mud made the advance much slower than expected and the men became easy targets as the German artillery and machine guns now opened up on them. The War Diary records that 50% of the Battalion’s casualties occurred crossing No Man’s Land. As the men moved on the German second and third trench lines, more machine guns fired on them and the casualties mounted even further. Only isolated groups managed to reach their final objective where, with other units, they “dug-in” and consolidated.
George is remembered on the Romiley War Memorial and also amongst the Romiley men commemorated on the Bredbury Memorial. It has not been possible to establish his connection with the area. There is nothing to indicate that he ever lived there but, perhaps, his job brought him to the both villages. In 1920, his medals were sent to his eldest son, believed to have also been called George. Perhaps he had moved to the area and arranged for his father’s commemoration.