Welcome to my blog......

The purpose of this blog is to remember the fallen heroes of the Great War, whose names are recorded on the memorial plaque situated in St Barnabas Church, New Whittington, Chesterfield.

To mark the centenary of World War 1 I aim to research all of the men on the memorial. I hope to ensure that the brave men who gave their lives for their country 100 years ago are remembered and each man's story told.

I would love to hear from anyone who may have information regarding the men; photos, letters or passed down memories. Any descendents are most welcome to contact me and I will provide copies of the research that I have undertaken.

"They shall not grow old, as we that are left to grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them"

For The Fallen,
Laurence Binyon September 1914.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

GEORGE EDWARD PRATT

GEORGE EDWARD PRATT

Private 1487

6th Battalion Sherwood Forester Regiment

Killed in action - 14th July 1916



George Edward Pratt was the first son of George and Elizabeth Pratt. He was born in Seaforth, Lancashire around 1889.  

George's father was from Bedfordshire but along with his parents and siblings he had moved to the Chesterfield area by 1881. The men of the family were employed by the collieries so it is most likely that they followed the work to the Derbyshire coal mines.  He married Elizabeth Clayton in 1888, she was from Barrow-On-Soar, Leicestershire.  

It may well be that George snr was working in Seaforth, Lancashire when George Edward was born.  On the 1891 census George Edward and his parents were living at 166 Sheffield Road, in the Whittington Moor area of Chesterfield.  George snr was employed as a general labourer.

By 1901 the family had moved a few miles away to Queen Street, Brimington.  George snr was now described as a furnace labourer. George Edward was 11 years old by now, his 2 year old cousin Robert Pratt was also staying with the family at this time.

There appears to be a large gap between George's birth and his siblings arrival, but in 1906 another baby boy was born to George snr and Elizabeth; named Charles Sydney sadly this baby died later that same year. Next came Clarence Sidney, he was known by his middle name of Sidney, born 1907.  Another son named Leonard was born on 22nd August 1908.  

1911 the eve of WW1....

On the 1911 census we find George and his family are living at 39 Queen Street, Brimington.  George had found worthy employment as a porter for Great Central Railway Company.  George would have been lucky to have gained the opportunity to work and progress in a railway industry, the work was reputable and hopefully George would have progressed up the career ladder.  


Wedding bells....

George married his sweetheart Gladys Heeley in 1913.  Gladys was born in New Whittington in 1895, the daughter of coal miner Thomas and his wife Alice Heeley.  

George and Gladys soon had their own little family when on 23rd January 1914 a son named George Thomas was born.  

George's war....

George's service records have survived however they are fairly damaged.  The records state that George enlisted on 18th October 1911, his occupation was "Railway Servant" for Midland Railways. He was a member of the Territorial Force, which was simply a part-time army.  He had joined at Staveley Town and had signed up to provide home defence, the soldiers were not signed up to undertake service overseas. They were nick-named the "Saturday night soldiers". 

He was 5 foot 6 inches tall and was described as "fit for the territorial force" on completing his medical.

And so George's service records record him as having served 3 years and 133 days on home service before he left for France.  He arrived to join the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F) on 28th February 1915.

George was posted with the 1st/6th Battalion Sherwood Foresters; Private 1487.  The battalion were formed at Chesterfield right at the start of WW1 in August 1914.  It is not known when George joined with this battalion, but he would have agreed at this time to serve overseas. 

1915....

The men were now trained and stationed at Hallingbury Park.  On 19th February 1915 the "eve of their departure to the continent"  they received a very special guest "His Majesty the King" arrived to inspect the Division and offer encouragement for the men.  H.M also officially changed the name of the regiment from the "Notts & Derbys Infantry Brigade" to the "6th Sherwood Foresters Brigade". 

An early start on 25th February saw two trains leave Braintree to embark on the "Maidan"  at Southampton.  They arrived in Le Harve and were fitted out with new coats and supplies before they marched to their billets at Cassel on 28th February.

The battalion spent the coming months moving from trench to billets around France and Belgium.  They were commended for their kindness in early May when a worn out Canadian Infantry Brigade happened to march past them.  The 6th Sherwood Forester band struck up their instruments and marched alongside them, playing cheering music along the way. Major Victor Odlum wrote in a memorandum "The music, at such a time and in such a place was quite a novelty; but it was just the thing wanted.  Our men were nearly all in.  The music backed them up at once."  "May I say, that I consider this the most striking instance of thoughtful kindness with which we have met since we set out on the campaign".


Daily Telegraph - May 1915
The act of kindness also made the national newspapers when Captain George Gibson of the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade wrote to the Daily Telegraph to thank the 6th Sherwoods.  He wrote how his battalion were marching away from Ypres, "having been up the Hill for six days and had left more behind us than we cared to contemplate".  He wrote how the music played for about 20 minutes; "behind us were the guns rumbling in the distance, above us the stars, below us cobble stones, but all around us was the music".

In July the battalion were stationed at Sanctuary Wood near Ypres.  On 19th July the war diary records "Hooge mine exploded, heavy bombardment".  Later that month on 30th July the Germans first used their "flame thrower" at Hooge. 

September and October of 1915 saw the battalion take part in the Battle of Loos; George would have been present at some of the most fierce and momentous events of World War 1. 

1916.... 

On 1st January 1916 George and his comrades were at Isbergues near Marseilles in France.  The war diary notes "observed as a holiday throughout the brigade".  On 14th January they were camped at Boreli Camp and the 97% of the battalion received their vaccinations.

The 1st/6th Battalion were at Mont St Eloy when on 16th March 1916 143 men were drafted as reinforcements.  One of these men was local New Whittington man Harry Straw.  On 31st March a further 122 other ranks arrived, the battalions Lewis guns had arrived also a few days earlier.   

