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George Thomas Whittle was born at 26 Clover Street in Preston on the 23rd January 1891 the son of Albert James and Elizabeth Whittle (nee Muxlow). George`s father was a native of Preston and his mother was originally from Retford in Nottinghamshire and the couple married in St. John`s Parish Church in Preston on Christmas Day 1888. George had four brothers and five sisters; Maria Annie (1889), John (1892), Frederick Arthur (1894), Edith (1896), Mary Agnes (1898), Albert James (1901), Evelyn (1903) and twins Elizabeth and Sydney (1905).

In 1891 when George and his family lived in Clover Street his father`s occupation was noted as a manager in the warehouse of a cotton mill. By 1901 the family had moved to 190 West Strand in the Ashton on Ribble district. His father was now a cashier and his mother a restaurant keeper.

By the time the 1911 Census was recorded George and his family had moved house again to live at 95 Water Lane which was not far from their previous home on West Strand. George`s father was now working on Preston Docks as a clerk, George and his three sisters were all mill workers, later information stating that George was employed as a cotton spinner in the Shelley Road Mills. His younger brother Frederick was a waiter whilst the youngest four siblings; Albert (Bert), Evelyn, Elizabeth and Sydney were all attending school.

On the 12th October 1912 George married Mary Elizabeth Rickerby Elliott in St. Mark`s Church, Ashton on Ribble. The couple went on to have two daughters and a son; Annie (1913-1998), Francis (1914-1988) and May (1916-2002).

George enlisted at Preston on the 26th September 1914 with the service number 14041. His home address at the time was 41 Tulketh Road in Ashton on Ribble and for official purposes he named his wife Mary as his next of kin. George confirmed that he had no previous military experience. His medical inspection revealed that he was 5`5 ½ inches tall and his weight was recorded as 128lbs. He had a 37” chest, his hair was brown and he had blue eyes and a fresh complexion. On the 6th October 1914 he was posted to the 10th Battalion and then on the 31st July 1915 he embarked for France with the Battalion coming under the Command of 112th Brigade in the 37th Division.

From the middle of September 1915 until the beginning of July 1916 the 10th Battalion was in much the same area around Gommecourt, taking their turn in the trenches and billets around Bienvillers, Hannescamps and Humbercamps. On the 28th June 1916 George was appointed Lance Corporal (unpaid). The Battalion was still in the same location on the opening day of the Somme campaign before eventually being `bussed` out to Albert on the 6th and 7th July 1916 after the 37th Division (of which they were part) was transferred to the 34th Division. The 10th Battalion saw action on the Somme on the Usna Tar Line, Becourt Wood, Mametz Wood and Bazentin-le-Petit amongst others before re-joining the 37th Division at Beagin in early September 1916.

At 08.15 hours on the 15th November 1916 the Battalion was engaged in an attack on Munich Trench (Battle of the Ancre 13th-18th November 1916), in which the Battalion suffered numerous casualties which included a number of Officers. By the 25th November 1916 George had been promoted to Lance Corporal (paid) and then the following month to Corporal to complete the establishment.

According to later newspaper information the Major-General Commanding the 37th Division awarded George a certificate for his gallantry in action during November 1916. The Certificate contained the following;

Your Brigade Commanding Officer and Brigade Commander have informed me that you have distinguished yourself by your conduct in the field. I have read the report with much pleasure – H.B. Williams, Major-General Commanding 37th Division. In this instance Corporal Whittle was up in action for nine days without Officers or senior N.C.O. `s, all of them attached to the party having been killed. The certificate was awarded for gallantry in bringing in the wounded under shell fire”.

