Research and text by Brian Roote
In St Nicholas Churchyard, Godstone, is a CWGC headstone to George Carman. All is not what it seems, however, as the following story reveals. George Carman was born in 1881, in Reigate, to James Carman and Emily Sargent. His father was a native of East Grinstead but by 1901 they were living in Wonham Cottages in South Godstone. In 1910 George married Eliza Jane Hall in St Nicholas, Godstone, and moved to Old Surrey Cottages at Tylers Green. They had a son Edwin in 1910, a daughter Mabel in 1913 and a son Alfred in 1917.
George attested in Croydon on 6 November 1914 and it was revealed that he had served in the Boer War in The Royal Horse Artillery as a gunner, number 22295. He was wounded on 11 June 1900 and was entitled to Kings 2 plus clasp and Queens 6 clasps. He went to India on 17 July 1902 and was finally discharged in 1904 at the termination of his term.
He enlisted in Croydon on 6 February 1914 and was placed in The Royal Defence Corps, service number 3729. He was then medically examined on 6 November 1916 and was classed as ‘unfit for war service’ and was discharged. The wounds he suffered in the Boer War were probably the reason for his posting to the Royal Defence Corps. This unit was set up to cater for volunteers who were too old or unfit for front line service. They were used as guards at strategic points and for guarding Prisoners of War.
So George made his way home to be with his family. He died on 30 April 1917 and was buried in the churchyard and Eliza was granted a pension of £1.2s.11d weekly for her and the children.
In the early 1920s the job of finding and placing headstones on war graves was started. Families were contacted and offered a white CWGC headstone. A short message could be engraved. In the case of many servicemen who had died in this country they were remembered on family plots but it is not unusual to see a CWGC headstone also on these graves. When the authorities looked at George Carman they could not find a record of his death. Fortunately Eliza had remained in Tylers Cottages as it seems she was contacted in November 1923 and confirmed when George had died. So George lays quietly in the churchyard with the white headstone to remember him – an almost forgotten soldier of The Great War.
Sources: 1911 Census; The National Archives