George EITKEN
Rank: Lance Corporal
Number: 26830
Unit: 2nd Battalion ROYAL SCOTS
Date of Death: 22 July 1916
Age:
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

Almost nothing is known about George's private life, except that regimental records published after the War show he was born in London, but was living in Reddish when he enlisted into the army at Stockport.

The Battle of the Somme had started on 1 July 1916. The first day had been a failure except in the south of the battlefield where all the objectives had been secured. Building on this success, the troops had made attempts to break through further defensive positions and had some success in the middle of the month when Trones Wood was cleared of the enemy. The next objective, in this sector, was the heavily defended village of Guillemont.

The main attack was scheduled for 23 July, but a smaller scale attack would take place the day before in an attempt to secure better "jumping off" positions. On the night of the 21st, George and his comrades moved to assembly positions near Trones Wood. Their objective was the Guillemont railway station. "B" and "D" Companies were in front of the Wood. "C" Company was a little further north at Waterlot Farm and "A" between the Farm and the Wood.

The attack was scheduled for 2am on the 22nd. The plan was to take the enemy trench by surprise and without the usual artillery barrage which would have warned of the infantry attack. However, patrols into No Man's Land established that the station was held more strongly than anticipated.

The Regimental History records "Accordingly the hostile entrenchments were methodically plastered by our artillery before the infantry assault took place on the morning of the 22nd. It was still very dark when two platoons of "C" Company, followed by the remainder of the Company, set out on their mission. Uncertain as to the exact location of the Boches, they groped their way down a trench running parallel to the road in the direction of Guillemont Station and had proceeded for a considerable distance when they became aware by the sound of voices and of firing that the Germans were occupying a trench on their right. Hastily emerging from their trench, the Royal Scots, in extended order, advanced across the open in the direction of the enemy, but they were met by murderous fire which seemed to come from more than one quarter and they were compelled to retire as best they could."

George was one of 26 men who had been killed. In the withdrawal, it will not have been possible to recover his body from No Man's Land. In fact, it would be several weeks until the village was captured, on 3 September. By then, it was probably impossible to identify the bodies and George's name is now inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. The Memorial records the names of over 72000 soldiers who were killed during the summer and autumn of 1916 in this sector and who have no known grave.

   
           
   
     
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