The Battalion spent practically the whole of December in the neighbourhood of Le Touret, the 112th Brigade H.Q. being at Bethune. In January 1917 the Battalion was still in the same area and taking their turn in the trenches and alternating with the 6th Bedfordshire Regiment. On the 17th January George took part in a small recce patrol;

Extract from the Battalion War Diary

17th January 1917 – Another patrol consisting of 2/Lt S.B. Smith and 9 other ranks – went out at 11pm returning at 2.30am. This party went up to the enemy`s wire to see if there was an entrance, as a large well used gap was easily found “2/Lt Smith, Corporal Whittle and 2 Officers went through the gap and when within 3 yards of the enemy`s parapet – an order in German was shouted and immediately about 6 rifles belayed forth. 2/Lieutenant Smith was wounded in three places, but only slightly, Corporal Whittle was severely wounded in the thigh and had bullets through both his hands. The Patrol then returned bringing (*while the remainder of the patrol kept guard at the entrance*) all the wounded back with them. Although this patrol was perhaps a little over cautious they brought back most important information – this being that the gap in the wire was well covered by M.G.`s and sentries.

After being wounded George was taken to 32 CCS which was situated at St. Venant before being returned to England where he spent a period of time being treated for his wounds at the General Infirmary in Leeds. The London Gazette dated 3rd March 1917 then announced the award of a Distinguished Conduct Medal for Corporal George T. Whittle, the citation reading as follows;

George, not yet fully recovered from his wounds, was presented with his Distinguished Conduct Medal by the Mayor of Preston (Alderman H. Cartmell), the ceremony taking place on Avenham Park in Preston on the 4th July 1917, the Lancashire Evening Post reported on the proceedings;

PRESTON D.C.M.

SET A FINE EXAMPLE OF COURAGE AND DETERMINATION

Yesterday afternoon, in the presence of a large number of people, on Avenham Park, the Mayor (Alderman H. Cartmell) presented the Distinguished Conduct Medal to Corporal Whittle, of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, for courageous conduct in France. The Mayor was accompanied on the platform by the Mayoress, Colonel Costobadie and Dr. H.O. Pilkington.

Before pinning the decoration on the breast of Corporal Whittle the Mayor said that the recipient had well earned the distinction, as they would see when he read the official record of the exploit in the “Gazette”, which was as follows; “Awarded Distinguished Conduct Medal – Corp. G.T. Whittle, North Lancashire Regiment, for conspicuous gallantry in action . Although wounded, he continued to carry out a patrol. He was again wounded. He has at all times set a fine example of courage and determination” (Applause). The Mayor then pinned on the decoration.

Corporal Whittle is a Preston man, 26 years of age, and his home is at 41 Tulketh Road, Ashton on Ribble. He joined the Army in September 1914, and has spent 19 months in France, being occupied practically the whole of that time in trench warfare. Before enlisting he worked at Preston Dock. He has not yet fully recovered from his wounds.

The particular incident which his D.C.M. commemorates occurred last January, but prior to that, in November 1916, he received a certificate from the Major-General Commanding the 37th Division.

Below, a photograph of George with his wife and three young children, George proudly displaying his Distinguished Conduct Medal; 

The nature of George`s wounds prevented him from returning to the front again and he was finally discharged from the Army on the 10th August 1917 with a pension of 24/- per week. He was awarded the Silver War Badge numbered 229881.

After the war George also received the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals to go with his Distinguished Conduct Medal;

In 1939 George, Mary and their youngest daughter were living at 18 Beverley Street in Ashton on Ribble, George working as a general carrier (motor) and their daughter May was a silk weaver.

George`s wife Mary died in 1941 and George passed away four years later on the 17th June 1945 and was afterwards laid to rest in Preston Cemetery.

All photographs in this article are reproduced with the kind permission of Christine Cross and Barbara Flanagan, granddaughters of George Thomas Whittle.

Janet Davis

Janet Davis

Janet Davis has been researching her family history for many years and through this she discovered many relatives who served in WW1. This interest then led Janet to do many walking the battlefield tours with her husband. In April 2013 she discovered this website and volunteered to help. Janet believes that there are lots of stories still to be told, most of them very sad but at the same time they are a fascinating insight into the men, their families, what they did and where they came from.
Janet Davis

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