George was born in Godstone in 1896. He was the eldest of three children born to Obed, a labourer, and Sarah Daniels. He was baptised at St Nicholas, Godstone, on 10 May of that year.
George was just 8 years old when he lost his father. Sarah remarried and the new family settled down in Caterham. In 1911, they were living in Coulsdon and George had started to work on a local farm.
George came to Woodmansterne before the war broke out where he must have met the Lee family. William and Ellen Lee had at least nine children and George was a contemporary of the younger children: Kate, Walter and Alice. The Lee family were soon to move to 44 Diceland Road, Banstead.
Two of the older Lee brothers had served with the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) and George chose to join the RGA when war broke out. He attested at Croydon in August 1914, adding a year to his age so that he was old enough to serve overseas.
George sailed to France in July 1915 with 15th Siege Battery. Just a few weeks before he left, he and Alice Lee were married at Fareham, Hampshire. Both claimed to be older than they were.
The Royal Garrison Artillery was responsible for the Army’s big guns and siege batteries had the biggest guns of all. They sat thousands of yards behind the line and bombarded strongpoints with huge shells. 15th Siege Battery was equipped with four 6-inch 30cwt howitzers and about 50 men were needed per gun to keep them supplied with ammunition, in good working order and firing around the clock.
They were split into 2 sections and spent autumn and winter 1915 in Picardy, the rolling chalk grassland through which the Somme ran, and further north, near Arras. They were withdrawn from action in the spring to re-equip with new guns. Back home in Diceland Road, Alice gave birth to a daughter, Ellen.
George’s battery took part in the huge 7-day bombardment that heralded the start of the Battle of the Somme and was then constantly in action as the fighting continued.
On 23 July 1916, George’s battery was shelled and he was hit by shrapnel. His left thighbone was fractured. He was evacuated and shipped home to England to be treated at the Salford Royal Hospital in Manchester. His wound became infected and, on 12 August, George died of blood poisoning. He was 20 years old.
George was buried at All Saints’, Banstead, on 17 August. He is commemorated on the Banstead War Memorial, the Garton Memorial in All Saints’ churchyard, on the wooden panels in the Lady Chapel at All Saints’ and in the All Saints’ Book of Men Who Served Overseas.
Alice would later lose her second husband, Stanley Skelton, to the war.
George was commemorated at All Saints’, Banstead, on the 100th anniversary of his death, Friday 12 August 2016 at 11:50am. Alice’s son Ted, by her third marriage, will toll a bell 100 times at noon in George’s memory.
Longer versions of the stories researched for Banstead’s WW1 remembrance projects are available on request.