George William's Story.
George William Pickering was born in Macclesfield and baptised on 15 September 1895 at Hurdsfield Holy Trinity Church, Macclesfield, the son of Eliza (nee Morgan) and George Pickering, a stone quarry labourer of Hurdsfield. In 1901, four-year-old George was living at 77 Arbourhay Street, Hurdsfield with his parents and siblings Eliza (10), Emily (3) and Anson (1).
By 1911 the family had moved to 8 Smythe Street; George had left school and was working for a railway company as a cart boy. He later worked as a fireman for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway.
George joined the local 7th Cheshire (Territorial) Regiment prior to the outbreak of the war, with service number 1388, and was mobilised in August 1914. He later transferred to the 5th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment and was drafted to France on 4 May 1915. At some point he was allocated the service number 290091.
After scalding his foot, George was repatriated to England for treatment at a Bristol hospital and in October 1916 he rejoined the 7th Battalion in Egypt. He became a prisoner of war after the battle of Gaza on 26 March 1917.
George was stated to be missing in the Macclesfield Times on 18 May 1917:
HURDSFIELD SOLDIER MISSING
Mr and Mrs Pickering, 8 Smyth St, Hurdsfield, have received official intimation that their son, Private George William Pickering, who had previously been reported wounded at the battle of Gaza on March 26th, is now posted as wounded and missing. It is possible that he became detached from his unit and is now a prisoner in the hands of the enemy.
Private Pickering has seen a good deal of fighting. Twenty-one years of age, and a native of Hurdsfield, he received his education at the Daybrook Street School, and before joining the Territorials, prior to the outbreak of war, was connected with the Hurdsfield Boy Scouts and Boys' Brigade. He attended the Church and Sunday School and was also associated with the Mill Street Mission. In civil life he was a fireman on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway and was in lodgings at Newton Heath, coming home to his parents at the weekends.
Private Pickering was mobilised with the local Territorials in August 1914, and subsequently transferred to another battalion of the Cheshire Regt for service in France. After being at the front for two months he was shot above the left eye and recovered from the injury in a French hospital. Sent back to the trenches, he was again unfortunate, scalding his foot while in the cook-house. He came over to England for hospital treatment at Bristol, and upon recovering had ten days' leave of absence. He reported at Oswestry, where he remained until October 1916, when he rejoined his old battalion in Egypt.
The following week, the newspaper reported that he had sent a postcard to his parents telling them that he was a prisoner of war:
A PRISONER OF WAR
Pleasing information reached Mr and Mrs Pickering, 8 Smyth St, Hurdsfield, during the weekend, when they had a postcard from their son, Private George William Pickering, Cheshire Regt, stating that he was a prisoner of war in Jerusalem. He had previously been officially reported wounded and missing after the Gaza battle on March 26th, and his parents had heard nothing from him. On the card, which was dated April 2nd and arrived at Macclesfield on May 18th, Private Pickering says he is in hospital at Jerusalem, where he is being well cared for. He has been wounded in both legs and is making favourable progress... A younger brother, Private Anson Pickering, is now in training at Kinmel Park.
News of Private Pickering's death was printed in the Macclesfield Times on 2 February 1919:
A BITTER BLOW - SOLDIER'S DEATH REPORTED AFTER 16 MONTHS
Months of anxious waiting for news have, alas, brought only grief to a Macclesfield family.... Last Sunday morning Mr Pickering received a communication from the War Office conveying the sad news that Pte Pickering died of dysentery between the 1st and 3rd (sic) of October, 1917.
Pte Pickering... was mobilised on the outbreak of war... He was one of the 100 men who voluntarily transferred to another battalion of the regiment for service in France in 1915.... His mother passed away last September, her death being caused through the intense anxiety and worry she had experienced.
Private Pickering's body was originally buried in Nigde Cemetery, Turkey, but was later exhumed and laid to rest in Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery, Iraq.
Private George Pickering is buried in Grave Ref. XXI. V. 29. of the Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery in Iraq. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private George Pickering, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
In Macclesfield, Private George Pickering is commemorated on the Park Green, Town Hall, St Michael's Church, Hurdsfield Holy Trinity Church and the Mill Street Mission war memorials.
The floral tributes laid when the Macclesfield Park Green War Memorial was unveiled on 21st September 1921 included one with the words “From Ethel Sheldon, in grateful memory of the following boys of the Cheshire Regiment, who died in captivity: R. Broadhurst, F. Cliffe, G. Lockett, and G. Pickering.” Ethel Sheldon, of Glen Bank, Macclesfield, was the secretary of the Macclesfield Branch of the Cheshire Regiment Prisoners of War Aid Association and arranged for fortnightly food parcels to be sent to the prisoners of war.
In Manchester, Private Pickering is commemorated on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway war memorial at Victoria Station (Hunts Bank entrance). He is also named in the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Roll of Honour for 1919.
Brother of Anson Pickering, who was discharged from the Army on 11 July 1918 suffering from Phthisis (Tuberculosis) and died on 23 November 1922. Both George and Anson are remembered on a family memorial in Macclesfield Cemetery, grave ref. I. 6751.
GRO (England & Wales) Index: Births
Cheshire Parish Baptism Registers: Hurdsfield Holy Trinity Church
Census (England & Wales): 1901, 1911
WWI British Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects (Ancestry)
WWI British Army Medal Rolls Index Cards (Ancestry)
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Lives of the First World War website
The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Society website
Cheshire Regiment Prisoners of War Aid Association (Macclesfield Branch) Memorial Scroll, Cheshire Regiment Museum, Chester Castle
Macclesfield Times: 18 and 25 May 1917, 2 February 1919
Research by Rosie Rowley, Congleton.