1914 - 2023

The Marston Lads

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Lance Corporal

George Cowley

Killed in Action

7th December 1915

Age 32

7th Battalion Rifle Brigade

8 Ollershaw Lane

Lance Corp George Cowley
(circa 1915)
George Cowley was another Marston Lad that joined at the outset of the First World War and attested at Winchester 28th August 1914.

However, he was far from a raw recruit having served in the Army for four years prior to WW1. George was married to local girl Florence. Both George and Florence were born in Northwich.

The 1911 census has the family living in Manchester and George is an Electrical Engineer. They have a daughter Mabel aged 9 months and born 23rd June 1910. Also living with the family is a servant girl and two Police Constables mentioned as boarders. So we can presume George has done remarkably well.

When, three years later, he rejoined the army in 1914, they had two other children, Annie born 19th September 1912 and Hilda born 15th August 1914. They were now living at 8 Ollershaw Lane, Marston. Given the dates, Hilda was born just two weeks after George first arrived in France at the outbreak of WW1.

Why did he return to Marston? And the big question; Why did he enlist again with a pregnant wife just about to give birth?

In August 1914, the Government's propaganda machine was in full swing. George having previously served in the army, may well have been thinking the campaign would be over quickly. The first shots in anger being fired by the British at the Battle of Mons on the 23rd August 1914 occurred just four days before he signed his papers. He also joined as a Lance Corporal. I am left wondering once he landed in France on the 1st September 1914 and seeing the blood bath and the start of trench warfare, he may have regretted that decision. He did volunteer, he wasn't conscripted.

In December 1915, the British Army were dug into their trenches around Ypres and Passchendaele trying to hold onto this position and under heavy machine gun and sniper fire. On the 7th December 1915, George Cowley was reported missing in action and accepted as killed. His body was never found. His name carved into the stone of the famous Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, one of 300,000 who have no marked grave.

On the 7th July 1916 his widow Florence, now a war widow, and her three children were awarded 20 shillings and 6 pence per week Pension.

On the 1st July 1921, Florence signed for three medals awarded to George Cowley; The Victory Medal, The 1914-1915 Star and British War Medal.

Florence was still living in Ollershaw Lane in 1921, and no doubt visited the Marston Memorial, how much she must have wondered just how different things could have been.

Tony Hayes