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George Harrison was born on 5th December 1894 and was the son of George William and Emily Harrison of Horwich, Bolton.

At the time of the 1901 census the family were living at 43 Catherine Street West, Horwich. George had three sisters Florence (b. 1890), Bernice (b. 1891) and Nelley (b. 1896) and was the second youngest child of the four. His father worked as an iron turner on the railways.

By the time the 1911 census was recorded the family were living at 112 Lee Lane, Horwich. All children were still living at home, including sixteen year old George who was employed as an apprentice fitter on the railway – possibly with his father.

During the first world war George served as a Private within ‘C’ Company of the 1/4th (Territorial) Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. George sailed to France with the main body of the Battalion on the S.S Onward on 4th May 1915.

A few weeks after they had arrived in France the Battalion received news that they would be taking part in their first major action, the Battle of Festubert on 15th June 1915. This gallant attack became known as ‘the great bayonet charge’ and after which the Battalion losses amounted to 431 men killed, missing or wounded. Twenty year old George Harrison was among the names of those listed killed in action.

Extract from the Regimental History

At 6pm on the 15th June the attack was launched by the 1/4th Loyal North Lancashire and the 6th Scottish Rifles. The attack was at first successful, the west end of the German salient was carried, and the attack pushed on to the main German line near the Rue d`Overt, and for a time the third German trench was occupied and held. Unfortunately the attack by the Division on the right of the 51st made little or no progress, and when night fell the 154th Brigade had penetrated the German line on a narrow front, but had both its flanks in the air. The attack consequently failed, but as stated in the Divisional History, “great praise is due to the 154th Infantry Brigade for their advance in the face of heavy artillery and close range rifle and machine gun fire. There is little or no doubt that had the operations on the flanks been successful, they would have had every prospect of holding their gains”.

A fellow soldier, William Baxendale, gave a brief account of his experiences that day;

“I am lucky towards a lot of our poor lads. We set out to do a task which we accomplished, but at a great price. It was rotten running along and seeing the chaps on either side dropping and not being able to help them. We took three lines of trenches and as soon as we reached their first trench they put up the white flag and yelled for mercy. We gave the rotters no mercy.”

The following is an extract from a letter written by Private Jack Whittle to his family in Preston.

“The charge was made in brilliant style, and the Germans were cleared from two lines of trenches. As we passed through their trenches an awful sight met our gaze, for dead and wounded Germans abounded everywhere, and in places they were piled up one on top of another. There were many who pretended to be wounded and pleaded for mercy. It was a creepy business having to run over their bodies as we advanced. I need scarcely say there were some awful sights and it almost makes me feel sick to write about them.

It was when we got into the open we began to lose our men, for what with their artillery and machine guns, it literally rained lead. Pals fell on all sides of me, and it was miraculous that I got through without being hit.

Unfortunately although we were quite successful in taking two lines of trenches we could not get in touch with our right wing and as it looked as though the Germans would surround us, we were ordered to retire.

During the retirement we all got mixed up and I found myself in a German communication trench with about eight more chaps of another regiment. It was getting quite light by now and none of us knew which way to get to our lines. However, we spotted some more chaps of another regiment and we joined them. Although there were scarcely 30 of them they were keeping the Germans at bay. The two chaps next to me were shot, one dead and the other through the shoulder. Shortly after this, however, a man came along and we slipped away one by one on all fours, followed by showers of bullets as we made for safety.”

George’s body was not recovered from the battlefield and as such his name was added to the Le Touret Memorial.

In June 1919 his father received George’s war gratuity and would later take receipt of his late-son’s 1914/15 star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. The family would also receive the memorial plaque and scroll in recognition of George’s sacrifice.

Rank: Private
Service No: 1289
Date of Death: 15/06/1915
Age: 20
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.

Paul McCormick
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