Researched and written by Anne Wright
George Edward Gentry was a native of Weybridge as was his father, also George Gentry. George Senior grew up at Chestnut Cottages, just off Princes Road and his son at 2, Young’s Cottages in Waverley Road. Young George’s parents married in the summer of 1896, his mother, Alice Faithful, came from Ripley. George Edward was born on 8 January 1898 and was baptised at St. James’ Church a month later on 13 February. By 1901 his father was a bricklayer’s labourer. Ten years later the family was at the same address, the father was now a labourer at the cemetery and George had two siblings; Doris Ethel and Cyril Edwin. George was still at school but was also a newsboy. He was later employed as a gardener by Mr. A. Hartmann of Netherfield.
He enlisted at Weybridge but was not on active service until at least 1916. Before serving with the Royal West Surreys George had been with the Royal Sussex Regiment (20000). He was posted to three battalions in his second regiment: the 7th, 3/4th and the 6th. George’s final battalion was part of the 37th Brigade in the 12th (Eastern) Division. On I March 1918 they were at Bac St. Maur (SW of Armentieres) where they were inspected by Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig. For them 1918 was dominated by the German Spring Offensive (21 March-17 July) and the eventual Allied response in what were to be the final one hundred days of the war. The German onslaught forced the Allies back up to 40 miles and created huge incursions in their line. George’s division took up a defensive position on a ridge west of La Boiselle (2 miles from Albert) on 25 March and covered the withdrawal of the 47th (London) Division. He and his battalion comrades then moved to defend the R. Ancre at Aveluy (immediately north of Albert); in so doing they suffered heavy casualties. April, May and June saw them in and out of the front line always close to Albert or Amiens. Much of July was spent in training.
By 4 August George was back in the front line near Dernancourt (3 km south of Albert) and part of the Allied counter-offensive which would finally result in victory. He and his comrades captured part of the enemy line with the aid of a tank on 9 August and moved forward to the Amiens defence line the next day; 22 were killed and 91 wounded. They were relieved on 12 August but were back in the line from 15-20 August; this was a generally quiet time with relatively light casualties. They were able to spend the 21st bathing, resting and cleaning. The next day, which was very hot, they were back in the front line in their old positions to join in the Battle of Albert. On 23 August the battalion assembled near Meaulte (immediately south of Albert); they advanced at 1.30 am under an artillery barrage pushing across the old Somme battlefield of 1916. They were part of an enormous general Allied attack along a battlefront of 33 miles. All their objectives were achieved. However, 22 were killed and 63 wounded. George died of wounds on this day; he may have sustained his injuries in early August but it is very likely to have been in the attack on 23 August.
He is buried at Franvillers Communal Cemetery Extension in the village of the same name, on high ground above the R. Ancre, 10 km from Albert. George’s family continued to live in Weybridge, his parents and younger brother were still in Waverley Road in 1939, but had moved to number 26. His sister, Doris married Arthur Henry Hackwell at St. James’ Church in 1927.
British Army WW1 Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920,
England & Wales Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915,
German Offensive of 1918,
Surrey, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1912,
Surrey, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1962,
UK, WW1 Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920,
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919,