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George Kelsall was born on the 8th February 1895 in Preston the son of Joshua and Catherine Kelsall (nee Schofield). His parents married in the Registry Office in Preston, the marriage registered in the September quarter of 1882. Later Census information notes that George was one of eleven surviving children born to his parents, the others being; Joshua (1883), William (1884), Sarah Ann (1888), Mary Jane (1890), Joseph (1892), Alfred Edward (1897), Robert (1900), Ivy Agnes (1902), Beatrice (1904) and Ellen Eileen (1907).

Joshua Kelsall was listed as a florist and gardener in 1901 and the family home was at 14 Aughton Square in Preston. On the 12th August 1902 an article appeared in the Lancashire Evening Post which suggests that all was not well within the marriage of George`s parents, the headline; “Domestic Infelicity at Preston”;

“At the Preston Borough Police Court this morning, Joshua Kelsall, a gardener, was summoned by his wife Catherine, for persistent cruelty. Complainant stated that she was married in a Registry Office in 1882 and had 9 children. At about 3 a.m. on the 6th inst. defendant arrived home after a fishing expedition. He was drunk, and walked upstairs behaving like a madman. Without any cause he struck her with a straw hat, cutting her cheek. She was obliged to run out with her children in the rain and take refuge at No. 10 Library Street. He had ill-used her almost every day, for a long time past, and terrified the children. He often came home early in the morning and made a disturbance. It was all through him drinking rum. He could make on average about 20s per week, but she rarely got any of it. Defendant denied ill-treating his wife and children. The Bench granted a separation order carrying 7s 6d a week, and giving complainant custody of the children under 16”.

George attended St. Augustine`s Roman Catholic Infant School and then on the 4th May 1903 he moved up to the junior school at St. Augustine`s, the school record noting his home address at the time was 10 Library Street in Preston.

Despite Joshua Kelsall`s appearance in court and the granting of a separation order in 1902 he and Catherine went on to have two more children but then in July 1909 he appeared in court again for being drunk and incapable, the newspaper report also confirming that he had nine previous convictions for similar offences. The upset within the family seems to have had a detrimental effect on George and another newspaper article in the Lancashire Evening Post dated 3rd June 1910 reported on George`s appearance at the Children`s Court in Preston;

“Today at the Children`s Court, at Preston, James Halstead (12) and George Kelsall (15) were charged with stealing a bottle containing a pint of port wine and 1lb of sugar, value 1s 6d, the property of Charles White and another.

Joseph Brown, (16) newsboy, said he was in Market Street on Sunday afternoon when the accused came to him. Kelsall, producing the bottle, asked him if he would have some wine. Witness afterwards handed the bottle over to the Police. Detective Officer Kellett said that when the lads were charged, Kelsall stated; “I got through the back window and came out by the back door. Halstead came in with me the second time”. Halstead replied – “I went into the shop but did not take anything”.

The Chief Constable said that Kelsall was already under probation in connection with a charge of breaking and entering last October, on which occasion Halstead was associated with him.

Halstead was ordered to receive six strokes with the birch rod, and Kelsall was sent to the Birkdale Farm School until 19 years of age”.

By 1911 George`s mother had moved to 29 Snow Hill in Preston, the property having four rooms housing thirteen people; Catherine with eight of her children; Sarah Ann, Joseph, Alfred, Robert, Ivy, Beatrice, Eileen and Ellen and also her married son William, a florist, with his wife Ellen and their three children, Kathleen, William and Joshua. George`s father was not listed and the 1911 Census shows George as being an `inmate` at Birkdale Farm Reformatory/St. Thomas More School for Roman Catholic boys in Birkdale near Southport.

As the Magistrate had ordered George to be `detained` until he was 19 years old he would have been released in February 1914, later information states that he then went to work in Manchester. None of George`s service papers exist but again we know from later information that he enlisted into the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment four days prior to the outbreak of war and was allocated the service number 10818. George embarked for France on the 4th January 1915 and on arrival he was posted to the 1st Battalion LNL. The 1st Battalion was part of the BEF (2nd Brigade in 1st Division).

George was still with the 1st Battalion when in January 1917 the 1st Division was relieved by the 50th and moved back into what was known as “the support area” , one Battalion was at Millencourt, two Battalions, including the 1st Battalion LNL, were in Albert, while the fourth Battalion was employed in road-mending around Fricourt. On the 24th January the Battalion moved into camp at Bresle where they stayed for ten days before moving on the 3rd February to the neighbourhood of Maricourt, the troops engaged in practising open warfare. Towards the end of February 1917 the enemy was reported to be falling back and on the 25th of the month three strong fighting patrols were sent forward to verify the truth of these reports.

