RFA West Lancs Bdes
680325 DVR. G. W. DRINKWATER. R.F.A.
George Willoughby Drinkwater was born in the last quarter of 1896 in Bolton. His father was Frank Leigh Drinkwater (b. 1871 in Blackburn), an iron turner. His mother was Harriet Hewart (b. 1875 in Bolton). Frank and Harriet were married in Bolton in 1894 and they had 6 children: Edna (b. 1895), then George, then Fred (b. 1898), Frank (b. 1901), Herbert (b. 1903) and Bessie (b. 1909). The family moved from Bolton to Preston in 1902 and in 1911 they were living at 19 Brixey Street, Preston. George was an apprentice moulder in an iron foundry.
George enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery, probably in May 1915, and was assigned service number 680325. He was posted to “A” Battery. He landed in France with his Division in February 1917 and served in the defence of Armentières and later that year in the Second Battle of Passchendaele.
An extract from the war diary for his Brigade (WO95/2971) in April 1918 reads as follows (9 April 1918 saw the beginning of the second phase of the German Spring Offensive):
09.04.18 At 4,15am an intense bombardment of hostile gas shell commenced on the whole of the Corps front. Our batteries, which were standing to, to support a raid by the 121 Infantry Brigade, were immediately ordered to open up counter-preparation fire. The gas shell bombardment lasted until about 9am when the enemy placed an intense barrage on the front line system. The enemy broke through the British line to the right of the 40th Divisional front, and turning to his right outflanked our Batteries. The guns of B and C Batteries and two howitzers of D/286 were captured. A/286 (Francis’ battery) were able to withdraw their six guns and D/286 4 howitzers, after engaging the enemy up to within 300 yards of their position. The Brigade withdrew and took up positions on the N side of the river Lys near Le Point Mortier where batteries engaged the enemy with harassing fire. When a battalion of enemy infantry were reported to be in Croix du Bac a further withdrawal was made to positions near Le Verrier. 7 OR killed; 3 officers and 26 OR wounded; 3 officers and 22 OR missing. 11.04.18 The enemy pushed our infantry back to a line about 1000 yards in front of the Batteries and as the right flank was threatened, the Brigade withdrew to a position on the Meterin Becave just south of Outtersteene. A/286 (Francis’ battery again) covered the retirement. The enemy were held during the night.
12.04.18 In the early morning, the infantry withdrew to a prepared line. The batteries, on being shelled, took up new positions about 1000 yards in the rear. Again the left flank was being threatened and the Brigade withdrew to positions N of Merris. Here they engaged the enemy with intense fire. A further withdrawal was necessary later in the day and the Batteries took up good positions in Pradelles. Harassing fire was brought to bear on the roads and main approaches. 5 OR wounded, 1 OR missing.
13.04.18 Batteries were employed in harassing fire by day and night.
14.04.18 The Brigade supported the 2nd Battalion Australians in rushing a farmhouse near Merris. This operation was successful, 40 of the enemy being killed. The batteries were shelled and they withdrew to positions 1000 yards west. Harassing fire was carried out by day and night. 4 OR killed, 13 OR wounded.
George was killed that day. He was 21 years old.
Service No: 680325
Date of Death: 14/04/1918
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, "A" Bty. 286th Bde.
Grave Reference: Plot 4. Row A. Grave 6.
Cemetery: LE GRAND HASARD MILITARY CEMETERY, MORBECQUE