Private George William BLACKWELL
   

Regiment/Service:
Northamptonshire Regiment
(Formerly: Middlesex Regiment)
Unit:
7th Battalion
Service Number:
21992
(Formerly: 5808 11th Middlesex Regiment)
Date of Death:
16 July 1916 - Killed in Action
Age:
22
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Pier and Face 11 A.


Personal History:

John was born in the March quarter 1897 at Edge Hill, Lancs., the eldest son of John (Cab Driver) and Mary Blackwell, later of 15 Fairfield Road, Buxton. In 1901 (Census RG 13/3269) the family was living at 1 Dale View, Buxton and George had three younger brothers, John, Alfred and Reginald. [See Footnotes below]

By 1911 (Census RG 14/21233) Mary had been widowed in the March quarter 1907 and George was working as a "Gardener". The family had moved to 55 Fairfield Road, Buxton.

In reporting George's death 'The Buxton Advertiser' of 2nd September 1916 gave his parents' address as 15 Fairfield Road and also that his younger brother, John, was serving with the Sherwood Foresters. (John was killed in action in late July 1917 - see Footnote below)

Military History:
George originally enlisted in the 11th Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment in Buxton. His Medal Index Card seems to be missing from the National Archives, and unfortunately his Service Papers have also not survived. However, in reporting George's death 'The Buxton Advertiser' of 2nd September 1916 gave his enlistment date with the Middlesex Regiment as 11th November 1914.

The 11th (Service) Battalion had formed at Mill Hill in August 1914 as part of Kitchener's First New Army (K1) and was attached to 36th Brigade in 12th (Eastern) Division. They moved to Colchester, going on to Shorncliffe in November and in February 1915 went into Ramillies Barracks at Aldershot. It is safe to assume that George joined the Battalion in this period, and if so he would have landed at Boulogne in June 1915.

On 23rd June 1915 the Division had taken over a sector of the front line for the first time, at Ploegsteert Wood, relieving 46th (North Midland) Division. 6th Queen's, 6th Buffs and 11th Middlesex were the units that first entered the trenches. In July alone the Division suffered the loss of 7 officers and 64 men killed, 18 officers and 413 men wounded.

The Battle of Loos commenced on 25th September, continuing to the 18th October. On the 8th October, the Division repelled a heavy German infantry attack.

Whilst with this Battalion he was wounded in France and after recovering from his wounds was posted to the 1st North Hants Garrison Company and stationed in Egypt. George "... was drafted back to France again where he had only been one month", and presumably, at that time, posted to the 7th Battalion and attached to 73rd Brigade in the 24th Division.

Although his 7th Battalion were engaged in the Battle of the Somme, it did not join the action until the 24th July, when it arrived at Amiens before marching to billets at Molliens-Vidames. The Battalion War Diary for the period 8th to 17th July shows the men entrenched at Wulverghem. The most common word in the Diary is "Quiet", interspersed with artillery and machine-gun action from both sides. The British artillery was said to be "... cutting wire ...", though later evidence suggests that this was an ineffective way of doing it.

Along with 3 other men from his Battalion, George was killed in action on the 16th July 1916. [One other comrade of the 7th Battalion died on each of the 12th, 13th and 14th - indicative, perhaps, of the effects of intermittent enemy shelling, though not worth a mention in the Diary.] If George was initially buried his grave was subsequently lost and he is now commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
                               

Footnote:
· George's younger brother, Private John BLACKWELL, 16th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment), was killed in action in late
  July 1917

· George's younger brother, Pt. 79279 Alfred BLACKWELL, enlisted on the 5th September 1916 and served with the Somerset Light Infantry.

· George, John and Alfred's uncle, Dr. 224769 Joseph BLACKWELL, served with 'B' Battery, 189th Brigade, R.F.A.
   He died on the 22 November 1920 and is buried in Fairfield Cemetery.

· Another Buxton man, Private John RAWLINSON, enlisted in 11th Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment, on the same day as George.
  He was killed in action on 18 October 1915

Sources:
· I am grateful to Jonty Wild for the photo of George's name on the Memorial
· 'The Buxton Advertiser', 2 September 1916
· 'The Buxton Advertiser', 18 August 1917 - which printed photos of George and John (see right)
· "British Battalions on the Somme" - Ray Westlake [ISBN-10: 0850523745] p. 203

Link to CWGC Record
The Thiepval Memorial
Pt George Blackwell's name on the Memorial
poppy
Pt George William Blackwell