George Hugh DAWES
Rank: Lieutenant
Unit: 1/5th Battalion BORDER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 16 September 1916
Age: 38
Cemetery: Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, Somme,France

Lieutenant Dawes came from Cheadle, the son of Joseph & Esther (nee Cowburn). At the time of his birth, George's father had a business in Cheadle as a joiner and builder. His sister, Muriel, still lived in the family home at Ebor Cottage. He had been born on 6 February 1878 and had attended Cheadle National School. His later education was by private study. As a boy, George had played rugby for Cheadle and had been a member of the Manchester Athletic Club. At an early age, he had joined a business in India, becoming a representative and living in Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. He had played in the Southern India tennis tournaments and continued to play rugby and hockey. He was the leading tenor vocalist at St George's Cathedral, Madras and, for a few years, was the Secretary of the Madras School of Music. During his time there, George was a corporal in the Madras Voluntary Guard, but left in 1907.

He had returned to England in 1912 and became a departmental manager with a company in the cotton business. He continued his musical involvement with the Cheadle Parish Church choir and played rugby for Cheadle Hulme and hockey for Cheadle.

He was gazetted as a 2nd Lieutenant on 7 July 1915 and joined the 5th Battalion on 8 January 1916, receiving a temporary promotion to Lieutenant from 23 February 1916. By September 1915 he was   acting battalion adjutant.

At the beginning of September 1916, the Battalion was bivouacked near the village of Baizieux, west of the town of Albert in the Somme region, where they undertook extensive training exercises. On the 10th, they moved back towards the front line. Over the next couple of days, the men were occupied in providing working parties burying communication cables.

By the morning of the 15th, they were just behind the front line positions near Mametz Wood. This area had been captured on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July. At 6.30pm, the Battalion was ordered forward to join the rest of 151st Brigade in the assembly trenches in readiness for an attack later in the evening. Their objective was the German position known as the Star Fish Line

As they reached Brigade Headquarters, darkness was setting in and it seems that the guides were unsure of the way to the assembly point. This meant that the Borders did not reach the position until some 30 minutes after the attack had started. There was now some confusion in the command structure and it was unclear whether the Battalion should try to catch up with the others or wait in the trenches. At 11pm, they were eventually ordered into the attack. There was then a further delay whilst the men got ready.

It was now the middle of the night. The darkness and the general boggy condition of the ground meant that the Battalion was unable to reach its objective, only advancing some 600 or 700 yards. Dawn was starting to break and the Borders had no option but to dig-in in the newly captured German front line trench. Part of "B" Company managed to push forward with part of the neighbouring Durham Light Infantry battalion, but they were driven back by heavy machine gun fire from the German second line trenches.

George was one of 47 men from the Borders killed in this attack. The Battalion would remain in the captured trench until the morning of 18th September when a further attack was ordered on the Star Fish Line. This was also a failure.

George was buried in a small cemetery close to where he was killed described as "a point west of High Wood". In 1920, his sister, Muriel, received a letter saying that his body had been exhumed as these small cemeteries were being closed and he had been reburied, nearby, at Caterpillar Valley. 

(NB: Original research by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website)

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