George Wardle was born on the 9th June 1894, the youngest son of Elizabeth and Samuel Wardle, a bricksetter’s labourer of 59 Pitt Street, Macclesfield.
In 1901, 6 year old George was living at 36 Davenport Street with his mother and siblings Elizabeth Ann (11), Harry (10) and Frances (8), while his father was a patient in the General Infirmary, Macclesfield; Samuel died in early 1902.
By 1911 the family had moved to 2 Bank Street and George was employed as a printers labourer at a silk print works.
George was a Scout with the St Peter’s Church Troop and later lived at 22 South Street, Sutton, working at the Langley Print Works. He was closely connected with the Fountain Street Mission for many years, and was a strict teetotaller. He was described as a finely built young fellow, 5ft 11in in height.
George had already served with the local 7th Cheshire Territorial Force for three years and was called up at the beginning of the war. Following a period of training in various locations in the south of England, the 7th Cheshires, as part of 159th Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division, received orders to equip for service in an undisclosed location in the Mediterranean. In July 1915 they sailed from Devonport to Alexandria in Egypt, then on to the island of Lemnos on the 4th August.
On the evening of 8th August, the Battalion arrived off the coast of Gallipoli and the following day landed at “C” Beach, Suvla Bay. Having landed, they came under shell fire at about 8.30am and so moved north along the edge of the bay; they then received orders to attack in the direction of a dip in the hills behind Anafarta Saghir.
At 8am on 10th August the Battalion was ordered to attack Hill 70. This was unsuccessful and the Battalion suffered severe losses. A second unsuccesssful attack took place at 5pm.
The following day at 2.30pm the Brigade moved north, but the 7th Cheshires and 4th Welsh Regiments on the left were under attack so had to pull back. The 7th Cheshires remained in this position in trenches for several days.
On 13th August George was ordered to make a ‘dug-out’ for the Quarter-Master Sergeant, and while doing this a bullet passed through the QMS’s pocket and entered George’s right thigh. He was evacuated from Gallipoli on the hospital ship HMHS Arcadian and taken to Netley Hospital, Southampton, where he died from septic poisoning on 11th September 1915, aged 21. His body was brought to Macclesfield on Tuesday 13th September for interment in the cemetery at 2.30pm the following day.
George’s death was reported in the Macclesfield Courier on 18th September 1915:
“… In a letter which he sent, dated Saturday August 15th, he says: ‘We are having a bit of a rough time out here, and plenty of bullets and shells are whizzing about, but we are getting used to them now. The snipers are the worst people to deal with, but if we ever catch any they know what it means for them. The weather is very hot, but it goes very cold at night, and we know about it. We are roasted in the daytime, and we are starved through [frozen] at night. We have not had a wash for six days, and it does not look as though we are going to have one yet. We got on land last Monday morning and they were just going to make us some tea when the Turks started to shell us, so we had to go without the tea, and make a move towards the firing line straight away.’
The following is a letter from Rev J Laverack, the Wesleyan Chaplain at the Netley Hospital: ‘I visited your son, Corporal George Wardle, on Friday afternoon. He was then very ill from a gunshot wound in the thigh. He was quite sensible, and spoke lovingly of you, and gave me your address. We had a text of Scripture and prayer together, your son taking part and responding. I knew his case was serious, but I thought to see him again yesterday – Sunday. I reached the hospital at noon, only to find the young man had passed away a few minutes before.’
The funeral took place on Wednesday afternoon, and was of a military character. Considerable interest was taken in the proceedings by the general public. All along the route from the house to the cemetery crowds of people were assembled, and in most of the houses the blinds were drawn. The coffin, which was of plain English oak, was placed on an open hearse, and was covered with the Union Jack, and on the top were placed the dead man’s cap, belt, and bayonet. The bearers were Corporal J Hatton, Lance-Corporal H W Bullock, Pte J Flood and Pte J Usher.
The cortege was headed by a band composed of the members of the Borough Reed and the Town Silver Band. Behind the band came the firing party with arms reversed. There were also about 70 members of the Macclesfield Battalion Cheshire Volunteer Regiment. Captain Warrilow with about twenty men on furlough in the town also attended. On arrival at the Cemetery the Volunteers formed a guard of honour round the grave. The service was conducted by the Rev. E V Kingdon, curate of St Peter’s Church. At the conclusion of the committal service, the firing party fired three volleys, after which the buglers sounded the Last Post.
The following were the mourners: First coach: Mrs Wardle (mother), Mrs Ashne, Mrs Winnell, Mr Henry Wardle, Mrs Swindells, Miss Hammond, and Miss A Wardle. Second coach: Mrs Mitchell, Miss M Wardle, Mr and Mrs West, Mrs Bower, and Mrs Hammond. Third coach: Mr and Mrs A West, Miss M Hammond, Miss A Taylor and Mr W Bowyer.
The following is the list of wreaths: ‘In loving memory of our dear son and brother, from the family’; ‘Hilda, Mother and May’; ‘Mr and Mrs Millward and family’; 1/7th Batt Cheshire Regiment, Details’; ‘With deepest sympathy from his old Section Commander, Arthur A McKay, 2nd Lieut.’; ‘With deepest sympathy from his pals’; ‘Mrs Nield and Mrs Harrison’; ‘From the printers and blockcutters at the Langley print Works’; ‘From the printers and yardmen at the Langley Print Works’; ‘Mr and Mrs Walton, Chestergate’; ‘Mrs Jones and Olive’; ‘Cousin Jack, Annie and Aunt Martha’; there was one wreath with no name attached, and there were also two bunches of flowers which were thrown on the coffin.”
Private George Wardle is buried in grave ref. G 5544 in Macclesfield Cemetery. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private George Wardle, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
Locally, Private George Wardle is commemorated on the Macclesfield Park Green, Town Hall, St Michael’s Church and St George’s Church war memorials, and on the Langley Village Roll of Honour.
The floral tributes laid when the Macclesfield Park Green War Memorial was unveiled on 21st September 1921 included one with the words “In loving memory of Corporal G. Wardle, from sisters and brothers-in-law.”
GRO (England & Wales) Index: Births, Deaths
Census (England & Wales): 1901, 1911
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Lives of the First World War website
Macclesfield Courier: 18th September 1915
Research by Rosie Rowley.