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George Spencer was born on 15 July 1890 in Bamber Bridge and was baptised at St Saviour’s on 10 August. His mother was Elizabeth Spencer (b. 1868 in Preston). No father is named in St Saviour’s baptismal records. Elizabeth married Samuel Charleston (b. 1860 in Cuerden, a labourer in a cotton mill) on Christmas Day, 1895. The 1911 Census says Elizabeth had 3 children, they were George, then Margaret and Thomas Charleston. Only Margaret was living with her parents in 1911 (at 20 Club Street). George and his step-brother Thomas Charleston were living with their grandparents, George and Margaret Spencer at 330 Station Road, Bamber Bridge. In the household were also two of George and Margaret’s other children, another George and Alice. ‘Our’ George was a cotton weaver. He was brought up exclusively by his grandparents.

George probably enlisted in 1916. His medal records show he was assigned service number 8161 and posted to 4/5 Battalion. This battalion came into existence in June 1916 and came under orders of 170th Brigade in 57th (2nd West Lancashire) Division. The Division moved to France in February 1917. They fought first in the defence of Armentières and then later in the year in the Second Battle of Passchendaele. 4/5Bn was then amalgamated with 1/5Bn (still in 57th Division) in January 1918, so George was transferred and given a new service number, 243568.

The infantry brigades of 57th Division did not take part in the Battles of the Lys, only the Divisional Artillery was engaged. In fact, the infantry brigades had a very quiet time in the first half of 1918 and were spared engagement in the German Spring Offensive. They spent the time in training and by the end of March the battalion was back up to near full strength, with 40 officers and 994 other ranks. In April they were at Couin and in May at Coigneux and the Regimental History says that in these months “there is nothing of interest to record, and it was not in fact until well past the middle of August that any of the units of 57th Division were called upon to take part in any major operations”. Nevertheless, CWGC records 17 men from 1/5Bn who were killed between 14 and 31 May 1918. The War Diary shows that the battalion was in the trenches at Gommecourt from 16 May. The days were relatively quiet but most nights patrols and raiding parties were sent out against the enemy lines. Even in this ‘quiet’ period along the front they had almost 100 casualties in the single month. George died of wounds at a hospital in Rouen on 23 May. He was 27 years old. The Bn remained in the trenches until 29 May when they returned to billets at Coigneux. Their billets were continually bombed so they preferred to sleep in the trenches!

Rank: Private
Service Number: 243568
Date of Death: 23/05/1918
Aged: 27
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/5th Bn.

Bill Brierley
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