Private George Edward SHELDON


Regiment/Service:
Royal Fusiliers
(Formerly: 3rd Reserve Cavalry Regiment)
Secondary Regiment:
London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers)
Unit:
posted to 2nd/4th Battalion
Service Number:
71074
(Formerly: 33776 3rd Reserve Cavalry Regiment)
Date of Death:
26 October 1917 - Killed in Action
Age:
25
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Panel 30

Personal History:
George was born in the September quarter 1893, the son of Edward (General Labourer) and Hannah (née Hibbert) Sheldon, of 3 Oddfellows Cottages, Market Street, Buxton. He had 3 older sisters, Agnes, Lily and Ada, and 2 younger sisters, Harriett Anne and Annie, and a younger brother, Harry.

In 1911 George was working as a "Shop Assistant". (1901 Census RG 13/3269 and 1911 Census RG 14/21241) Before enlisting he had been employed by the London and North-western Railway Company, at Buxton, and was also a member of the Primitive Methodist Choir.
George grew up just a few houses from another of Buxton War dead. Walter Skidmore and George joined up on the same day - their original Service Numbers are nearly adjacent. They transferred to the Royal Fusiliers on the same day, having adjacent Numbers again, and were killed in action on the same day. [See Footnote below.]

When reporting George's death, "The Buxton Advertiser" of the 26th October 1918 gave the tragic additional news that George had only been in France three weeks when he went missing in action. Even more saddening was the fact that just four days before embarking he had married Elsie Smith (?) and they lived at 58 Bennett Street, Buxton. Whilst reporting that George was "... presumed killed ... ... there is hope that, like similar cases, he may yet be heard of as a prisoner."

Military History:
According to the SDGW database George originally enlisted in the 3rd Reserve Cavalry Regiment in Buxton, presumably for "The Duration of The War", but unfortunately his Service Papers have not survived so his enlistment date cannot be found. Men who enlisted into the cavalry, either as volunteers or conscripts, served with the cavalry reserve to carry out their basic training. Many were not, however, posted to a cavalry regiment overseas but were converted into infantry or other corps before being sent there. It is rare to see a cavalry reserve unit being mentioned in a man's medal records, even if the man had trained with them.

The 3rd Reserve Cavalry Regiment had been one of 14 formed in 1914, and was absorbed into the 6th Reserve Regiment in early 1917. "The Buxton Advertiser" of the 26th October 1918, quoted above, indicates that George was posted to France just three weeks before he died - suggesting the first week of October 1917. This was after he had been transferred to the 2/4th Battalion, London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers), but the "Advertiser" has him ".. attached to the 2/2nd Battalion."

The original 2/2nd had been disbanded in 1916 and the 3/2nd renamed as a new 2/2nd. This Battalion landed at Le Havre on the 22nd January 1917. George's Service number - 71074 - suggests that his transfer took place in May 1917. (For example, a soldier with No. 71080 transferred on the 14th May 1917.) This date is supported by "The Buxton Advertiser", which stated that George: "... had been in training since April 1917."

George was killed on the first day of the Second Battle of Passchendaele (26th October - 10th November 1917). The Official History gives the following account of the Battalion's action:

"On October 25th a strong west wind somewhat dried the surface of the ground and the night was fine. The stars shone out with the sharpened clarity of a frosty atmosphere. Another small attack was planned for the 26th; and the 2nd line battalions of the London Regiment took up their positions with the 58th Division, below the Poelcapelle-Spriet road.

The 2/2 Londons, attacking at 5.40 a.m., reached Cameron House - about 250 yards below the Poelcapelle-Spriet road - at 7.15 a.m. A Company under Captain Harper cleared three of the four "pill-boxes" at this point and sent back 17 prisoners. D Company, in command of Second Lieutenant J. P. Howie at 6.30 a.m. reached a "pill-box" about 200 yards above the Lekkerboterbeek and stormed it, capturing 32 prisoners; and three-quarters of an hour later had to repel hostile counter-attacks directed against this point and Cameron House.

'A' Company, finding their flank uncovered by the retirement of the unit on their left, were compelled to withdraw; but 'D' clung to the mebus they had captured until the end of the day. Moray House, lying about 550 yards due east of this "pill-box," held up C Company all the day. The casualties were 11 officers (3 killed) and 386 other ranks."

George's comrades in the 2/4th Battalion attacked at the same time, and the History says of them:

"... Somewhat similar was the fate of the 2/4th, who made some headway, but could not capture their objectives. D Company, under Captain C. A. Clarke, seized and held advanced positions, and the battalion, with a casualty list of 11 officers and 368 other ranks, had to be content with this result. The Londons all suffered very terribly from the state of the ground. Many men were drowned in the shell-holes."

                              

The CWGC records show that virtually all of the Royal Fusiliers who were killed on the 26th October have no known grave and are commemorated, along with George, on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

Footnote:
· As outlined above, Pt. 71075 Walter SKIDMORE enlisted on the same day (adjacent Service Numbers) and in the same Battalions as
  George and was killed in action alongside him on the same day. Their names appear together on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

Sources:
· "The Buxton Advertiser" 26 October 1918
· "The Royal Fusiliers in The Great War", Herbert Charles O'Neill, published 1922, p. 199 - 201

Link to CWGC Record
The Tyne Cott Memorial
Arthur's name on the Memorial
poppy
Buxton Advertiser logo
Walter and George were the subject of an article in the Buxton Advertiser in November 2012 - written by the site author

CLICK logo to read
.... about the Second Battle of Passchendaele