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George Edward Hirst

George Edward HirstCorporal George Edward Hirst, 17356, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 10th Battalion

George Edward Hirst was born in 1892 at Woolley Colliery, near Barnsley and was baptised at Woolley St. Peter with West Bretton Church on the 16th September 1892. He was the fourth child and only son of coal miner George Hirst and his wife, Ann (nee Wiper), who married at Thornhill St Michael and All Angels Church on the 21st July 1883.

The couple had five children from their marriage, four girls and George Edward. The two eldest children were born at their parents’ home village of Thornhill Combs. In 1901, the family were living at Top Row, Woolley Colliery where 44 year-old George Hirst senior was described as a 'corporal in coal mine', suggesting that he was a reservist.

By 1911 the family had moved to live at 24, Teale’s Yard, Ossett where George senior was working as a shot firer in a coal mine and George Edward was a dyehouse labourer.

George Edward Hirst married Millicent Morton, of Haggs Hill Ossett, at Thornhill, in Summer 1911 and they had four children, all girls. A daughter Catherine was born late 1911, Alice in 1912; Nellie in 1914 and Rose in 1915.

George Edward Hirst's army service appears not to have survived, but it is known that he enlisted at Wakefield and embarked for France with the King’s Own (Yorkshire Light Infantry) on the 11th September 1915. He was posthumously awarded the 1914/15 Star, in recognition of his service overseas before the 31st December 1915, and also the British and Victory medals.

10th (Service) Battalion, KOYLI was formed at Pontefract in September 1914 as part of K3 and came under command of 64th Brigade in 21st Division. The Battalion moved to Berkhamsted and then to Halton Park (Tring) in October 1914, going on to billets in Maidenhead in November. They returned to Halton Park in April 1915 and went on to Witley in August. In September 1915, they landed in France and on the 13th February 1918, the battalion was disbanded in France, with at least some of the men going on to 20th Entrenching Battalion.

During the Battle of Morval, on the 25th and 26th September 1916, the 9th and 10th Battalions, KOYLI were involved in the attack on Gird Trench, together with other elements of the 64th Brigade of the 21st Division. They were held up in uncut wire and swept by machine gun fire from the front, and were forced to shelter in No Man’s Land until nightfall, taking heavy casualties. Later they advanced and captured part of the Gueudecourt-Le Transloy Road. Corporal George E. Hirst was killed during this battle.

The Battle of Morval, 25–28 September 1916, was an attack during the Battle of the Somme by the British Fourth Army on the villages of Morval, Gueudecourt and Lesboeufs held by the German 1st Army, which had been the final objectives of the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (15–22 September).

Somme Map December 1916

Above: Map of the Somme battlefield in December 1916. Gueudecourt, where Corporal George Hirst died is top right of the map in the grey shaded area.

Corporal George Edward Hirst, aged 24 years, died on the 25th September 1916, the son of George Hirst, of 24, Teall Street, Ossett, Yorks and the husband of Millicent Hirst, of 42, Skipton Road, Earby, Colne, Lancs. He is remembered on Pier and Face 11 C and 12 A of the Thiepval Memorial,1 Somme, France. The Thiepval Memorial will be found on the D73, next to the village of Thiepval, off the main Bapaume to Albert road (D929).

On 1 July 1916, supported by a French attack to the south, thirteen divisions of Commonwealth forces launched an offensive on a line from north of Gommecourt to Maricourt. Despite a preliminary bombardment lasting seven days, the German defences were barely touched and the attack met unexpectedly fierce resistance. Losses were catastrophic and with only minimal advances on the southern flank, the initial attack was a failure. In the following weeks, huge resources of manpower and equipment were deployed in an attempt to exploit the modest successes of the first day. However, the German Army resisted tenaciously and repeated attacks and counter attacks meant a major battle for every village, copse and farmhouse gained. At the end of September, Thiepval was finally captured. The village had been an original objective of 1 July. Attacks north and east continued throughout October and into November in increasingly difficult weather conditions. The Battle of the Somme finally ended on 18 November with the onset of winter.

In the spring of 1917, the German forces fell back to their newly prepared defences, the Hindenburg Line, and there were no further significant engagements in the Somme sector until the Germans mounted their major offensive in March 1918.

The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The memorial also serves as an Anglo-French Battle Memorial in recognition of the joint nature of the 1916 offensive and a small cemetery containing equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves lies at the foot of the memorial.

The dead of other Commonwealth countries, who died on the Somme and have no known graves, are commemorated on national memorials elsewhere.


1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site