George Turton


Private 48132, 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment (The Green Howards)

Died 22nd March 1918 aged 20

Commemorated Pozieres Memorial, France

Son of George and Emily Ann Turton

Lived 4, Cater Lane, Heckmondwike

George was the son of George Turton of Birkin, near Knottingley and Emily Ann, nee Richards, of Hemingborough. George’s father was an Osler or Hosler, that is someone who looked after horses. The family moved around quite often before finally settling in Heckmondwike. In 1911 the family were living at 4, Cater Lane in Heckmondwike, George (senior) was a Horse Keeper for the railway company and is described as, "working at home", this probably meant they were living near the railway sidings, the property of the Yorkshire & Lancashire Railway Company. George's mother had given birth to 10 children but only 4 had survived to 1911.

George (junior) was born in 1899 and in 1901 was living with his parents and 3 sisters and one brother at 4, Cater Street, Heckmondwike. He attended Heckmondwike Secondary School, then a Higher Grade School, accommodating over 900 children. Heckmondwike Secondary School is now the Grammar School. He was also a member of St James's Parish Church.

George was still at school in 1911 and on leaving school he worked at Flush Mills, in the town. He joined the 2nd Battalion, Yorkshire Hussars (Alexandra, Princes of Wales's Own) in March 1917 aged 18 years. He enlisted in Bradford and his army number was 48132.

He went to France in January 1918. In March of that year the battalion was in Roupy, which is near St Quentin in North Eastern France. We know, from Sir Douglas Haigh's Despatches, that the British Army in early 1918 was aware of preparations for a German counter offensive. Sir Douglas wrote: "Towards the middle of February, 1918, it became evident that the enemy was preparing for a big offensive on the Western front. It was known from various sources that he had been steadily increasing his forces in the Western theatre since the beginning of November, 1917. These reinforcements were more than were necessary for defence and as they were moved at a time when the distribution of food and fuel to the civil population in Germany was rendered extremely difficult through lack of rolling stock, I concluded that the enemy intended to attack at an early date.... As the 21st March approached it became certain that an attack on this sector was imminent, and counter-preparation was carried out nightly by our artillery on the threatened front. By 21st March the number of German infantry divisions in the Western theatre had risen to 192, an increase of 46 since the 1st November, 1917."

The German army’s offensive, known as Operation Michael, began just before 0500 on 21st March. Haigh wrote that there was fierce fighting at Roupy: "On the morning of the 22nd March the ground was again enveloped in thick mist, under cover of which the enemy renewed his attacks in great strength all along the line. Fighting was again very heavy and short-range fire from guns, rifles and machine guns caused enormous losses to the enemy’s troops. The weight of his attack, however, combined with the impossibility of observing beforehand and engaging with artillery the massing of his troops enabled him to press forward."

It was at this time George was killed in action. He is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial, on the road between Albert and Bapaume in the Somme region.

There is a record of George's effects and a war gratuity being paid to his father George. The effects were £2-10-03, paid over on 2nd August 1918 and the War Gratuity of £3-0-0 was signed for on 25th November 1919. He was awarded posthumously the Victory Medal and the British Medal for his war service. George’s father died in 1922 whilst his mother lived in Heckmondwike until she died in 1935.

George is commemorated on a number of War Memorials: St James's Church, Heckmondwike Grammar School, T F Firth's Memorial and the Memorial in Bailiff Bridge. {PL/KW-132}

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