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George’s parents, Albert Baxendale and Grace Ottley were both born in Preston and married on the 4th December 1881 at All Saints Church in Preston. They set up home at 34 Salter Street just off North Road and over the next twenty years they went on to have at least 10 surviving children, 6 boys and 4 girls, George was the eighth child and was born in the December quarter of 1896. The others being; William Edward (1881), Albert (1886), Septimus (1887), Ellen (1888), Thomas (1890), Benjamin (1892), Caroline (1895), Grace (1899), Annie (1902).

At the time of the 1901 Census the family had moved a short distance to Brookfield Street and all family members of working age were in employed in local textile mills. By 1911 Grace Baxendale was listed as being head of the household and at a new address, 56 Frank Street which was just two streets away from their previous home. There were now only two daughters and two sons living at home with their mother, George being one of them. They were all still working at local textile mills with the exception of George aged 14 who had a job at a local biscuit manufacturers and his youngest sister Annie who was still at school. At some point after this George left the biscuit factory and went to work as a weaver at Kent Street Mill where he stayed until he enlisted into the Army.

George first enlisted into the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment on the 26th January 1915 declaring his age as 19 years and 2 months, which was incorrect. He signed up for a term of 12 years (7 years with the Colours and 5 on Reserve). However, after his medical inspection he was discharged as `not being likely to become an efficient soldier` after the Medical Officer noted that he had a hernia. On the 25th May 1915 he enlisted again into the Territorial Force of the LNL. At his medical inspection it was noted that he was 5`3” tall and weighed 112lbs and had a chest measurement of 34 inches. He had grey eyes and brown hair and this time George was more truthful about his age declaring that he was 18 years and 6 months old. This time he passed his medical inspection and was issued with the service number 3914 and posted to the 3/4th (Reserve) Battalion LNL.

In June of 1915 George was with the Battalion at Weeton Camp near Kirkham before going down the road to Blackpool in October. He sailed for France on the 18th March 1916 and his service record notes that he was sent to join the 1/4th Battalion in the field on the 3rd April 1916. The Battalion at this time were occupying trenches at Bretencourt and the Battalion War Diary notes that a draft of 68 men arrived from the Base on the 4th April 1916 so it`s likely George was amongst this group. The new men were not immediately sent to the trenches but kept in the village of Monchiet, the place where the Battalion billeted when out of the line. They were kept busy on general fatigues until their front line training was completed.

When George and his colleagues re-joined the Battalion in the trenches, movement had been quite static between the months of April and July, alternating between trenches, reserve and relief out of line in Monchiet, Dainville and Barly. However, there was still a steady flow of casualties both killed and wounded being an everyday occurrence.

On the 7th August 1916, the 1/4th Battalion and the 1/8th Liverpool Regiment were tasked with taking the village Guillemont. Little did the high command realise what a task they had taken on, the village was very heavily defended and was to prove a thorn in the side of the British Army for the next twelve weeks.

Assembling in the trenches located in the southern corner of Trones Wood, the 1/4th LNL on the right and the 1/8th Liverpool`s on the left, they waited for the order to attack the next morning.

The attack commenced at 08:30hrs on the morning of the 8th August 1916 and things started to go wrong from the start. The 1/4th LNL attacking on the right ran into strong opposition at the outset, this was not helped by heavy fog. Meanwhile, on the left, the 1/8th Liverpool`s managed to reach the village but the enemy had reinforcements moved into the village and were able to concentrate heavy fire from machine guns mounted on wagons on the Trones to Guillemont line. This along with the fog caused confusion amongst the attacking forces. A Company of the 1/4th LNL who were intended to consolidate the gains ran into heavy resistance from the enemy and were forced to withdraw.

The Battalion was relieved at 02:00hrs on the 9th August by the 1/5th South Lancashire Regiment. The casualties suffered by the 1/4th Battalion amounted to 2 Officers killed and several wounded and missing. Losses amongst other ranks amounted to 9 killed, 97 wounded and 107 men missing, many of those listed as missing were later confirmed as having died.

Sadly, George was one of the men killed in action on the 8th August 1916 and after his family had received confirmation of his death, the Preston Guardian printed the following information;

3914 Private George Baxendale

As George`s body was never recovered from the battlefield, his name was later added to the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme.

After the war George`s mother Grace took receipt of his British War and Victory Medals that he was entitled to.

Two of George`s brothers also served in WW1, Septimus joined the M.G.C. and Benjamin the Labour Corps and both of them survived the war.

Rank: Private
Service No: 3914
Date of Death: 08/08/1916
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, “D Coy” 1st/4th Bn.

Ron Crowe
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