Private 10795 George Withington

Killed in Action on Saturday, 25th September 1915, age 24.
Commemorated on Panel 73 to 76 of Loos Memorial, Pas De Calais, France.

1st Bn., South Staffordshire Regiment. 22nd Brigade of 7th Division.

Son of George and Betsy Withington.
Born: Wednesbury, Enlisted: Wednesbury, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, 18th May 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Commemorated on the St. Mark's Memorial.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/737626/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
15 Leabrook Square, Tipton, Staffs.
George Withington (33, General Labourer, born Hanley), his wife Betsy (37, born Wednesbury) and their 4 children: Ellen (11, born Tipton), George L. (9, born Tipton), Ernest (4, born Longton), and Charles (2, born Tipton).

1911 Census
21 Leabrook Square, Tipton, Staffs.
George Withington (43, General Labourer, born Hanley), his wife Betsy (47, born Wednesbury), and 3 of their surviving 4 children of 5: George Leonard (20, General Labourer, born Tipton), Ernest (14, General Labourer, born Longton), and Charles Richard (12, School, born Tipton).

Personal Data

None Available.

Action resulting in his death

As George arrived in France on the 18th May 1915, we can assume that he had enlisted in August or September 1914. The 1st South Staffs were in 22nd Brigade of 7th Division, and had already seen action at the battles of Neuve Chapelle, Aubers Ridge, and Festubert, before the George arrived; his first action would have been the Battle of Loos where George was to lose his life.

More detail of the Battle of Loos follows, but in summary: the 1st South Staffords rose to their feet at 6.28am, and moved steadily forward against an almost impregnable position immediately north of the Vermelles-Hulluch road, towards the Hulluch Quarries. After suffering heavy casualties, they took the German front and second lines. Those remaining moved on, and with other units mixed up with them, captured the Hulloch Quarries. Unfortunately the Quarries were lost to a German counter-attack overnight.

10 Officers and 125 Other Ranks of the 1st South Staffords lost their lives on that day, including 4 men of Tipton: George Withington, John Pulley, Robert Eachus, and Arthur Greenfield. Most of the South Staffs casualties have no known grave and are commemorated on the Loos Memorial; this includes George Withington. Of the Tipton men, only John Pulley has a known grave and he is buried in Fouquieres Churchyard Extension.

From the diary of the 1st South Staffords

24 September
In trenches at Noyelles. At 2130, Battalion moved to front line trenches at G10b prior to attack. It rained heavily about 2000. The Battalion received orders to attack the German fortified position at 0630. During the night it rained in torrents, and the trenches were half full of water. At 2200, the Battalion left the trenches at Noyelles, and moved forward through Vermelles (which was in ruins, and was occupied thickly by Field Artillery), through the maze of trenches to its position. The mud was knee deep. Everyone was pretty wet and muddy by the time our position in the line was reached.

25 September
The Battalion was in position about midnight, distributed as follows:

'C' Company in the front line trench. 184 men under Lt William Cooper.
'A' Company in first support, about 80 yards behind 'C'. 176 men under Capt Henry J. de Trafford.
'D' Company in second support, another 80 yards behind 'A'. 184 men under Capt Claude Limbery.
'B' Company in the old British trenches 50 yards behind 'D'. 185 men under Lt Henry Burke.

The Battalion strength was therefore 729 Other Ranks plus 21 officers plus the Medical Officer.

The line occupied by the Battalion was 300 yards long, facing nearly due east. The German line we were told to attack was about 450 yards long and strongly fortified, powerfully strengthened with flank defence. In front was exceptionally thick wire, and strong posts. There were small redoubts, manned with numerous machine guns, at intervals, and the left flank was enfiladed by a variety of fire from Hohenzollern Fort and Fosse 8.

The distance to be traversed was approximately 500 yards. Behind the German front line were communication trenches and a powerful 2nd line. Behind that on higher ground were the Quarries, and further on Cite St Elie.

The 20th Brigade were on our right, with 21st Brigade in support. The 1st Battalion South Staffs went into action at 6.28 am on the first day. The order to "Get ready to charge" came down the line, and Lt. W. Cooper instructed the scouts and wire-cutters to advance. Straight afterwards, 'C' Company climbed up the ladders and moved on through the dense smoke screen made by the British with smoke bombs, smoke candles and gas. The forbidding gloom was darkened even more by a thick cold mist and drizzling rain.

The Battalion War Diary recorded that: "Lt. W. Cooper led his men on with the utmost gallantry, and was killed on the German wire. He was a most gallant Officer, loved and respected by all ranks. 'A' Company came on splendidly, ably led by Captain Henry de Trafford, who behaved with the greatest coolness and daring. He fell on the German wire, and his last words were, 'Don't mind me; push ahead.' Truly he and Lt. Cooper, and the other brave Officers, N.C.Os and men, who fell on this fateful day, deserve the undying gratitude of their country and their Regiment. Lt. Bell, with 'A' Company, did excellent work, and proved himself-as at Festubert-a leader of men. 'D' Company, led by Captain O. Limbery, did gallant work under their young commander, who, with many others, was wounded. 'B' Company, under Lt. H. J. Burke, was the Reserve Company in fourth line, and were very well led by this young Officer, who displayed much bravery and keenness. He was, unfortunately, killed during the advance."

There is very little to describe about the actual assault, but the facts stand out very clearly. To make a long story short, the gallant 1st South Staffords rose to their feet at 6.28am, advanced in extended order - about 3 paces interval between each man - and moved steadily forward against this almost impregnable position. They stormed it, and took the second or support line. And what remained of this magnificent old regiment moved on, and with other units mixed up with them, captured the Quarries. Some of them, with their Commanding Officer, went on, up to about 50 yards of the German position in Cite St Elie. Unhappily, they had to pull back in the face of a strong German counter attack.

Lt.-Col. R.M. Ovens (Commanding 1st South Staffs) later complained of "..suffering terribly from uncut wire.." and how "..becoming a casualty seemed only a matter of time."

The Battalion lost in this attack about the following number:
430 NCOs and men killed or wounded, out of 729
9 officers killed, 8 wounded (1 died), and 1 gassed, of 21 who went into action.

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