During March 1917 the Battalion took part in some raids on the enemy`s positions, the objective being to capture prisoners, machine-guns and trench mortars, as well as to destroy dug-outs and mine shafts and ultimately to inflict as much damage as they could on the German trenches. One such raid took place on the night of the 6th-7th March 1917 against the enemy trenches around Barleux Quarry. Captain E.F. Nichol was in charge of the Battalion raiding party which consisted of 5 Officers and 137 non-commissioned Officers and men, these being divided into four columns each of four waves. Elements of each of the four raiding parties managed to reach the immediate vicinity of the German trenches although as they had expected, these were strongly held. Severe bomb fighting resulted and was maintained until the withdrawal signal was given and Captain Nichol`s men fell back to their lines. Casualties were numerous, Captain E.F. Nichol and 45 other ranks being wounded, Lieutenant W.H. Ward and 10 men killed while 6 men were reported missing. Sadly, this is where George`s war ended, his date of death recorded as 7th March 1917.

George`s death was later reported on in the Preston Guardian;

After the war Catherine Kelsall would have taken receipt of her sons` 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals to which he was entitled and would also have received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice.

George was originally buried in one of the smaller cemeteries out on the battlefield but after the war his body was exhumed, identified and he was finally re-buried in Assevillers New British Cemetery on the Somme.

George`s family also completed one of the submission forms for his name to be included on the Roll of Honour in the Harris Museum and Library in Preston, a family member adding an additional piece of information about his death (pictured below);

Below George`s name as it appears on the Roll of Honour in the Harris Museum and Library;

Additional Family Information

George`s father, Joshua Kelsall, died as a result of a tragic accident on the 5th September 1920. The inquest into his death was reported on by the Lancashire Evening Post under the date 7th September 1920;


“The tragic shooting affair in the golf field behind Farringdon Park, Preston, was inquired into this afternoon at Preston, by Mr. Harold Parker, Deputy Coroner, and a jury. Also present was Mr. H. Fazackerley representing the Police and Mr. John Whittle representing Robert Hargreaves, who fired the fatal shot, and who is under remand, on bail, charged with causing the death of Joshua Kelsall. Hargreaves was also present.

Catherine Kelsall, 29 Snow Hill, the widow, said her husband Joshua Kelsall, was 61 years of age, a market gardener. She and her husband had lived apart for the past 14 years. He had lived in common lodging houses, sometimes he had lived at the house of witness`s married daughter, and occasionally he had slept out. He had gained a living by getting ferns and making wreaths, button holes and bouquets which he sold about town.

Dr. Mary Lowry, Medical Officer announced the cause of death was a fractured skull and haemorrhage, and what she saw was consistent with shots from a gun”

It would appear that George`s father had been out collecting ferns and flowers and Robert Hargreaves had been out shooting rabbits which he claimed had been destroying cabbage crops on the allotments. Mr. Hargreaves stated that he observed some movement and thinking it was a rabbit, he fired a shot, on closer inspection he then discovered it was not in fact a rabbit but Joshua Kelsall that he had shot.

The Jury accepted that Hargreaves was not a trespasser and had every right to be on the land and accepted his explanation. A verdict of death by misadventure was announced and the case against Mr. Hargreaves was dismissed.

Rank: Private
Service No: 10818
Date of Death: 07/03/1917
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st Bn.

Janet Davis
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7 Responses to 10818 PTE. G. KELSALL. L.N.LAN.R.

  1. Phil Kelsall says:

    Thanks for filling in some gaps in my knowledge of Great Uncle George.

    Have you seen or studied his brother Joshua’s war diary in the Lancashire Records Office in Preston? It is not generally available, so you may need to arrange a special viewing. This gives a wonderful insite to the early days of the war from a privates point of view.

  2. Robert Cherry says:

    George was my Great Uncle.I visited his grave in France in 2015 & I promised him that I would remember his one hundred year anniversary in the Lancs Evening Post,which I duly did.It seemed strange talking to a headstone as the poppies bloomed and the skylarks sang.I told him that although I’d never met him,I knew the fallout that his death had created & how his Mother& my Gran,Mary never got over it.I laid red roses from all his descendants worldwide.It was very moving.

  3. Stephanie Smith says:

    What a fascinating account of my Great Uncle George ( I’m the sister of Robert above!)
    I was under the impression that Joshua’s Diary was currently held by Blackburn Library, but could be wrong.
    Thanks for all this information

    • sue caissy says:

      please tell me whose children you and Robert are as George was also our great-uncle, our Grandfather was Robert Kelsall an older brother to George. I think I have a copy of Joshua’s diary too
      Sue Caissy

      • Rebecca Steel says:

        Hi Steph and Robert are Sheila Cherry
        nee lenehan’s children, Sheila was the daughter of George’s sister Mary Jane and her youngest daughter and I am Margaret Kelly nee lenehan’s (another of Mary’s daughters and last surviving child to today 2018) granddaughter Rebecca. So Mary Jane was my Great Grandma and George would’ve been my Great Uncle and our Steph and Robert are my second cousins.

  4. Ken Lees says:

    Another relative here. Steph and Robert (above) are my 2nd cousins.

    I work as a battlefield guide on the Western Front so have the opportunity to visit George’s grave quite frequently.

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