On 16th April the battalion received orders to explode two mines that night; Birkin and Grange.  This order was carried out and the mines were successfully exploded during the night of 16th into 17th April.  Two men were killed and 3 wounded in this exercise.

May 1916 saw the beginning of preparations for the Somme offensive. George and his battalion were given practice in carrying out a smoke attack on 2nd May.  On 6th May they marched to billets at Ivergny and then on to Humbercamps the following day.  For the week commencing 10th May until 18th May the battalion were set to work digging communication trenches at Fonquevillers. 

On 19th May 1916 George and his comrades would relieve the 6th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment in the trenches, where the battalion remained until 27th May when they were relieved by the 8th Battalion Sherwood Foresters.

June 1916 saw George spending time in and out of the trenches, marching and digging.  The end of June was particularly wet and the was diary on the 24th June notes "every man wet through & covered with mud from digging".  On 30th June they were at Fonquevillers "preparatory to attack on German trenches".

The Battle of the Somme....

George and his comrades were part of the 139th Brigade, on the 1st July 1916 they "attacked on a front from N.E corner of Gommecourt Wood".  The war diary tells that the plan was to attack the German trenches under partial cover of smoke, but owing to the heavy rain that had preceded the event the "very muddy state of our own trenches, part of 4th wave greater part of 5th & 7th (....) carrying companies could not get away before smoke lifted, and all attempts to advance by these and 6th A & B Coys were met by heavy artillery and machine gun barrage.  The attack therefore failed with heavy losses to assaulting Battns, but the main object was achieved of containing enemy forces near Gommecourt."  

The men were relieved that evening by the 8th Sherwood Foresters. The diary gives the total casualties as 170 men.

The following days were spent marching from village to village, drafts of reinforcements joined the brigade. On the 8th and 9th July the battalion were carrying gas accessories to the trenches.  On the night of the 11th July into the morning of the 12th July the battalion relieved the 5th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment in the trenches at Bailleulmont.  The dairy then misses three days until 15th when it states that some of the companies were relieved.

Private 1487 George Edward Pratt was recorded as being killed in action on 14th July 1916.  




George was 26 years old when he lost his life, he left a young wife and a 2 year old son.  He is buried at Bellacourt Military Cemetery, Riviere, France.  Grave ref I.F 5

His grave is marked with a CWGC stone and includes the inscription chosen by his beloved wife Gladys May Pratt....


"Though lost to sight, to memory ever dear"



George was awarded the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and 15 Star for his service.

George's death was reported in the Derbyshire Times dated 22nd July 1916 page 8.  It included a photo of a very smart George in his civilian clothes, with shirt and tie.  The obituary reads as follows ....

"Private G.E. Pratt of Brimington, attached to the Sherwood 
Foresters, has been killed, the sad information
having been conveyed to his wife by
Lieut. Col. Goodman who stated that Pratt
was killed on the 14th instant.

Private Pratt was a member of the Territorials
and has gone through a lot of heavy fighting.

He was 27 (sic) years of age and leaves a widow and one child."
*age may be wrong
Life went on....

Gladys May Pratt George's wife lived at 41 Queen Street,Brimington next door to George's parents at number 39.  In 1920 she remarried, Edwin Hextall was a widower who's wife Minnie had died in 1918.  

Gladys and Edwin were still living at 41 Queens Street, Brimington in 1939.  Edwin died in 1962.  Gladys lived on until 1988, she died aged 93 years old.  

George Thomas married Ethel Duroe in 1939.  Not long after the marriage George and his new bride were recorded on the 1939 Register; he was working as a clerk for a wagon company.  They lived at 29 Troughbrook Road, Staveley at the time.  

George and Ethel had a son and a daughter.  Ethel died in 1992 and George died in 2000.

George & Elizabeth George's parents remained in Brimington at least until the early years after WW1, living at 39 Queen Street.  George snr died in 1926 aged 75 years old.  I have not been able to locate a possible death for Elizabeth Pratt.

Clarence Sidney Pratt may have married Ada Holmes in 1932.  He died at the young age of 40 years old in 1947.

Leonard Pratt also married in 1932, to Edith Parkes. In 1939 Leonard and Edith were living at 30 North Crescent, Staveley.  Leonard died in 1968 aged 60 years old.  

*****
George was one of many local men who also served with the 1st/6th Battalion; fellow comrades also named on the St Barnabas Memorial are;
Abraham Longden Savage 
Harry Straw
John Arthur Andrews
Bernard Millington

*****


If you may be connected to this family or have any further information on George Pratt or his family please do either leave comments via the pen icon below or drop me an email.

If you are descendant of the Pratt family and would like to add your own family "story" then please do feel free to contact me.

I hope that I have not given details of living persons, if so please advise and I will remove immediately.

Please note all information has been taken from online indexes and sources.  Due to the sheer numbers of people to be researched I am unable to purchase vital event certificates to confirm my research.


*****


Ref and further reading  -
Census
Parish registers
Medal rolls
Soldiers who died in the Great war
Register of soldiers effects

Newspaper articles - Derbyshire Times 22nd July 1916 page 8

CWGC  http://www.cwgc.org

War diaries - Piece 2694/1; 1/6th Sherwood Forester Regiment Feb 1915 to June 1919.

1st/6th Battalion Sherwood Foresters Battalion - http://www.1914-1918.net/notts.htm

Great Central Railway Company - /http://www.gcrailway.co.uk/



1 comment:

  1. I wonder if Gladys Heeley was a relative of Lydia Heeley who married Bramwell Booth?
    Thanks,Janet Booth

    ReplyDelete