Rank: Private
Number: 12664
Unit: 9th Battalion CHESHIRE REGIMENT
Date of Death: 11 December 1918
Age: 21
Cemetery: Awoingt British Cemetery, Nord, France

George was born in Stockport, the son of John and Elizabeth Collier. Prior to the commencement of the War, he lived with his aunt and uncle at 93 Great Egerton Street, Stockport and he worked at the brass foundry of R Harlow & Sons Ltd. His parents are believed to have moved by this time, to live at Wallworth Terrace, Morley, Wilmslow.

He enlisted in August or September 1914 and, after training, went overseas with the newly formed 9th Battalion, in mid-July 1915. At some point during his military service, he undertook an act of bravery for which he was awarded the Military Medal. It has not been possible to find any details of this award but it is possible that is was during the Battle of Loos.

On 25 September 1915, the British Army was about to launch the attack that would become known as the Battle of Loos. 20 kilometres to the south, George and his comrades were in trenches 500 yards north east of the village of Givenchy. The Cheshires and other battalions in the area were expected to launch a diversionary attack in this sector. The Cheshires would follow behind the 9th Battalion, Welsh Regiment and support them.

At 6.35am, "B" and "C" Companies advanced down the trench system towards the front line. "C" Company found their way blocked and had to get out of the trench and advance over the open ground. The Battalion's War Diary records that, by 6.50, "B" company had reached the front line. Lieutenant Watts ran forward to find the men of the Welsh Regiment. "When found, they said their officers were down and did not know what to do. He found Captain Hughes dead and Captain McKenzie wounded. Watts asked if he should take over Welsh. McKenzie said "yes" then called out "Forward the Welsh and the Cheshires". Lieutenant Watts signalled forward and was wounded."

Captain Johnson, commanding "B" Company, later reported "I led the Company down the communication trench. At front trench, there was no sign of gas or smoke. I saw 9/Welsh going over the parapet......Later, I had a good look round with my glasses over the parapet and saw dead and wounded men. No-one was standing up........I sent an orderly to Officer Commanding 9/Welsh asking for information and received message that OC 9/Welsh does not wish the Cheshires to advance and is trying to get his companies back. I withdrew 6 & 7 platoons and left No. 5 out in case of possible counter attack."

The chaos of the attack is further confirmed in the concluding entries in the Battalion's War Diary for the day. It notes that the Cheshires took over the front line from the Welsh at about 11.30am. The smoke and poison gas projected at the German trenches had not reached the enemy and the artillery covering fire had been ineffectual. "Reports from men who reached within 50 yards of enemy's wire say that it was little cut."

The Diary entry ends "Morale - our men hoped the Germans would counter-attack so they might have their revenge."

The Stockport Advertiser, in its edition of 24 December 1915, reported that George had been orderly to a Lieutenant McCall (Robert Alfred McCall) and had been with him when he was killed during the Battle. McCall's father had sent George a silver wristwatch in recognition of "the devotion shown to his son before he died". Perhaps George had carried his officer back to the safety of the trenches or some other similar act of bravery and this is how he got his medal.

George died in hospital, after the war ended, from pneumonia. The local press reporting his death stated that he had been wounded on 8 November 1915 and had been in hospital in France since then. It would be most unusual for a casualty to spend such a long period without being evacuated back to Britain. It is, perhaps, more likely that there is a misprint in the newspaper and that George had been wounded only a few days before he died, in November 1918. Furthermore, in early November 1915, the Battalion was in billets away from the firing line. Three years later, they took part in a successful attack on 7 November at Bellignies. There were over 130 men wounded - many from British artillery shells falling short.

George is, almost certainly, the G E Collier, commemorated on the Wilmslow War Memorial.

© 2006. Design and Layout are the property of Ihelm Enterprises Limited and cannot be reproduced without express permission.
Enter Search Phrase Here:(search may take up to 30 seconds) 
Close Search Window