Indeed. The question pulled at me again and again. How did a Canadian Field Ambulance man end up here in the quiet village of Castlemorton in Worcestershire? In the echoed shadows of the Malvern Hills.
His name was George William Rose. A Private in the 1st Canadian Field Ambulance, Canadian Army Medical Corps. His death occurred on the 4th February 1919. He was 23 years old. He is buried at Castlemorton church.
But what of the man? And without meaning to get boring – how did he end up here?
Born May 12th 1895; he appears to have lied about his age on enlistment with the Canadian Army by two years. But George was actually born in Derby in England where he was baptised. His father George a labourer and his mother Lizzie Jane. Service Number 32744 Private George William Rose was working as a waiter when he enlisted in August 1914 and then attested at Valcartier, near Quebec on September 24th 1914, not long after war was declared. He had served for three years with a militia in Canada.
The 1st Canadian Field Ambulance was put together at Valcartier in September 1914 under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel A. E. Ross. It left Quebec on the 30th September 1914 aboard SS Megantic which then duly arrived in England on the 14th October 1914; with 16 officers and 257 other ranks. They arrived in France on the Western Front on the 11th February 1915 with the 1st Canadian Division.
The 1st Canadian Division saw action across the Western Front during the Great War:
- The Battle of Grafenstafel 22-23 April 1915
- The Battle of St Julien 24 April – 4 May 1915
- The Battle of Festubert 15 – 25 May 1915
- The Second Action of Givenchy 15-16 June 1915
- The Battle of Mount Sorrel 2 – 13 June 1916
- The Battle of the Somme 1916
– The Battle of Flers-Courcelette 15 – 22 September 1916
– The Battle of Thiepval 26 – 28 September 1916
– The Battle of Le Transloy 1 – 18 October 1916
– The Battle of the Ancre Heights 1 October – 11 November 1916
- The Battle of Arras
– The Battle of Vimy Ridge 9 – 14 April 1917
– The Battle of Arleux 28 – 29 April 1917
– The Third Battle of the Scarpe 3 – 4 May 1917
- The Battle of Hill 70 15 – 25 August 1917
- Third Battle of Ypres
– The Second Battle of Passchendaele 26 Oct – 10 Nov 1917
- The Battle of Amiens 8-11 August 1918
- The Second Battles of Arras 1918
– The Battle of the Scarpe 26 – 30 August 1918
– The Battle of Drocourt-Queant 2 – 3 September 1918
- The Battle of the Hindenburg Line
– The Battle of the Canal du Nord 27 September – 1 October 1918
– The Battle of Cambrai, 1918 8 – 9 October 1918
If George was there, as part of the 1st Canadian Field Ambulance dealing with casualties and the like, he would have seen a great deal of war and the impact of war.
His initial next of kin was his mother in an address in Toronto, Ontario. His mother Elizabeth Jane was born in Malvern in Worcestershire; not far from Castlemorton. When the family went to Canada in 1910, they left George’s sister behind. Eliza Florence Rose was two years younger than George but stayed in England and found work as a maid in Malvern.
But in early 1918, George married Ellen Bunn. Ellen was born and grew up in Castlemorton; the daughter of a gardener.
So how did he end up here? Well, George died at No. 12 Canadian General Hospital in Bramshott, Hampshire on the 4th February 1919. The cause – broncho-pneumonia. The scourge of the final chapter of the Great War. Broncho-pneumonia was the secondary infection of the flu, the so-called ‘Spanish Flu’. It caused more deaths than the whole of the war combined. Nature’s way of wiping the slate clean? Who knows. But it must have seemed so unfair for George to have lasted the duration of the war, over four long years only to die of the flu when war was over.
So George’s story ended at Castlemorton, where his wife lived. And where his grave stands, still. His body brought to Worcestershire. A life which had seen France, Belgium, Canada, Britain.
Except that wasn’t the final ending. Nearly six months after his death, his son was born. George William Rose. His namesake.