Information provided by his daughter, Nancy Shurlock (born Annie Elizabeth Shurlock)
George Alfred Shurlock was born in Albury, in September 1871, to James and Louisa Shurlock; he was the fifth of nine children, although, sadly, not all were to survive to adulthood. George spent his childhood in Albury Heath, where the Shurlock family had been for decades.
Prior to the First World War, George had been working as a house painter on the Duke of Northumberland’s estate in Albury Park, an area of 150 acres that the Percy family had acquired in 1890. Only four months before the outbreak of war, George married Mary Anne Cumper, who had been a family friend for many years. The pair were unusual for the period in that they married much later in life than was the norm: on their marriage certificate, George is recorded as 43 years old and Mary as 35. The marriage was a happy one, and was soon followed by the births of three daughters: Nancy (June 1915), Dorothy (June 1916) and Hilda (November 1919).
Much of his wartime life is unknown, or subject to uncertain family memory, but George was only called up in the latter years of the conflict and was not posted abroad. He received his orders in April 1918, after the British Government increased the upper age limit for conscription to 50; George was 47, and had been too old to enlist prior to this extension of the Military Service Bill. The family is fairly certain that George joined the Royal Engineers, the insignia on his cap (see his photograph) looks very much like that of the regiment. Fortunately, the family still has his silver spoon with his service number engraved: 326867. It is hard to trace his wartime experience because he did not serve abroad, and therefore was not awarded any medals. However, he did spend the remaining months of the war in Chalfont St Giles, at a military camp, most likely carrying out essential war work.
Sapper Shurlock, as he would have been known, was demobbed in February 1919, meaning that he was allowed to leave his military duties and return to civilian life. His eldest daughter Nancy recalls this occasion as her first real memory as a child, then aged nearly 4 years old. She distinctly remembers seeing her father walking towards the family home by Albury Heath Common, running ‘as fast as [her] little legs would carry [her]’ into his arms. Like most men of his generation, George would not talk about the war and his time with the Royal Engineers, but was largely unaffected by the conflict in the way that many were. This was because he did not witness the horrors of the Western Front. It was very common for returning soldiers to encounter difficulties in finding work, but George managed to secure a position as a painter and decorator for a firm called F.A. Woods and Sons.
George Alfred Shurlock died on 10 January 1941, in St Luke’s Hospital, Guildford, after suffering a heart attack.
The Shurlock/Cumper family contributed in many ways to the Surrey war effort.
Matthew Shurlock, George’s nephew, was killed in action on the Western Front in 21 March 1918, aged only 21. He lies in an unknown grave in France, but is commemorated at the Pozieres Memorial. He was a Private with the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment (Regimental Number: G/22292)
William Arthur Cumper, George’s brother-in-law, fought on the Western Front with the Royal Engineers (Regimental Number: 176621). William survived the war, but never spoke of his experiences. Kenny Cannons, a friend, credits William with saving his life by sharing the last of his water with him.
Fanny Elizabeth Cumper, George’s sister-in-law, worked at the Chilworth Munitions Factory, outside Guildford.